Self-contained to departmentalization

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Self-contained to departmentalization
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Self-contained to departmentalization: A case study of academic achievement in fifth
grade classes at an urban elementary school
By
Lynn Antoinette Horton
A Dissertation
Submitted to the Faculty of
Mississippi State University
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
in Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education Administration
in the Department of Leadership and Foundations
Mississippi State, Mississippi
December 2013
Copyright by
Lynn Antoinette Horton
2013
Self-contained to departmentalization: A case study of academic achievement in fifth
grade classes at an urban elementary school
By
Lynn Antoinette Horton
Approved:
____________________________________
R. Dwight Hare
(Major Professor)
____________________________________
James E. Davis
(Committee Member)
____________________________________
Penny Wallin
(Committee Member)
____________________________________
Matthew Boggan
(Committee Member)
____________________________________
David T. Morse
(Graduate Coordinator)
____________________________________
Richard L. Blackbourn
Dean
College of Education
Name: Lynn Antoinette Horton
Date of Degree: December 14, 2013
Institution: Mississippi State University
Major Field: Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education Administration
Major Professor: R. Dwight Hare
Title of Study:
Self-contained to departmentalization: A case study of academic
achievement in fifth grade classes at an urban elementary school
Pages in Study: 191
Candidate for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
With the escalating accountability requirements under No Child Left Behind
(NCLB), educators face intensified pressure to increase student achievement. As
principals strive to meet the demands of federal and state mandates intended to close the
achievement gap, schools often implement various organizational structures to help
improve student achievement. Changing how schools and classrooms are organized for
instruction as a strategy for school improvement has been one response to this pressure.
Elmore, Peterson, and McCarthy (1996) believed that changing the way schools are
organized will cause teachers to teach differently; hence students will learn differently,
and the overall performance of schools will increase.
Many organizational patterns in elementary schools have been controversial
issues for decades. One of these issues is the implementation of departmentalized
classrooms in the fifth grade. Because many elementary students receive their education
in a self-contained classroom from one teacher who is responsible for teaching all
academic subjects, the implementation of departmentalization may address the pitfalls of
the self-contained organizational setting. In the departmentalized setting, teachers provide
instruction in their area of specialization and students experience greater success.
Furthermore, departmentalization may help elementary schools respond to state standards
while seeking to produce higher achievement among students.
Many studies have examined the impact of departmentalization on student
achievement with numerous opinions on the issue. The literature, however, is dated and
lacks empirical evidence. As very little research explores departmentalization at the
elementary level, this case study explored how departmentalization impacted staff,
students, and academic achievement at an urban elementary school in Mississippi. The
data collection included interviews with teachers, surveys from staff and students,
observations of classrooms and planning sessions, and analysis of Mississippi Curriculum
Test, II (MCT2) data. The findings of this case study revealed students were exposed to
multiple teaching strategies from teachers who were able to use their planning time to
create learning activities and assessments for fewer subjects. As departmentalization
enhanced the fifth grade teachers’ accountability for the students’ academic and behavior
performances, the teachers felt pressured into adjusting their lessons to the 90 minutes
block schedule.
Key words: accountability, achievement, departmentalization
DEDICATION
This dissertation is dedicated to the Joy of my life. Joy Monique Horton Winding
lived her life well. With a lovely smile and unconditional love, she acted upon her
spiritual beliefs conscientiously by assisting anyone in need. Joy left a legacy of love
among the many lives that she touched through countless acts of kindness. At the age of
29, God saw that she was getting tired and a cure was not to be, so He put His arms
around her and whispered, “Joy come with Me”. I will forever be grateful to cherish all
the beautiful memories of you. You are truly missed more than I can ever express and my
love for you, dear sister, will never grow less.
The memory of a good person is a blessing. Proverbs 10:7
ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
When setting goals for myself, there were always obstacles in the way to deter me
from accomplishing those goals. There were also people in my life who were aware of
those goals and encouraged me to continue regardless of the obstacles. Now, I can
formally thank those people for doing that for me. However, I must first give honor and
glory to God for blessing me with the strength, courage, and determination to attain this
goal. As stated in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which stregtheneth
me.” I am also grateful that God has blessed me with a passion for educating youth and
assisting in their educational endeavors.
Although many have been influential in helping me to accomplish this goal, it is a
pleasure to thank my family for being the motivational force in the completion of this
dissertation. I would not be as strong as I am today without your love, so words cannot
adequately describe my deep gratitude for all you have provided me. I owe my deepest
appreciation to my parents, Earl and Ada Horton. You taught me at an early age the
importance of education. With your unconditional love, support, and guidance throughout
my life, I have always been capable of attaining any task or goal. My gratitude is also
extended to my sister, Sevee Patterson, for a special bond of love and devotion. You have
been a great source of support and encouragement. I am also fortunate to have two loving
and supportive brother-in-laws, Michael Patterson and Kelvin Winding. Both of you
continued to see my potential in spite of the frustration as I became overwhelmed with
iii
this project. As for as my nieces and nephews (Kellie, Nya, Rachel, Alan, and Michael),
your understanding during this process came without request. I pray that you will always
value education and work hard to achieve your dreams and goals.
A heartfelt appreciation is extended to my loving and devoted companion and
friend, Roosevelt Owens, Jr. As my soul mate, you have always been the wind beneath
my wings. Thank you does not do justice for the gratitude I feel for your love, support,
and encouragement.
It is an honor to thank my advisor, Dr. Rufus Dwight Hare, who was more than
generous with his time and expertise. Your willingness to assist me has been a major
support in my accomplishment. You were always ready for questions and, of course,
always had the answers. Your high level of expectations made me work harder than I
have ever worked in my life. You are definitely a guide to success. Also thanks to my
committee members who offered guidance and support to improve my research study.
I would like to express sincere appreciation to other family members, friends,
colleagues, and students who supported me during the completion of this study. Your
prayers and encouragement have helped in tremendous ways. However, my deep
appreciation is extended to Ms. Harris, Ms. Price, Mrs. Jacome, Mrs. Hughes, and Mrs.
Williams who assisted and supported me with their investment of time. Your input has
been a tremendous value to this project. I must acknowledge Ursula and LaTrice for a
bond of friendship that has made an everlasting impact on my life. The two of you have
truly been my “Rocks of Gibraltar” Thanks for the motivation and encouragement.
My appreciation is extended to my former bosses, Dr. Sanders, Dr. Ellis, Mrs.
Clark, and Mrs. Jones, for serving as role models, mentors, and friends. Each of you
iv
played an integral role in my professional growth by sharing your leadership expertise. I
am so blessed to have been a member of your instructional leadership teams. All of you
are the light which guides my path in the decision making process of leadership.
Lastly, my love for children and the desire to help them succeed in their world is
another reason that I pursued this goal. I hope that my work will someday change the
lives of young people. Without the students, parents, and staff at an urban elementary
school in Mississippi, I could not have completed this case study. I will forever be
appreciative of your willingness to participate in this project. Thanks for serving as
participants in this case study.
v
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DEDICATION .................................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................... iii
LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................. ix
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ........................................................................................... xii
CHAPTER
I.
INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................1
Purpose of Study ................................................................................................6
Research Question .............................................................................................7
Definition of Terms............................................................................................8
Theoretical Framework ....................................................................................10
Conceptual Framework of Study .....................................................................13
Overview of Research Design .........................................................................14
Overview of Methodology ...............................................................................15
Delimitations of Study .....................................................................................16
Significance of the Study .................................................................................16
Organization of Dissertation ............................................................................17
II.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE .......................................................18
Organization of Chapter ...................................................................................19
History of Elementary Education.....................................................................20
History of Departmentalization........................................................................21
Related Studies.................................................................................................22
Advantages and Disadvantages of Departmentalization..................................24
Mandates of NCLB Act ...................................................................................28
Highly Qualified Staff......................................................................................30
Professional Development ...............................................................................33
Organizational Strategies and Planning ...........................................................34
Shared Decision Making and Empowerment ..................................................36
Departmentalized Classroom Structure and Scheduling..................................38
Instructional Time ............................................................................................41
Precursors of Student Achievement .................................................................42
Effective Teaching Strategies ..........................................................................44
vi
Teacher Beliefs and Personal Qualities ...........................................................47
Impact of Instructional Leadership ..................................................................49
Summary of Literature Review ........................................................................51
III.
METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY .............................................................56
Description of Research Design and Methodology .........................................56
Researcher’s Role ............................................................................................60
Description of Participants ...............................................................................66
Research Question ...........................................................................................67
Research Site ....................................................................................................68
Data Collection ................................................................................................69
Data Analysis ...................................................................................................71
Trustworthiness ................................................................................................73
IV.
RESULTS OF THE CASE STUDY ................................................................75
Overview of the Chapter ..................................................................................75
Case Introduction: Changing the School’s Structure .......................................76
Instructional Staff.............................................................................................83
Ms. McGee .................................................................................................87
Ms. Hazel ...................................................................................................91
Ms. Hayes ..................................................................................................95
Mrs. Weathersby ........................................................................................97
Ms. Gray ..................................................................................................100
Mrs. Sam ..................................................................................................103
Ms. Wheeler .............................................................................................107
Mrs. Green ...............................................................................................109
Mrs. Jordan ..............................................................................................112
Students ..........................................................................................................115
Research Question .........................................................................................118
Case Analysis: Discussion of Literature and Finding from the Study ...........123
Summary ........................................................................................................128
V.
SUMMARY, DISCUSSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ...................130
Overview of the Chapter ................................................................................131
Summary ........................................................................................................131
Limitations .....................................................................................................144
Delimitations ..................................................................................................145
Recommendations ..........................................................................................145
Stakeholders .............................................................................................146
Future Research .......................................................................................147
vii
REFERENCES ................................................................................................................150
APPENDIX
A.
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD’S LETTER ......................................159
B.
RESUMÉ .......................................................................................................161
C.
INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ...........................................................................166
D.
DATA COLLECTION FOR STUDENTS ....................................................168
E.
DATA COLLECTION FOR TEACHERS ....................................................172
F.
