Term of Award

Summer 2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

James Burnham

Committee Member 1

Michael Richardson

Committee Member 2

Marlynn Griffin

Committee Member 3

Fred Page

Abstract

Students across the nation are identified as at-risk for a variety of reasons, and each year, more and more students are falling into this category. In this age of accountability, there is a need to close the gap in performance between at-risk and non at-risk students. Since Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) of 1965, the role of the U.S. government in education has expanded, leading to the bipartisan reauthorization of ESEA in 2001. The federal hand in education has shifted the government from being primarily a source of funding to being a major factor in shaping the core of K.-12 instruction. Title I. Part A of the ESEA was implemented to help institute an educational reform movement in the nation's most impoverished areas to ensure the at-risk students the ability to experience early intervention, instructional improvement, and grasp the skills needed to positively contribute to the American society and end the cycle of poverty. Schools across the nation can qualify for Title I services depending upon the number of students who receive free or reduced lunch. Two Title 1 models exist: the Targeted-Assistance Title I model and the School-wide Title I model.

How can school administrators in Title I schools across the state of Georgia best serve the at-risk students who walk through the doors of the state's schools each school term? This study was conducted in an effort to develop research on the two Title I models and serving at-risk children in schools. There is little research available to help determine how schools can best use Title I assistance to serve the neediest children in Georgia. By conducting this research, educators and other stakeholders could become more knowledgeable about what the perceived advantages or disadvantages are of Title I implementation or what changes can be made to ensure the best intervention and support for poor, at-risk students.

Principals of all Title I elementary schools in Georgia who are not first year administrators were surveyed giving the researcher a population to fully explore the extent of Georgia elementary school principals' perceptions toward Title I program models. During the 2002-03 school term, 1,246 elementary schools existed in the state of Georgia, and 761 of those were classified as Title I schools. All 761 elementary principals of Title I schools in Georgia were sent a researcher-developed questionnaire to complete. Principals of all Title I elementary schools in Georgia who were first year administrators were excluded from the sample because those individuals have no prior experience as a principal to base a perception and would be unable to complete a questionnaire.

After carefully reviewing all findings revealed from this study of the perceptions of elementary principals in Title I schools in Georgia, the researcher can make the conclusions related to the success of Title I schools and at-risk children. Of the participants, all agreed that that the seven components that drove the creation of the instrument were effective components of a Title I school. Some areas such as class size reduction and the fostering of high teacher expectations were consistently found in the perceptions relating to both Title I models to have an impact on student achievement in Title I schools. To further determine if the school demographics influenced the perceptions of elementary Title I principals in Georgia, the researcher conducted an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to find any statistically significant relationships between school demographics and the elementary Title I principals' perceptions. It was found that in a Targeted-Assistance Title I school, the higher the number of students on free and reduced lunch, the more of a need exists for class si/e reduction. Further, it was found that in a School-wide Title I school, the higher the student population, the more of a need exists for summer school programs. Further, there is a statistically significant relationship between students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and the need for more technology integration, class size reduction, high teacher expectations, and more staff development.

The question was asked in the questionnaire by the researcher within each school system in Georgia, who made the decision as to which Title I model to operate. The findings were that the decision to operate a Targeted-Assistance Title I program or a School-wide Title I program was most often made by the Director of Title I for the school system (28%) with the school principal following (21%).

To provide supplemental data pertaining to student achievement and Title I schools, the researcher systematically randomly sampled every fifth Title I school within each model as found on the Georgia Department of Education website and compiled the CRCT scores for fourth graders in both reading and mathematics for three school terms. Other data such as free/reduced lunch percentages and student-teacher ratios were also complied to further validate this study. Simple frequencies were reported for each testing year and compare to state averages. An ANCOVA was completed by the researcher to determine if free/reduced lunch percentages and student-teacher ratio were correlated to student achievement in the systematically randomly selected Title I schools. It can be determined that the Targeted-Assistance Title schools consistently achieved higher on the CRCT for three years in both reading and mathematics, but the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch directly correlates to student achievement in Title I schools.

Finally, to add more depth to this study, the researcher developed an open-ended item to ask elementary principals in all Title I schools what were some of the other ways in which schools or school systems can be improved to best serve at-risk students using Title I funding? The following eight trends and issues relating to Title I schools and perceived effectiveness were found by the researcher: increasing parental involvement programs, encouraging a professional learning environment, implementing literacy and math coaches to provide intense instruction for at-risk children, setting and maintaining a vision, implementing collaborative team planning, expanding tutoring programs, and hiring additional paraprofessionals and support staff to assist teachers.

Findings from this study indicate the need for principals to assess the needs of the at-risk children in their school, provide a vision for all stakeholders, implement the required Title 1 plan and use the Title I plan with Title I funding to meet the needs of their particular students. Title I should not be an isolated program; it should blend with other school improvement initiatives to best serve the students of that school. Further, the researcher's findings indicate that the integration of the Targeted-Assistance Title I program would foster better academic results related to standardized testing and free-reduced lunch percentages in schools have an effect on student achievement. That is, the more students who qualify for free/reduced lunch, a correlation exists relating to student achievement. As principals gain more knowledge relating to Title 1, they will better prepare Title 1 teachers, parents and ultimately, the students.

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