Term of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Jason LaFrance

Committee Member 1

Bryan Griffin

Committee Member 2

Missy Bennett

Abstract

The purpose of this two-phase, sequential mixed methods (QUAN-qual) approach was to analyze the relationship between class size and academic achievement in rural, economically disadvantaged third grade classrooms and how teachers perceive class size as affecting their instructional and classroom management methods. Data collection and analysis for the study involved 3,812 third grade students in 204 classrooms collected from nine rural, economically disadvantaged school districts in the southeastern region of Georgia. Additionally, a researcher-developed questionnaire was used to collect data from third grade teachers teaching in the same nine rural, economically disadvantaged school districts. Initial correlation analyses indicated a positive relationship between class size and academic achievement. Regression results indicated that the percentage of gifted students, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, and the class size were significant predictors of reading achievement levels. For mathematics achievement levels, regression results showed that the percentage of gifted students, the percentage of Black students, and the class size were significant predictors. Further analyses involved filtering the data to only include class sizes of at least 15 students per teacher. For both reading and mathematics achievement, class size was not associated with achievement. Regression results indicated that the percentage of gifted students and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students were significant predictors of reading achievement. For mathematics achievement, regression results showed that the percentage of gifted students and the percentage of Black students were significant predictors of achievement. Questionnaire data revealed teachers felt smaller classes would affect their instructional practices by facilitating the increased use of small group instructional arrangements, hands-on activities, one-on-one instruction, and differentiation of instruction. Respondents either stated that class size did not affect their classroom management plans, or smaller classes would allow their classroom management plans to be less strict, have more student freedom, and have more positive reinforcement. All 51 respondents believed that smaller class sizes had a positive impact on student achievement due to the teachers being able to provide more individualized instruction and having less classroom management issues. Class sizes of 20 or less students per teacher were identified as being ideal due to such class sizes being easier to provide individualized instruction, easier to use group activities, and easier to manage behavior.

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