TABLES ........................................................................................................178
viii
LIST OF TABLES
1
Level of Mississippi Teaching Licenses ..........................................................179
2
Certification Codes of Participants ..................................................................179
3
Teaching Experience ........................................................................................179
4
Years Teaching 5th Grade ................................................................................179
5
Number of College Level Training Courses ....................................................180
6
Perceptions of Adequacy of Initial College Training .......................................180
7
College-Level Training in the Area of Reading Language Arts ......................180
8
College-Level Training in the Area of Mathematics........................................180
9
Teachers’ Input in the Decision-Making Process at School ............................181
10
Belief that Teachers with Specialized Training Can Better Serve ...................181
11
Workshops or Training Classes in Pedagogical Reading Language Arts
Strategies ..............................................................................................181
12
Training Classes or Pedagogical Training in Mathematics ..............................181
13
Professional Development on the District or State Curricula and
Performance Standards .........................................................................182
14
Professional Development on Utilizing Data ...................................................182
15
Professional Development or Pedagogical Training in Reading
Language Arts ......................................................................................182
16
Professional Development or Pedagogical Training in Mathematics ..............182
17
Professional Development on Addressing the Needs of Students with
Disabilities ............................................................................................183
18
Frequency of Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching .......183
ix
19
Descriptives of Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy
Teaching ...............................................................................................183
20
Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective Teaching .........................184
21
Frequency of Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective
Teaching ...............................................................................................184
22
Descriptives of Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective
Teaching ...............................................................................................184
23
Fifth Grade Academic Year as First Time Students Received Instruction
in a Departmentalized Organizational Setting .....................................185
24
Teachers’ Preference for the Classroom Organizational Structure for
Fifth Grade Students.............................................................................185
25
Personal Preference for the Classroom Organizational Structure for
Fifth Grade Students.............................................................................185
26
Students Develop a Close Relationship with Teachers ....................................185
27
Departmentalization Organizational Structure Has a Positive Effect ..............186
28
Students’ Approval of Teacher's Instructional Style ........................................186
29
Standards Taught in a More Detailed and Comprehensive Manner ................186
30
Teachers Allow Students to Have Input ...........................................................186
31
Lessons More Engaging and Interesting ..........................................................186
32
Understanding of What the Teacher Wanted Students to Learn ......................187
33
Paired Samples Statistics—Language Arts Tests.............................................187
34
Paired Samples Statistics—Mathematics Tests................................................187
35
Independent t-Test—Comparison of Academic Scores for Students’
Preference of Self-Contained and Departmentalization .......................188
36
2010-2011 Comparison of Academic Performance .........................................188
37
Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching ..............................189
38
Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable ........................................190
39
Frequency of Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable ..................191
x
40
Descriptives of Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable ...............191
xi
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
English Language Learner (ELL)
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 (MCT2)
Mississippi Department of Education (MDE)
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
United States Department of Education (USDE)
xii
CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
According to the United States Department of Education (USDE, 2005), the
national trend of low academic achievement has shown little increase since the 1960s.
Students throughout the nation have been assessed using the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP). Since the beginning of administrating NAEP in 1969, test
results have been stagnant with minimal increase in student achievement. With a surplus
of information and resources, it is astonishing to know that students are not scoring
significantly higher today than students from the 1970s.
The impact of curriculum revision in the elementary school in recent years has
generated renewed interest in classroom organization. Increased pressure on teachers to
be competent in teaching the rapidly expanding areas of knowledge has once again
focused attention on the relative merits of the self-contained classroom and the
departmental program. According to Heibert, Gallimore, and Stiger ( 2002), the No Child
Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has placed great emphasis on raising academic
standards for students as well as professional standards for educators. The federal
mandates of the NCLB have heightened concerns about students who are performing
below grade level (United State Department of Education[USDE], 2006) . Although test
results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly
important in assessing student learning. According to the Mississippi Department of
1
Education (MDE, 2011), in the spring of every academic year, Mississippi administers
the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 (MCT2) to assess students in Grades 3 through 8 on
language arts and mathematics standards. Schools are to utilize the results of the MCT2
to determine if students are meeting grade level standards.
In this case study, the instructional staff at an urban elementary school was
specifically focusing on the performance of fifth grade students on standardized tests.
While some students consistently performed at the proficient level on the MCT2, a large
population of fifth grade students performed at basic or minimal levels. In a previous
group of 72 fifth grade students at this urban elementary school, the standardized scores
from spring 2010 on the MCT2 indicated 38% of students scored at the basic level and
14% of students at the minimal level in language arts. In mathematics, the results
indicated 40% of students scored at the basic level and 11% of students scored at the
minimal level.
After carefully considering issues that involved student achievement and after
analyzing the MCT2 data at an urban elementary school, one possible strategy to increase
student achievement discussed among the fifth grade teachers and support staff was
departmentalization. In many elementary schools, students receive their education in a
single classroom from one teacher who is responsible for teaching language arts, social
studies, mathematics and science. According to Chan and Jarman (2004), the
predominant plan of elementary school organization is known as the self-contained
classrooms. In contrast, departmentalization is a preferred type of classroom organization
for instruction at the middle and high school levels that is sometimes used at the
elementary level. Chan and Jarman (2004) stated departmentalization allows teachers to
2
teach in their area of specialization and students move from one classroom to another for
instruction. The implementation of departmentalization in the elementary school allows
more than one teacher to provide the instruction for various academic subjects.
According to Catledge-Howard, Ward, and Dilworth (2003) in their study involving fifth
grades, implementing departmentalization resulted in instruction of higher quality
because teachers took special pride in their subject-matter discipline and concentrated on
preparing a limited number of compelling and rigorous lessons each day that were
offered to multiple classes. Through departmentalization, three teachers along with the
support staff were departmentalized to teach the fifth grade students at an urban
elementary school. One teacher was responsible for Reading and Language Arts
instruction; another teacher provided instruction in Mathematics; and a third teacher was
responsible for Science and Social Studies instruction. Each teacher provided instruction
daily in a 90-minute block. In this departmentalized setting, the fifth grade teachers also
were assigned to homerooms where they performed certain administrative functions, such
as recording attendance and distributing information.
Departmentalization is an issue in education that needs to be thoroughly
researched. According to Chan and Jarman, (2004), traditional elementary schools are
typically organized into self-contained classrooms as opposed to departmental classes.
The self-contained classroom organization is based on the assumption that an elementary
school teacher is equally strong in all areas of the elementary curriculum. Yet, high stakes
test results indicate that the elementary classroom teachers may not be multi-talented in
all disciplines of the curriculum. Chan and Jarman (2004) reported there have been
concerns about the educational process in the elementary schools which include
3
organizational patterns or grouping strategies including self-contained and
departmentalized classrooms.
Kaufman and Stein (2009) stated that a number of attempts have been made to
revolutionize the delivery of instruction in the elementary school. Educators constantly
reform elementary schools to meet the needs of students. The administrators and fifth
grade instructional staff at an urban elementary school expressed their belief that
departmentalization in the fifth grade would help students meet and exceed the MDE
standards and assist students in the transition to middle school. As Chan and Jarman
(2004) have noted, departmentalization offers the advantages of subject specialization,
instructional teams, transition, and flexibility in instruction.
The first advantage listed by Chan and Jarman (2004) is subject specialization.
Subject specialization enables the teachers to bring various areas of expertise to the class.
Teachers are able to refine their knowledge and instructional strategies according to the
developmental needs of their students (USDE, 2004). As teachers develop an in-depth
mastery of content area knowledge, they are able to communicate students’ growth more
effectively to parents. This expertise allows students to optimize their learning processes
that go beyond the direct instruction (Hwang & Hernandez, 2002). As another result of
subject specialization, students receive more skilled instruction from teachers who
specialize in particular disciplines. From the teachers’ perspective, the instructional time
is better utilized by concentrating on fewer disciplines. Teachers can focus their skills and
have a greater breadth and depth of knowledge in their subject areas (Catledge-Howard et
al., 2003).
4
Instructional teams are another advantage of departmentalization (Chan &
Jarman, 2004). Teams are typically composed of between two and four teachers working
collaboratively to plan thematic units and lesson plans in order to provide a more
supportive environment for students (Coffey, 2008). Students will benefit because they
are exposed to the instructional wisdom of more than one teacher. Students behave and
achieve differently with various teachers and subject matter. Collaboration allows
teachers to develop a more accurate picture of their students, allowing them to better
meet students’ needs (Cousins, 1994). Additionally, team teaching creates an authentic
environment which reflects real life situations through active interactions among learners
and instruction (Hwang & Hernandez, 2002). Working on a team also allows teaching
partners to grow professionally. Collaboration provides for opportunities to solve daily
problems, select appropriate materials, and generate new ideas through brainstorming
(Baker, 1999).
The next advantage of departmentalization mentioned by Chan and Jarman (2004)
is transition. The transition to middle school from elementary school is made easier when
students have prior experience with departmentalized organization. Departmentalization
in the fifth grade offers an excellent solution to the transition problem in addition to all
the benefits of academic specialization. In addition, successful departmentalization
experiences in the fifth grade will prepare students for the academic and social challenges
that await them in secondary school. It is vital that fifth graders have exposure and the
opportunity to develop survival skills as they transition from the egocentrism of
childhood to a group-centered school environment.
5
The final benefit of departmentalization listed by Chan and Jarman (2004) is
flexibility in the learning environment, curriculum, and instruction. Many strategies are
implemented to support a unified, coordinated, and inclusive school. Flexibility is a key
term when thinking of how learners should be grouped for instruction. According to
Ediger (2000), rigid approaches to grouping must be avoided as they do not always take
into consideration of social development and academic achievement.
The Council for Exceptional Children (2005) indicated a heightened sense of
urgency surrounding access to the general curriculum and that student achievement has
evolved in part from the passage of the NCLB. NCLB required all states to have an
educational plan with challenging academic standards in math, reading, and language arts
that apply to all children. Hammenken (1997) noted that the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) required students with disabilities to have access to the general
education curriculum and be included in general state and district-wide assessment
programs with appropriate accommodations. While high stakes testing is influential in a
decision to implement a departmentalized organizational structure, it has benefits that go
beyond simply delivering content. Hammenken (1997) stated departmentalization creates
more opportunities for teachers to collaborate with their colleagues and share their
enthusiasm for their favorite subjects with all students.
Purpose of Study
The way in which an urban elementary school’s fifth grade classrooms are
organized may have a direct impact on students’ educational experiences. In order to
fulfill the school’s mission of providing children with the skills necessary to be
academically proficient and to excel to their fullest potential, school administrators
6
incorporated a change process, which included reorganization of time, materials,
resources, scheduling, curriculum delivery and teachers. Teaching in the 21st Century
calls for effective ways of teaching as well as an effective school organization that will
support more effective ways of teaching.
Most elementary students receive their education in a self-contained classroom
with one teacher who is responsible for teaching all content areas (Chan & Jarman,
2004). It is assumed that a teacher in the self-contained setting is knowledgeable and
competent in teaching all subject areas. Often teachers say they do not feel like they have
enough time to implement what is required nor do they have enough training (McCall,
Janssen, & Riederer, 2008). Therefore, this case study included information about the
implementation of departmentalization, subject specialization, and teacher preparation in
a departmentalized organizational structure. However, in the departmental setting, a
teacher is responsible for designing high quality lessons in one or two content areas. As a
result, there has been renewed interest in the departmental organizational structure in the
elementary classrooms with an attempt to provide a better opportunity for student
achievement. The purpose of this study was to examine the change of fifth grade classes
from a self-contained structure to a departmentalized structure. This case study sought to
understand the impact that departmentalization had on staff, students, and academic
achievement in the fifth grade. From the analysis of data, this study added to the research
literature on determining the feasibility of departmentalization in the fifth grade.
Research Question
This case study was guided by the following question that explored the impact
that departmentalization has on teachers and staff, and on student academic achievement:
7
How do the fifth grade staff and students transition from a self-contained
organizational structure to a departmentalized organizational structure?
The research questions below were generated to understand fully the impact of
departmentalization:
1. What is the preferred organizational structure for fifth grade education after
transitioning from a self-contained to a departmentalized structure?
2. Is departmentalization a more effective practice when attempting to raise student
proficiency levels and content understanding as evidenced by MCT2 scores?
3. Is there a significant difference in the academic achievement among fourth grade
students enrolled in a self-contained setting and those same students enrolled in a
fifth grade departmentalized organizational structure as measured by the MCT2
results?
4. How do teachers rank the courses they enjoy and in which they believe they are
most effective teaching?
5. How do the students rank the courses they enjoy the most?
6. What are the teachers’ perceptions of the impact of departmentalization in their
school?
Definition of Terms
Since there is inconsistent terminology in the literature, the following have been
defined to enhance the reader’s understanding of terms used throughout this case study:
Accuracy is the ability of an individual to perform a skill correctly.
Assessment refers to the process of collecting, synthesizing, and interpreting
information.
8
Content is the subject matter being taught in the classroom.
Co-teaching/Team teaching involves a general education teacher and a special
education teacher who share the responsibility of teaching students with diverse academic
needs in a classroom.
Culture is the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions that
are common to a group of people (Northouse, 2007).
Curriculum consists of the content, skills, or topics for teachers to clarify and
cover along with the recommended timeline and instructional material.
Departmentalization is an organizational structure which allows educators to
teach breadth and depth of a subject, rather than teaching subjects with which they may
lack expertise.
Differentiated Instruction provides different avenues for students to acquire
content, to process or make sense of ideas, and to develop products so that a student can
learn effectively (Tomlinson, 2001).
Diversity is the existence of different cultures or ethnicities within a group or
organization.
English Language Learner (ELL) is a person who is in the process of acquiring
English and has a first language other than English.
Explicit Instruction is overtly teaching the steps required for completing a task.
Highly Qualified Teacher is an instructor who is fully certified by the state; holds
at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution; and demonstrates competence in
each core academic subject area in which he/she delivers instruction.
9
Inclusion mandates students with disabilities to receive instruction in the general
education classes.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written plan, required by the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), for students with disabilities in
educational settings.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is an United States federal law
that governs how states and public agencies provide early interventions, special
education, and related services to children with disabilities.
Instruction consists of the techniques, strategies and words used in delivering the
curriculum.
Professional Development is the skills and knowledge that an employee gains to
optimize personal development and career advancement.
Readiness is a student’s entry point relative to a particular understanding or skill
(Tomlinson, 1999).
Self-Contained classrooms consist of one instructor who is a generalist and
teaches every content area.
Theoretical Framework
The social constructivist theory was chosen as the supporting framework for this
case study as an aim to relate the importance of the setting in which students acquire and
develop knowledge. This theoretical framework is associated to the organizational
structure in the elementary school because the setting in which students learn is
important. Departmentalization provides opportunities for students to interact with
multiple content specialists who can provide quality learning opportunities (Andrews,
10
2006; Becker, 1987; Findley, 1967; Gerretson, Bosnick, & Schofield, 2008;McPartland,
1987; Moore, 2008; Page, 2009; Sowers, 1968). The social constructivist theory
promotes development as a social, collaborative activity. Although high-stakes testing
has demanded a standardized curriculum, the concept of the setting where learning takes
place is a relevant focus of this case study.
Studies on the topic regarding the effect of organizational structure on student
achievement exist. Chang and Jarman (2004) theorized that collaboration problems exist
among disciplines when the emotional needs of students were not meet in
departmentalized elementary schools. The negative implications of departmentalization
in the elementary school created challenges with integrated learning experiences across
the core areas. With restrictions in their freedom and flexibility to ensure maximum
learning by all students, teachers had to collaborate with other team members to ensure
maximum leaning potential for students. Moreover, some of the teachers did not make a
concerted and worthy effort of knowing and understanding each child to the same degree.
Thus, departmentalization in the elementary school hindered the teachers’ ability in
adjusting to the multiple emotional and social needs of students in several classes.
Therefore, conflicts regarding which organizational structure best addresses the
development of elementary students are debated by educators and parents. The question
of elementary classroom structure, self-contained or departmentalized, is as unresolved
today as it was decades ago. Every stakeholder involved in these deliberations has a
personal view regarding the best type of organization for instruction in core subject areas
at the elementary level (Ackerlund, 1959). Nevertheless, the trend in departmentalization
continues to fluctuate throughout the years. Educational change is always accompanied
11
with controversy. A basic fear of the unknown and an instinctive precognition of the
frustrations that can be expected from the introduction of change, serve as powerful
deterrents to the dramatic improvements of public education (Baker, 1999).
During the 20th Century, several educational reforms were taking place in the
United States, particularly in the elementary school. These areas included increasing the
enrollment, adding new subjects to the curriculum, and extending the school day.
Dewey, Wiles, and Bondi (1984) observed “schools as agencies of society designed to
improve our democratic way of life” (p. 268). Dewey, Wiles, and Bondi (1984) also
insisted that the elementary school should “build on the interest of the students and
should represent real life by taking up and continuing the activities with which the child
is already familiar with at home” (p. 267-268). The organizational structures in the
elementary schools began to make adjustments to coincide with the new curriculum.
Elementary classroom organizational studies were minimal for several years after
the 1970s. With the limited knowledge relative to organizational structures being used
across the nation, Rogers and Palardy (1987) conducted a survey of 125 elementary
school principals in the southeastern section of the United States. The information
gathered identified the organizational structure and grouping strategies used in
kindergarten through sixth grades. The findings indicated that the majority of the
classrooms were self-contained with the percentage of classes dropping at each
successive level (Rogers & Palardy, 1987).
In 1989, a group of parents became concerned about the consequences of moving
away from the traditional elementary classroom setting to the departmentalized setting.
The Board of Directors of the Des Moines Iowa Public Schools requested the Department
12
of Elementary Education to investigate the issue. In the report by Des Moines Public
School (1989), the traditional teacher was viewed as a generalist, rather than a specialist
in the departmentalized classroom.
Fifth grade is often the last grade level where students experience the traditional
classroom before they advance to the middle grades and a non-traditional self-contained
classroom. McPartland (1987) conducted a study on departmentalization and concluded
that the departmentalized setting weakened the students and teachers’ relationships, but
improved the quality of instruction. With the great demands on academic accountability
in the elementary schools, educational authorities have considered school improvement
plans to meet the demands. Therefore, the teacher strengths and weaknesses were given
immense consideration. Canady and Rettig (2008) stated it is unreasonable to expect all
teachers to be experts in all subject areas in the upper elementary grades. In spite of this
disadvantage of departmentalization in the fifth grade, elementary students benefitted
from the exposure of the instructional wisdom of more than one teacher. In addition,
children’s social experiences are broadened in a departmentalized setting by providing
additional opportunities to meet new personalities.
Conceptual Framework of Study
The purpose of this study was to examine the change of fifth grade classes from a
self-contained structure to a departmentalized structure. Due to a continuous decline in
the number of students performing at advanced and proficient levels on the MCT2,
research to help resolve this problem was necessary. The school improvement team
worked to reform the current educational practices through restructuring. The initial step
in the reorganization or restructuring process was to identify reasons for change. The
13
following factors were considered by the school’s improvement team as a guide for the
decision making process: respond to students’ needs; lengthen the instructional module;
ease transition from elementary school to middle school; address state and national
standards; improve student achievement; provide remediation; establish teams and small
learning communities; move power of control to teachers; provide inclusion for special
needs students; and group and regroup of students for a variety of instructional purposes.
Overview of Research Design
This case study utilized classroom and planning observations of departmental
instruction, questionnaires among students and teachers, interviews among teachers, and
analysis of test data to determine how staff and students transitioned from a selfcontained to a departmentalize organizational structure in the fifth grade. The variable
introduced in this case study was the departmentalized organizational structure in fifth
grade. As MDE and the USDE measured and mandated higher student achievement, this
case study compared two years of summative test results in language arts and
mathematics to ascertain if students performed better after transitioning from a selfcontained classroom setting to a departmentalized setting. The comparison of test data
provided a generalization regarding whether departmentalization in the fifth grade was a
feasible organizational option for helping fifth grade students achieve proficient or
advanced scores on state assessments as well as maintaining job satisfaction among staff
members.
14
Overview of Methodology
Fraenkel and Wallen (2006) stated that qualitative research investigates the
quality of relationships, activities, situations, or materials. The purpose of qualitative
research is to understand participant meaning (Morrow & Smith, 2000). More
specifically, Creswell (1998) defined qualitative research as an inquiry process of
understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explores a
social or human problem. The researcher observed participants, conducted interviews,
reported detailed views of the participants, analyzed test data, and conducted the study in
the natural setting to seek a better understanding of the impact of departmentalization in
fifth grade classes on students, staff and academic achievement.
A case study is a research method based on an in-depth investigation of a single
individual, group, or event (Yin, 2009). Rather than using samples and following a rigid
protocol to examine limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth,
longitudinal examination of a single instance or event. A case study provides a systematic
way of looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results.
As a result of a case study being used as a research strategy, the researcher may gain a
sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did, and what might become
important to look at more extensively in the future (Flyvbjerg, 2006).
Most of the available research concerning departmentalization focuses on
multiple teachers providing instruction of the core subjects to multiple classes of students
throughout the instructional day. Instead of the traditional approach in a self-contained
organizational setting, the focus of this case study was the implementation of a
departmentalization model in the fifth grade. This case study involved questionnaires,
15
interviews, observations, and comparison of standardized test scores. Fifth grade
students, teachers and support staff at an urban elementary school represented the
participants for this case study. The participants included 60 fifth grade students and 12
staff members who were responsible for providing a quality education to these students.
The test data were divided into two specific levels: students who were taught the
core subjects in a self-contained setting during fourth grade and the same students
received instruction in a departmentalized organizational structure during fifth grade. All
fifth grade students were included in this study including those identified with learning
disabilities and as English language learners. In addition, this study relied upon
questionnaires from fifth grade students and staff members as well as the 2010 and 2011
MCT2 scores.
Delimitations of Study
This case study was limited to the fifth grade teachers and support staff in one
urban elementary school within Hinds County in Mississippi. The use of fifth grade
students as participants of only one school was a delimitation of this case study. Another
delimitation of this case study was limiting the implementation of a departmentalized
organizational structure to one grade within the elementary school setting.
Significance of the Study
Educators have debated elementary school organizational structure since the
beginning of the 20th Century (Gibb & Matala, 1962). One of the most significant aspects
of upper elementary organizational structure is the number of subjects or disciplines
covered by highly effective teachers. The teachers act as generalists and teach the entire
16
elementary curriculum during the instructional day in a self-contained setting. In the
other approach, students change from different classes in order for multiple teachers to
teach different subjects in the departmentalized setting. Thus, the departmentalized
setting requires teachers to cover fewer subject areas (Roger & Palardy, 1987). Some
educators have found that departmentalized organizational approaches offer distinct
advantages for the student (Culyer, 1984). This study investigated the relationship among
the departmentalized organizational structure and its impact on teachers and staff as well
as student achievement. The results from this case study identified the impact of utilizing
a departmentalized organizational structure in fifth grade classes for upcoming academic
years. This case study assisted the researcher in determining if a departmentalized
organizational structure was a more effective practice when attempting to raise student
proficiency levels and content understanding as evidenced by MCT2 scores while
increasing teacher satisfaction.
Organization of Dissertation
This case study is organized into five chapters. The first chapter provides an
introduction of the study. The second chapter provides the related research literature. The
methodology of the case study is explained in the third chapter. The results and
discussions of the case study are explained in the fourth chapter. Finally, the summary,
implications and recommendations of this case study are explained in the fifth and last
chapter.
17
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
A reason for reorganization was to improve student achievement. Many issues
have arisen from the publishing of school and district scores that became a perceived
beacon of educational success in the eyes of the public (Merenbloom & Kalina, 2007).
Government officials, taxpayers, and parents wanted a quantifiable way to measure the
effectiveness of the educational process. The publishing of scores in local newspapers has
caused the community to make judgments regarding the administration and teaching
staff. There was some discussion of the degree to which K-5 reform proposals might
prompt the development of specialized schooling options. Specialization has
complemented higher academic standards (Dropsey, 2004). Children have always been
incredibly diverse and differed in the rate and ways they learned, the subjects that
interested them, the subjects they struggled with and excelled at, and the physical
environments that supported their efforts (Bonsteel & Bonilla, 1997).
In recent years, there has been growing emphasis on changing the way elementary
schools educated students. This emphasis has been due to increased attention to
standards based instruction and accountability that accompanied political reform
movements such as The Improving America’s School Act of 1994, Title V – Innovative
Education Program Strategies, and Goals 2000: Educate America Act (USDE, 2001). The
general purpose of these acts offered guidelines and suggested teaching strategies to
18
better enable all children to achieve at a high level. These acts, along with the more
current NCLB, gave educators the task of ensuring that all children have a fair, equal and
significant opportunity to obtain high-quality education (USDE, 2001). The increased
emphasis on these goals have caused administrators and teachers to search for
pedagogical strategies that enhanced student learning, developed critical thinking skills,
encouraged collaboration, and increased standardized test scores. One strategy explicitly
named by USDE that helped teachers shift the focus of their instructional delivery was
departmentalization.
The explosion of knowledge summoned new ways of teaching as well as
organizational patterns. The predominant organizational plan of the elementary school
was the self-contained classroom. Many of the educators in the elementary school were
unanimous in their advocacy of this organizational strategy (Chan, Terry, & Bessette,
2009). The self-contained classroom had certain presumed advantages. But with the vast
amount of content required to be taught and assessed, the major disadvantage of the selfcontained classroom was that one teacher couldn’t know enough to operate effectively in
all subjects. Departmentalization was a form of organization which had more
characteristics of secondary school than that of the elementary school. In this
organizational plan, each subject was taught by a specialist in that particular subject.
Most elementary teachers preferred to teach only one or two subjects (Franklin, 1967).
Organization of Chapter
A review of the related literature for this study was conducted to ascertain the
research studies and information available concerning departmentalization in the
elementary school. In the initial part of chapter, there is discussion about the history of
19
elementary education and departmentalization. A short selection of related studies are
discussed in this chapter. The advantages and disadvantages of departmentalization in the
elementary school are also discussed in the literature review. There are other aspects,
which are relevant to departmentalization discussed in this chapter including: mandates
of NCLB; highly qualified staff; professional development; organizational strategies and
planning; shared decision making and empowerment; classroom structure and
scheduling; precursors of student achievement; effective teaching strategies; teachers’
beliefs and personal qualities; and classroom climate. Finally, the last part of this chapter
summarizes the review of literature.
History of Elementary Education
Elementary schools existed as the basic foundational institution in the formal
educational structure (Cremin, 1970). The age range of students who attended elementary
schools in the United States depended on the organizational pattern of the particular
school. The elementary school curriculum provided work in the educational basics.
Additionally, an important part of elementary schooling was socialization with peers and
creating an identification of the child with community (Chan et al, 2009).
The European settlers in the North American colonies in the 16th and 17th
Centuries initially recreated the school systems of their homelands (Cremin, 1970). The
primary schools offered a basic curriculum of reading, writing, arithmetic and religion.
Cremin (1970) noted the movement to establish an American version of elementary
education was promoted by Noah Webster, who sought to create an American version of
the English language and instill an American identity into the young through language
instruction. In the 1830s and 1840s, elementary or primary school systems began to
20
replace the existing church controlled institutions. These state supported elementary
schools were open to children of all socioeconomic classes and ethnic groups.
Unfortunately, according to Cremin (1970) there were some exceptions in the southern
colonies. Enslaved African Americans were trained to be agricultural workers, field
hands, craft people, or domestic servants. Many enslaved African American children did
not attend schools until after the Civil War.
History of Departmentalization
In departmental instruction, each instructor taught only the one or two subjects of
which he or she was a specialist. The students shifted from room to room during the
successive periods in the day or the teacher rotated to the classrooms (Otto, 1954). The
impetus for departmentalizing instruction seemed to be an outgrowth of the reading and
writing schools in the New England states (Schuster & Wilson, 1958). The reading and
writing schools that prevailed in the New England states during the 17th and 18th
Centuries were departmental schools since each site had its own master, room and staff.
The students attended each department alternately and changed from one school to
another at the end of each day or half-day session. As the elementary school developed in
the southern and middle Atlantic states, and later in the New England states, the
departmental feature dwindled away. As a result, departmentalization disappeared from
the elementary school between 1850 and 1900. As the graded schools spread throughout
the country after 1850, the self-contained classes remained in session. None of the efforts
between 1860 and 1900 to return the departmentalized system were productive (Otto,
1954).
21
The movement for reorganization of the curriculum in upper elementary grades
reintroduced the ideas of departmentalization. Departmental teaching began in New York
City for the upper elementary grades in the 1900s. This arrangement was very similar to
the departments of the junior and senior high schools of today. This departmental plan
showed promise as other school systems began to implement it. Otto (1954) stated that
the Commissioner of Education reported in 1913 that 461 of 813 superintendents in cities
with population of 5,000 and over had some type of departmental teaching.
Related Studies
The National Education Association (1966) reported that in 1964-1965, the
Educational Research Services surveyed 97 large school systems which were using the
departmentalized form of classroom organization in one or more elementary schools.
Most departmentalization in these schools was in fourth thru sixth grades. Many of the
reporting systems used more than one pattern of departmentalization. The respondents
provided insights into why departmentalization had been implemented into their schools
systems and the ways it had been deemed satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Those favoring
departmentalization felt it was a good way to insure a well-balanced program for all
students. Teachers possessed a higher morale when teaching in their own special field.
Also, departmentalization helped to solve a shortage of elementary school teachers by
utilizing those individuals who were certified to teach high school subjects. In contrast,
some respondents had reservations about departmentalization because students lost time
in changing classes.
Woods (1958) made some rather interesting observations in his study of
departmentalization. Two schools, one departmentalized and one self-contained, were
22
compared after one year on the basis of achievement using the Stanford Achievement
Test Form D. It was found that the school with the self-contained form of classroom
organization apparently achieved more than the departmentalized school. This study
indicated that the learning process in the self-contained class was more unified than in the
departmentalized setting. However, all of the students in the upper grades preferred
departmentalization because their teachers were highly specialized in their particular
field. In spite of this benefit to students, another flaw in departmentalization was it lacked
collaboration among the instructional team. This resulted with students being overloaded
with homework or not being assigned homework assignments.
Subjects selected for Harris’ (1996) study were from an urban school system in
the northern region of the United States. The participants were predominantly of the
Hispanic origin and located in low socioeconomic stature. Two samples of sixth grade
students were selected for this study. Of the 60 participants, 30 students received
instruction in a self-contained classroom and the other 30 students received instruction in
a departmentalized structure. Academic achievement in this study was measured from
scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, which was the standardized test used by the
school system. The T-test was used to determine if there was a statistically significant
difference in mean scores after the experimental group had been exposed to the
departmentalized organization structure after one academic year. The results indicated
that students in the self-contained organizational structure scored significantly higher
than the students in the departmentalized structure.
Another study was conducted with two rural schools in Tennessee. McGrath and
Rust (2002) used 197 participants from fifth and sixth grades. All of the students from the
23
two schools were in self-contained classrooms in the fourth grade. However, one school
maintained its self-contained structure through the fifth and sixth grades while the other
school implemented departmentalized classes for fifth and sixth grades. Scale scores and
normal curve equivalents of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program were
used as the dependent variable, which would determine achievement in this study. The
scores in the self-contained fifth and sixth grade classrooms showed statistically
significant gains in the Total Battery as well as the Language Arts and Science subtests.
There were no significant gains in the areas of Mathematics, Reading and Social Studies.
Furthermore, there were no significant differences in instructional time for the selfcontained or departmentalized classrooms.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Departmentalization
Changes in school organization can effect students and teachers. Altering the
elementary school organization has benefits and disadvantages for students, parents and
teachers. Originally, departmentalization was implemented at the elementary level to
prepare students for the secondary level of education. Nevertheless, educators began to
question if students at the elementary level were actually ready for a departmentalized
organizational structure.
One of the advantages of departmentalization allowed students to receive
educational instruction from teachers who specialized in particular disciplines (Chan,
Terry, & Besette, 2009). Departmentalization allowed teachers to teach the subjects they
knew best. Specialization allowed teachers to stay abreast of new developments in
teaching methods, materials, equipment and professional literature. It took full advantage
of the best teacher resources and facilitated instructional planning. Specialization in one
24
or two subjects reduced the time teachers spent preparing for several subjects. Maximized
planning permitted teachers to utilize more centers or small group instruction and created
a literature rich environment. Teachers also provided students with purposeful and
authentic learning experiences. This enabled teachers to meet the various students’ needs
with differentiated strategies and activities. Therefore, lessons were meaningful and
more appropriate for each student. This enhanced the students’ opportunities to make
significant gains in academic achievement when lessons were taught with more intensity
(Gerretson, Bosnick, & Schofield, 2008).
A second advantage of departmentalization enabled grade-level instructional
teams to be formed, which coordinated teaching efforts across each discipline. Also
known as co-teaching or collaborative teaching, team teaching was an instructional
strategy used across subject areas in a variety of methods (Erb & Stevenson, 1999). When
done correctly, this approach has been shown to create bonding opportunities for students
and to engage teachers in collaborative, interdisciplinary planning (Coffey, 2008).
Creating and sustaining effective faculty teams resulted in greater stability and retention
of highly qualified teachers. Collaboration among teachers reduced isolation and fostered
a sense of community. The collaboration among teachers during team teaching provided
a positive classroom environment, which resulted in students working to attain higher
goals. This allowed students exposure to the instructional wisdom of several teachers.
Transition was another advantage of implementing departmentalization in the
elementary school. The transition to middle school from elementary school was made
easier when students had prior experience with departmentalized organization (Delviscio
& Muffs, 2007). Several studies have found that a sharp achievement drop occurred when
25
students experienced an abrupt transition from self-contained to departmentalized
classrooms (Alspaugh & Harting, 1995; Grooms, 1967; Lamme, 1976; Reuman, 1984).
When the elementary school aligned with the middle school organization, students were
better prepared for the transition to middle school. Additionally, students seemed to like
the freedom of moving around from classroom to classroom during the school day.
On the district level, Chan et al. (2009) reported a maximization of resources
when departmentalization was implemented in elementary schools. Throughout the
nation, districts and schools were dealing with budget restraints. Departmentalization
helped save funds because fewer kits containing teacher editions, classroom library
resources, and manipulatives were needed to enhance the delivery of instruction.
Another advantage of departmentalization allowed for more flexibility in the
learning environments as reported by Schrag (1993). Many strategies were implemented
to support a unified and inclusive elementary school. Students can be grouped in multiple
ways. The multiple ways of grouping students provided optimal achievement while
respecting the individual differences among students.
As with any organizational approach, there were also disadvantages involved in
departmentalization. Erb and Stevenson (1999) stated students coming from a traditional
elementary structure were accustomed to having a small group of peers and one teacher.
Sometimes students became overwhelmed when they had to change classes and had more
than one teacher in the elementary setting. If students did not feel connected to peers and
teachers, they might have had a higher rate of academic failure (Coffey, 2008).
In a study by Nebraska Department of Education (2000) the opponents of
departmentalization suggested that frequent movement of children from class to class
26
served as an interruption to quality teaching. These transitions may also have contributed
to inappropriate student behavior. Ackerlund (1959) found the self-contained classrooms
maintained a better student-teacher relationship, but it was difficult for teachers to be
knowledgeable and prepared to teach all subjects.
Legters, McDill, and McPartland (1993) stated a teacher who provided daily
instruction to several different classes of students cannot get to know well the needs of
each individual. The opponents of departmentalization believed students who changed
teachers for each period of the day would not relate to any of their teachers as strongly as
when only one adult was in their classroom. Also, specialized teachers may have adopted
a different orientation toward their responsibilities of student success. The Nebraska
Department of Education (2000) suggested that the teacher who spent most of the day
with one group of children in a self-contained classroom had the best opportunity to
integrate the content of the instructional program and to adjust daily activities to meet the
changing needs of the children.
A culture of isolation has prevailed within the American education system. The
Nebraska Department of Education (2000) suggested departmentalization actually
detracted from integration of curricular content, ideas, and issues that made learning
meaningful and focused instead of isolated subject matter. Proponents of self-contained
classrooms stated that departmentalization isolated subject areas, rendered less
integration, and denied students the opportunity to make connections. As high stakes
testing added to the isolation problems encountered by learners today, it has caused
teachers and students to focus on isolating the correct answer. Learning that occurs in
isolation would result in short term memory gain. This practice of subject isolation
27
prohibited the students’ opportunities to thoroughly analyze content and connected it to
bigger ideas. Duffy and Cunningham (1996) believed knowledge was not a matter of
getting it right but rather of acquiring habits of action for coping with reality.
Many students needed to feel a more intense sense of security within the
classroom. Because departmentalization was governed by a controlled rotation schedule,
this may have hindered the teachers’ ability to identify the individual needs of students.
The self-contained organizational structure allowed for more instructional time because
of the lack of class transition. Chang and Jarman (2004) have charged that collaboration
problems existed between disciplines in departmentalized elementary schools when the
emotional needs of students were not met. Many educators and parents were opposed to
departmentalization in elementary schools because they believed there was an advantage
of keeping the self-contained classrooms to maintain the uniqueness of a home-like
environment.
Mandates of NCLB Act
According to Cremin (1970) the primary curriculum within the United States was
often generalized into broad areas, but gradually became more specialized at the
intermediate and upper grade levels into more specific subjects. Because of the generality
of the elementary curriculum, there was a greater emphasis on methods and styles of
teaching. The typical elementary school curriculum was organized around broad fields
such as language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science. The standards movement,
which gained momentum in the late 1990s, has required more standardized testing in
elementary schools. Standards advocates argued that academic achievement can be best
assessed using standardized tests to determine whether students were performing at
28
prescribe levels. Strongly endorsed by United States President George Bush, the
standards approach was infused into the federal NCLB Act of 2001.
The heart and soul of NCLB were its requirements for annual testing and proof
that all students were making adequate yearly progress. Every year thousands of students
took standardized test and every year thousands of students failed them according to
Valencia and Buly (2004). Wallis (2008) implied the NCLB’s 2014 goal was something
no educational system anywhere on earth has ever done because every kid with the
exception for 3% with serious handicaps or other issues are supposed to be achieving on
grade level every year. With the implementation of NCLB, which mandated testing all
children from Grades 3 to 8 every year, these numbers would grow exponentially and
unfortunately, alarming numbers of schools and students would be labeled as in need of
improvement. The key provisions of NCLB included performance expectations in
reading. Each state set annual targets that would lead to the goal of all students reaching
proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014 (USDE, 2006). To address this
concern, schools began to change educational practices used in the classrooms.
Reese (2004) noted that amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
of 1965, NCLB made significant changes in the major federal programs that supported
schools in their efforts to educate our children. The law that is known as NCLB was the
primary statute governing the federal government’s role in education. According to Reese
(2004) the USDE was based on the principles of increased flexibility and local control,
stronger accountability for results, expanded options for parents and an emphasis on
effective teaching methods that were scientifically proven to increase student
29
achievement. The NCLB Act of 2001 placed emphasis on raising academic standards for
students and professional standards for educators.
The goal of NCLB was to ensure that all children had a fair, equal and significant
opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on
challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments
(NCLB, 2001). According to the Center for Education Policy (2004), NCLB called on
states to develop stricter accountability systems that addressed achievement in all
schools. Standardized testing data in Mississippi have been gathered using the MCT2.
After evaluating MCT2 data, one of the possible strategies discussed among educators
was the implementation of departmentalization in the elementary school.
Highly Qualified Staff
Teacher knowledge has been shown to be directly related to the academic success
of students. Manzo (2004) stated that under the NCLB Act, the federal government, states
and school districts made some progress in carrying out the law’s requirement for
educators. In order to produce the benefits intended, states and districts established or
improved necessary systems for hiring and training teachers. An important component of
accountability under NCLB was the plans that states ensured all teachers of core
academic subjects were highly qualified. Highly qualified was defined as those teachers
who have obtained full state certification, held a bachelor’s degree, and have
demonstrated subject area competence (USDE, 2004).
In a study by Simpson, LaCava, and Graner (2004) the instructional importance of
paraprofessionals was also recognized, and these individuals were also required to meet
minimum qualification standards. The USDE (2003) said that paraeducators were of vital
30
importance in implementing IEP and supporting students with special needs in inclusive
environments. In recognition of this importance, there were highly qualified provisions
for paraeducators who instructed students. They must meet one of the following three
requirements: (a) had an associate’s degree or higher, (b) had completed at least 2 years
of study at an institution of higher learning, (c) or passed a rigorous state or local
assessment that demonstrated knowledge and skills needed to assist in teaching reading,
writing, and math.
Teachers’ qualifications and areas of certification need to be carefully examined
and evaluated to determine their eligibility to perform in the assigned classes. The MDE
(2011) governed certification and requirements. MDE mandated standards for the
elementary teacher preparation programs. There were important facts regarding the MDE
NCLB Act of 2001 for highly qualified teachers. Teachers with a K-8 license are highly
qualified to teach Grades K-6 regardless of the classroom configuration. Therefore, most
elementary teachers certified in Mississippi are prepared to teach all core content areas in
self-contained classes in grades kindergarten thru fifth. Based on the elementary
standards, MDE recommended that certain teachers are certified with endorsements to
teach designated departmentalized courses such as music, visual arts, drama, remedial
reading, special education and mild/moderate disability.
MDE (2011) has administrative rules which governed the certification of
Mississippi teachers. The following definitions are helpful in determining teaching
assignments.
1. Certificate endorsement means subject or subjects that a teacher is
authorized to teach at specific grade levels based on completion of
31
appropriate coursework and passage of the appropriate state teacher
subject examination.
2. Departmentalized classroom means a classroom in which instruction in a
specific subject is provided for a defined period of time.
3. Elementary certificate means an authorization to teach all subjects,
kindergarten to fifth grade in a self-contained classroom.
4. Self-contained classroom means a classroom in which one teacher
provides instruction to the same pupils for the majority of the pupil’s
instructional day.
MDE (2011) has an alternate licensing program to attract people who do
not
fulfill traditional licensing standards into the teaching profession. These
individuals may begin teaching with a temporary license; however, they must
simultaneously attend required education courses. Then, there were other programs where
a college graduate would complete the required education courses and then become
eligible for licensure. Most of these programs were designed to minimize the shortages of
teachers. There were also other programs focused on filling the many available teaching
positions in both urban and rural school systems where attracting and retaining teachers
from traditional licensing programs were difficult. In addition, teachers who wished to
obtain professional certification as an endorsement of qualification and competency
beyond that required for regular licensing might do so through voluntary, national
certification offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
32
Professional Development
Changes within schools have been depicted as a “fashion trend” as opposed to a
scientific building process (Stevens, 2004, p. 389). Often innovative approaches to
education were imposed or demanded by administrators without fully preparing teachers.
Often teachers were not provided with professional development needed to implement an
innovative program. Any newly implemented program cannot become successful without
full support and cooperation of the teachers and staff. Commitment to an idea was
different than knowing what to do in order to make it effective (Joyce, 2004). If
administrators were willing to provide professional development and resources needed
for an innovative program, teachers would perceive administrators as serious (Stevens,
2004).
Professional development is referred to the learning one is exposed to after
accepting the role of being an educator. Helping an educator become effective in the
classroom was the purpose of professional development. School and district wide
professional development programs were used to help teachers develop their skills and
abilities while becoming effective facilitators of the teaching-learning process (USDE,
2000). School districts throughout Mississippi provided extensive content professional
development that goes beyond the general courses that elementary teachers were required
to take for certification.
Simplicio (2000) asserted dated methods of instruction were no longer by
themselves sufficient and effective tools for teaching. The learning process has changed
and educators have been challenged to change as well. The improvement of education for
all students required teachers to have a variety of skills under girded with content and
33
pedagogical knowledge (Gentry & Springer, 2002). Also, high quality and wellstructured professional development provided opportunities for non-licensed or out-ofarea or veteran teachers and administrators to (a) upgrade their educational level, (b)
improve their skills, and (c) acquire a license (Williams & King, 2002).
According to Goldberg (1994), teachers and the quality of teaching make the
biggest difference in improving student performance. There was a growing consensus
among scholars, policymakers, and educators that sound organization and
implementation of professional development enhanced teacher quality and student
learning. It has been argued that professional development resources should focus on (a)
closing the gap between teachers’ knowledge and student performance goals, (b)
strengthening teachers’ understanding of the connections between content and students’
thinking and learning, and (c) creating a tighter organizational fit between teacher
learning activities and teacher work (Scribner, 2003).
Organizational Strategies and Planning
Departmentalization in the elementary school began with an expressed interest
from school administrators and teachers. Initial discussions should include possible
benefits to students. Canady and Retting (2008) noted time was a key aspect in
organizing a new organizational strategy in any school. There must be time for the
administrators and instructional team to get organized prior to the initiation of any new
organizational strategy. Therefore, students should begin the academic year with clear
expectations and procedures.
When implementing departmentalization in elementary classrooms, there were
several issues to be addressed by the administrators and instructional team. In order to
34
successfully departmentalized, all of the members of the instructional team must work
toward the same goals. Teacher buy-in and support were particularly essential to the
success of departmentalization (Chan et al., 2009). Involving parents at an early stage
would make it easier for them to understand the concept of departmentalization and how
it would benefit the academic development of their children. So, there must be on-going
communication with parents. Along with preparing in-depth lessons that met curriculum
standards, teachers must continually monitor students’ progress, emotional needs and
behavior issues. District level curriculum directors also may need to be involved in all
stages of the departmentalization initiative, as their continued support would undoubtedly
translate into critical resources needed by elementary schools to sustain this effort (Chan
et al., 2009).
Subject area content must be covered thoroughly while integrating the curriculum
among all subjects. The idea of integration enabled children to make sense of what they
were learning and connected their experiences in ways that led to concept development
(Burts, Charlesworth, & Hart, 1997). If concepts were introduced in one subject area and
reinforced in the others, children would develop a deeper comprehension level. In order
to successfully integrate the curriculum, teachers would need common planning time to
discuss lessons and analyze data. During regularly scheduled planning time, teachers
identified students who needed special attention and follow through with extra support
(Montgomery & Ross, 1994).
Organization in daily routines was also critical to the success of
departmentalization in the elementary school. Daily routines were kept consistent in all
classrooms. Therefore, rule and expectations must be consistent too. Furthermore,
35
Alspaugh and Harting (1995) advised that schools should expect achievement declines in
the transitional year when transitioning students from self-contained to departmentalized
classrooms.
Shared Decision Making and Empowerment
According to Thompson and Craig (2005) planning is a significant aspect in a
successful school. Teachers and students were the key components in the instructional
process. Good instructional planning was the result of a school’s instructional leadership
team who envisioned the school’s mission, goals, and beliefs. The beliefs of the school
should be articulated by the school’s leaders, staff, and students. These beliefs must be
based on educational theory and practice. Mission and goal statements were the
cornerstone of education. A successful school attained positive benefits by focusing on
the mission and goal statements. The mission statement framed the attitude of a school,
so that the whole mindset of an organization can be driven by a mission that sounded
simplistic but had the effect of focusing attitudes and performance on a promise made
publicly.
Killion and Roy (2009) stated a strong collaborative culture that valued
continuous improvement, honored teachers and administrators’ expertise, expected
ongoing learning about teaching, and invited faculty innovation was an essential element
in a high performing school. A school’s culture could manifest itself in customs, routines,
rituals, symbols, stories, and expectations. Deal and Peterson (2009) have found that
healthy and sound school cultures correlated strongly with increased student achievement
and motivation, and with teacher productivity and satisfaction. All educational
stakeholders should work collaboratively to create a vision for a positive school culture.
36
The instructional leaders’ role in changing the school’s culture was to act with care and
concern for others, worked to develop a shared vision and enhanced team building. High
levels of trust among stakeholders promoted risk taking and deepened the commitments
to the school’s initiatives. In addition, school leaders should solicit and utilize the
teachers’ input and insight to enhance shared decision making and leadership. Trust
among school community members could make or break efforts to reform classroom
practices, implement curriculum, or improve student performances (Bryk & Schneider,
2003).
Teachers should be empowered to make fundamental decisions concerning their
students. The greater the degree of teacher autonomy for making decisions about their
students and the team, the greater the degree of teacher innovation and creativity, varied
instructional strategies and techniques, and the ability to identify and address students’
needs and behavior (Steffes & Valentine, 1995). Teachers are the closest to the
instructional program, so they were in the best position for reestablishing instructional
priorities and judging the most appropriate ways to apportion time. Teacher
empowerment promoted teacher efficiency because teachers were able to make necessary
scheduling changes without requesting approval through administrative channels.
Dunbar (2004) stated teachers needed to monitor the effectiveness of their
teaching strategies to determine the need of change. Monitoring of effective instruction
was the heart of effective instruction. Decisions about curriculum and instruction should
be made by constantly reflecting, assessing, and evaluating students’ performances.
Modification and changes in approach should be made in response to students’ responses.
37
It was essential that this process be continuous and ongoing. Classroom practices should
be flexible and open to revisions based on student learning.
Professional educators’ awareness of the need to work in partnership with team
members is critical to students’ achievement. It was no longer feasible for a teacher to
know all there was to know about a discipline or subject and met the wide range of needs
in the classroom. Partnerships within the school and across the district must be formed to
support current educational practices. Collaboration among a team allowed teachers to
share responsibility for the implementation of the curriculum and promoted student
success. In many elementary school settings, teachers were required to share the
responsibility of co-teaching. As a co-teacher, it was important that colleagues shared
values and beliefs about teaching and provided constructive feedback to each other. The
drive to improve schools demanded an active leadership role among teachers. Teachers
were responsible for sharing the joint responsibility for sustaining improvement and
provided the best possible educational experiences for students.
Departmentalized Classroom Structure and Scheduling
According to Hackmann and Valentine (1998) if elementary schools are to
operate efficiently to meet their goals, the school day must be structured in the best
manner possible. A schedule can be defined as the plan to bring together people,
materials, and curriculum at a designated time and place for the purpose of instruction
(Ubben & Hughes, 1992). Scheduling was a mechanism to facilitate the school’s goals
and purposes in the area of curriculum, instruction, student grouping and staffing. Yet,
the development of the schedule was an unavoidable task that must be accomplished so
students and teachers could attain maximum instructional benefits from the time allotted.
38
George and Alexander (1993) asserted that few schools could overcome the
barriers of ineffective schedules or restrictive environments, so the creation of an
effective schedule was paramount to the development of a well-functioning program. The
following factors should be considered prior to scheduling.
1. The schedule should support interdisciplinary team organization.
2. The schedule should support an appropriate curriculum.
3. The schedule should support quality instruction in the disciplines through the
expanded and flexible uses of time.
4. The schedule should support child-centered instruction.
5. The schedule should promote quality teacher collaboration.
6. The schedule should promote teacher empowerment.
George and Alexander (1993) also believed that because most elementary schools
consisted of self-contained classes, students had to adjust to a new organizational
structure. Departmentalization could be implemented in a variety of ways. Achievement
grouping and teacher specialization was one approach of organizing the elementary
school. This approach allowed the teacher to master one subject and instructed multiple
classes. Another approach to departmentalization was team teaching. Team teaching
allowed multiple teachers to share the responsibility of providing instruction in one or
two subjects to multiple classes.
McGrath and Rust (2002) indicated departmental teachers allotted a similar
amount of instructional time in the five major subject areas compared to self-contained
teachers. The concept of extended time became an opportunity to learn because the
amount of time available for core academic subjects must be sufficient to ensure mastery
39
of basic skills. Additionally, the schedule should permit the use of such varied
instructional strategies as interdisciplinary instruction, cooperative learning, infusion of
technology, experiments, authentic assessments, active learning, independent study, and
small or large group activities.
Innovations in scheduling seem to be a popular educational reform for schools
across America. Merenbloom and Kalina (2007) indicated as early as the late 1960s,
elementary schools started to experiment with 90-minute classes. The Center for
Education Reform (1996) estimated that the number of schools that have implemented
some version of block scheduling ranged from 10 to 25%, while many more districts
were considering the concept.
Nicholas (2001) found block scheduling was a restructuring of the daily schedule
to create longer units of time for each class. Scheduling on the block system allowed
longer and more concentrated classes. When the classes were longer, teachers had more
flexibility. Moreover, the depth of knowledge increased from the knowledge level to
higher levels of application and analysis. With proper planning, the classroom activities
maintained high energy levels and a relaxed environment. Some advocates of intensive
block often argued that the longer class periods allowed greater opportunities to get to
know students on a personal level (Fritz, 2007).
Proponents claimed that block scheduling created a less pressured and more
intimate atmosphere in the school, where children were excited to learn and teachers were
inspired to teach (The Center for Education Reform, 1996). Advocates claimed that the
benefits of this system included: (a) better grades and fewer failures, (b) less discipline
problems, (c) more time for student and teacher interaction, (d) more time for labs and
40
advanced topics with motivated students, (e) less stress for teachers with preparations,
and (f) more varied teaching styles among teachers.
Instructional Time
The Public Agenda (2003) reported that at the core of a standards-based
educational system was the belief that there are skills and knowledge that all students
should acquire during an academic year. In order for students to be successful, there must
be sufficient time for instruction. There was a common agreement among parents,
teachers, and students that “setting and enforcing standards promotes learning” (p. 8).
Research was beginning to show that, with proper support and implementation, a
standard-based system could be an effective force for helping to raise student
achievement (Grissmer & Flanagan, 1998). Therefore, students needed adequate time to
learn.
According to a 2000 report from the Council of Chief State School Officers
(2000) on state policies and practices, 34 states mandated a school year of 180 days. The
report indicated current Mississippi law required children to receive a minimum of 180
instructional days. However, the time prescribed for instruction is 330 instructional
minutes. At the local level, districts must address the realities of the school day.
Anecdotal evidence from teachers suggests that time allotted for instruction is quickly
eroded by the many demands that arise during the school day (Meek, 2003). In the words
of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994), “American
students will have their best chance at success when they are no longer serving time, but
time is serving them” (p. 44).
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Precursors of Student Achievement
Marzano (2000) stated teacher-level variables associated with raising the
academic achievement of all students were commonly grouped into three categories:
instruction, classroom management, and curriculum. Learning was a natural and ongoing
active progression. Students were active learners who processed, analyzed, and examined
experiences. Therefore, learning required engagement, which was an important outcome
of schooling and also served as a predictor of academic achievement.
Teachers who actively engaged students in a study by Resnick (1987) used handson lessons that required students to use multiple learning skills and higher order thinking
to construct meaning and knowledge. These activities often required students to merge
their personal experiences with new concepts and skills. Tomlinson (2000) found that
based on students’ readiness, interest, or learning profile, teachers provided differentiated
instruction by adjusting the content, process, required products, or learning environment
to accommodate variance among learners. Students’ motivational goals influenced their
learning strategies and level of achievement. Teachers made a difference as they
influenced their students’ engagement by planning and providing task that were
interesting and challenging.
According to Phelan, Davidson, Locke, and Thanh (1992) it was important for
teachers to establish a positive relationship with their students. Each student’s preference
should be considered when teachers adapted the instruction for individual students.
Furthermore, students took learning risks when they knew they were accepted and
respected as individuals of worth. They felt valued in a non-judgmental culture. It was
42
imperative that learning was individualized to meet the needs of the each student.
Students must understand the world from their own unique perceptions.
Wenglinsky (2002) found some other precursors of increased academic
achievement were higher order thinking, independent practice and homework. Also
called critical or strategic thinking, higher order thinking could be described as the ability
to use information to solve problems, analyze arguments, negotiate issues, or make
predictions. Therefore, it was imperative that teachers used questioning techniques
effectively. Furthermore, independent practice and homework gave students the
opportunity to internalize concepts or processes and to practice new content and skills.
Well-designed homework assignments could also promote active parent involvement.
In a study by Cohen (2001), other essential components that affected student
achievement included an orderly and safe classroom climate, which fostered peer groups,
decision-making, and high expectations for success. The environment in each
departmental class was a vital part for the success of the program as well as for the
children. Students learned when they were certain of their physical safety. A positive and
nurturing climate included supportive and caring teachers. A feeling of mutual trust and
respect was also important in classrooms. Teachers should allow students to show their
strengths daily in a classroom setting where risk taking was encouraged to excel at
maximum potential. Moreover, academic success often depended on effective classroom
management. Effective classroom organizational and management during the first days of
school were vital in determining expectations, behavior patterns and procedures that
would continue throughout the school year. These procedures needed to remain
43
consistent throughout the academic year, so students would understand what was
expected of them.
Tempes (2001) reported that if school districts were going to hold schools
accountable for results, they should ensure that the schools had access to the following
components:

A rigorous, well-defined curriculum accessible to all

Instructional materials that matched the curriculum

Teachers who knew how to teach the curriculum in ways that both engaged
students and acknowledged their diversity

Frequently administered assessments that measured how well students were
mastering the curriculum and were used to help teachers improve their
instruction

Professional development opportunities for teachers that related directly to the
school’s curriculum

Ways to keep parents informed and involved about the educational futures of
their children

Leadership that supported a culture of high expectations
Effective Teaching Strategies
In response to expectations for data-driven instructional decisions and
accountability, Woodard and Johnson (2009) found school districts were looking for
ways to use best practices to improve student achievement. The changing face of society
was reflected in elementary school. The classroom teacher had the responsibility to make
44
sure that the instructional needs of all students were met during the lesson. This was a
daunting task, as students were at varied skill levels in each subject area. Teachers were
responsible for delivering instruction to a diverse group of learners who came to the
classroom with a variety of cultures, languages, learning styles, abilities, and disabilities.
The Department of Education Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2010)
found students reflected differing levels of academic readiness in various subjects.
Therefore, teachers must acknowledge that students learned at different speeds and
differed in their ability to think abstractly or understand complex ideas. The ways in
which teaching was carried out played a vital role in providing a motivating learning
environment. Teaching styles needed to be appropriate to the material to be learned and
to the needs and characteristics of the students who were doing the learning. A variety of
teaching strategies should be utilized in order to meet the diverse needs of students.
Demonstrating clarity about learning goals, time, materials, modes of teaching, methods
of grouping students, ways of expressing learning, and other classroom elements were
tools that could be effectively utilized in a variety of ways to promote individual student
and whole class success.
Teachers make a difference in the lives of students. Tomlinson (2001) stated
differentiating instruction means shaking up what goes on in the classroom so that
students had multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and
expressing what they have learned in class. The teachers needed to customize their
instruction. Another role associated with effective teaching was the ability to identify and
articulate the proper sequence and pacing of content within the curriculum. Rather than
relying completely on the scope and sequence provided by the district, teachers must
45
consider the needs of their students and determine the content that required more
emphasis as well as the appropriate sequencing of the content.
Marzano, Norford, Paynter, Pickering, and Gaddy (2001) believed setting
objectives or goals and providing feedback engaged the meta-cognitive thinking of
students. The objectives and feedback gave students direction and helped them think
about their own learning. When teachers explained the instructional goals to their
students, it helped the students narrow their focus and share the accountability for
academic achievement. The teachers set flexible goals and encouraged each student to
personalize their goals. Furthermore, as teachers provided ongoing feedback to specific
learning performances, students were able to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
Hattie (1992) suggested the most powerful single modification that enhanced
achievement was feedback. Classroom assessments were one of the primary tools that
teachers used to give students feedback.
Sweeny and Beecher (2008) found differentiated instruction was a global strategy
that was applied in the elementary setting to embark on the different cognitive needs of
the students. When effectively used by the teacher, he or she made adjustments in pacing,
methods of presentation, or degrees in complexity of information. Adapting the
curriculum and instruction increased students’ success. This enabled the students to attain
the same content in a manner consistent with their individual abilities and preferred
learning modality. The purpose of differentiated instruction enabled the teacher to modify
instruction, enhance the students’ understanding of assignments and their ability to plan
and execute tasks, use materials effectively, comprehend content presented in various
media, organize work, understand and use feedback, and express ideas proficiently.
46
Differentiated instruction kept the individual learners actively engaged and challenged to
achieve at a higher level.
Furthermore, numerous sections of NCLB required educators to use instructional
programs and approaches that were based on scientific research as reported by the Center
for Education Policy (2004). These requirements arose from the concern of members of
Congress that schools were implementing programs and approaches that had no scientific
evidence of effectiveness and were not improving children’s academic achievement.
Teachers and other educators must become better consumers in regards to methods
available for use with their students. Every teacher must be a product and research
evaluator to build advocacy and knowledge-based needed for effective decision making
(Simpson, LaCava, & Graner, 2004). Wayne and Youngs (2003) summarized the
importance of qualified, knowledgeable personnel: “Both institution and empirical
research told us that the achievement of school children depended substantially on the
teachers they were assigned” (p. 89).
Teacher Beliefs and Personal Qualities
Cohan (2001) found teachers’ support was essential to the success of
departmentalization. Highly qualified teachers were needed to intervene on deficit skills
of struggling students. High quality instruction was expected to minimize the number of
students who needed intervention or supplementary instruction and would also minimize
the number of students recommended for special education services. Teachers were
responsible for creating and maintaining a positive school culture. The beliefs and
expectations of teachers had a substantial impact on student academic achievement. The
teachers’ beliefs affected his or her actions and decisions in the classroom. Every teacher
47
believed that students could learn basic skills as a result of his or her teaching. As the
center of the educational process, students would become productive, responsible
citizens.
According to Tomlinson (1995) a one size fits all classroom is not realistic in
meeting the diverse strengths and needs of students. Teachers who believed there were
multiple styles of learning designed lessons for varied needs. In order to accomplish
positive results, many elementary teachers believed their delivery of instruction should
address multiple styles of learning. Teachers were required to be creative because of the
wide range of students with various ability levels and interest in the classroom. To
Tomlinson (1995) the educational environment should be designed to embrace each
student’s strengths and needs. Therefore, teachers must utilize best practices to design
learning opportunities that acknowledge students’ personal learning styles, interests,
knowledge and experience. The classroom instruction should focus on concepts and skills
rather than memorization of facts. It was important for students to be able to make
connections between subjects and facets of a single subject, to relate ideas to their own
lives, and to build networks of meaning for future learning.
Tomlinson (1999) presented some key principles for developing classrooms for
diverse learners. The teacher should clearly articulate the expectations for students’
achievement. Assessments and instruction were inseparable, so teachers had to analyze
data and plan lessons. Curriculum modifications were made to increase the likelihood
that students will better understand concepts. Teachers should encourage all students to
participate in respectful assignments. The classrooms had to be student centered and
promoted ongoing collaboration between the teacher and students.
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Teacher should share a list of qualities or characteristics. Understanding each
individual student’s development in the specified subject was knowledge needed by
effective teachers. The teachers’ abilities to shape instruction and meet individual needs
were listed as characteristic. Personal attributes, such as being risk takers, being
passionate about their subject matter, and being energetic, caring, and flexible were
common among teachers deemed successful by their supervisors (Block, Oakar, & Hurt,
2002). These teachers believed that all students could be successful. The most effective
teachers had high expectations for their students. The teacher’s style of interaction and
encouragement of student’s active participation was also important.
Impact of Instructional Leadership
The Center for Public Education (2008) found elementary schools were constantly
asked to perform at a high level to improve the achievement level of students. Teachers
were on the front line and considered responsible for the majority of reasons why
students performed well in school. However, effective leadership was important when it
came to student achievement and effective teachers. The principal was responsible for the
over-all performance of the school.
Northouse (2007) stated leadership is a highly sought-after and highly valued
commodity. Educational leadership is a process whereby a principal influenced the staff
to achieve a common goal. One of the most important steps an effective principal should
make is to surround himself or herself with a quality staff. The next step of an effective
principal is to make sure that students performed at a high level. This goal was
accomplished by making sure the climate of the building is always conducive to
successful learning. Some of the steps utilized to accomplish this goal include: (a)
49
making sure there were very few distractions throughout the school day, (b) having a
clear discipline plan that everyone was aware of, (c) making sure the entire staff and all
students were aware of the school’s mission, (d) developing and implementing a strong
school improvement plan, (e) maintaining a bright and clean building, (f) displaying
students’ work and accomplishments, (g) making students responsible for their education,
(h) providing effective tutoring services, (i) being a visible principal, and (j) having a
positive and courteous staff who were willing to assist everyone.
If possible, another important step in effective leadership consisted of making
sure the entire staff and students were involved in the decision-making for the building.
According to Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, and Wahlstorm (2004) every staff member
must believe he or she was important and vital to the over-all success of the school. It
was also important to have the school and its students become part of an ongoing
evaluation process. As the principal worked constantly to improve the school each day,
utilizing different assessment tools were helpful with evaluating the overall picture of
what was happening in the school.
Marzano, Frontier, and Livingston (2011) found standardized testing of
elementary students was one form of assessment. In addition to evaluating students, the
staff should be evaluated throughout the school year. The principal used classroom
observations and walk-throughs as tools. The data collected from these multifarious
evaluation procedures were utilized to develop professional development opportunities
for the staff and to develop the school improvement plan.
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Summary of Literature Review
Schuster and Wilson (1958) found the underlying reason for departmentalization
in the elementary school was the demand to meet standards and benchmarks of the
curriculum. Implementing or aligning with state and national standards impacted the
organization or structure of elementary schools. The movement toward state and national
curriculum standards provided an impetus for school reform. This reform raised
organizational as well as instructional issues. Educators were constantly encountering
students who were struggling in their academics. These students frequently failed
standardized tests. It was imperative that elementary schools examined how instruction
was implemented at each grade level. Merenbloom and Kalina (2007) belived as
educators prepared elementary students to meet the state and national standards, it was
important that teachers specialized in their content area. In order to meet these
challenges, many elementary schools sought to incorporate the change process by
reorganization of time, materials, resource, students, teachers, scheduling, curriculum
delivery and professional collaboration.
Individually and as a part of the school improvement team, teachers and
administrators contributed their voices to the reform process. Chan et al. (2009) identified
some factors to consider while evaluating the purposes and options for the improvement
of learning: respond to students’ needs; ease transition from elementary to middle school;
lengthen the instructional module; address state and national standards; improve students’
achievement; provide remediation; establish teams and small learning communities;
provide opportunities for inclusion of special needs students, and group students for a
variety of instructional purposes.
51
Dillon (2010) stated that currently NCLB requires the nation’s 98,000 public
schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as measured by student test scores.
Schools were trying to implement instructional practices that would benefit the students.
One of these practices was departmentalization, which was a common practice in middle
and high schools. When implemented in the elementary school, subjects were divided
among the teachers based on their strengths. Bean (1994) asserted that this approach was
beneficial when instruction was provided by highly qualified teachers and instruction was
tailored to address the individualized needs of students.
Nevertheless, Chan et al. (2009) found there was controversy about
departmentalization in the elementary school. This was an organizational strategy that has
not been accepted by some elementary schools, while being accepted by others. Although
there were some disadvantages in the literature about departmentalization, it seemed that
they could be overcome with proper planning, organization and professional
development. The advocates of departmentalization believed it had several advantages:
more efficient instruction, enrichment of the curriculum, better equipped classrooms,
collaboration of grade level instructional teams, highly trained teachers, targeted
professional development, maximized instructional and planning time, retention among
teachers and better transition of elementary students into middle school. The advantages
noted in the literature suggested a strong possibility of implementing departmentalization
to raise academic achievement of students and job satisfaction among teachers. The
literature also emphasized the benefits of having instructional teams in the departmental
setting for all students including bilingual students and those students with learning
disabilities. According to Delviscio and Muff (2007) departmentalization allowed
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students to become familiar with the mechanics of middle school. Another advantage of
departmentalization provided the teachers more time for learning and planning
compelling and rigorous lessons. As an advantage, departmentalization enabled teachers
to perfect their knowledge while teaching to their strengths. Furthermore, when multiple
teachers shared the responsibility of instructing a group of students, the instructional team
produced a sense of community and shared commitment.
In contrast to the advantages of departmentalization, Nebraska Department of
Eduction (2000) stated that the opponents believed there were some disadvantages:
overemphasized subject matter, difficulty managing behavior, termination of the unity in
school life, overload of work for students and prevention of the integration of subject
matter. There was a belief that the focus on one subject did not permit an adequate
teacher-student relationship or expert in knowledge leading to improved teaching ability.
Therefore, students may not receive the structure needed to be successful in the
elementary school. Because of block scheduling and restricted times, there was a limited
amount of time that could be spent on a subject and students may not acquire the needed
information with the restricted allotted time.
In the literature, there was also discussion about the attributes needed to teach in
the elementary school. Marono (2000) identified some of the attributes necessary for
quality instruction which were: content knowledge and attitude, pedagogical knowledge,
knowledge of students, and knowledge of curriculum. Attitudes that supported teaching
included an enthusiasm and a willingness to create time for instruction and recognize that
all students had the right to be engaged in meaningful, learning activities. Cohen (2001)
found teachers, who possessed positive attitudes, encouraged similar attitudes in their
53
students by modeling curiosity. These teachers also used problem solving approaches to
answer questions, while being open to new ideas and respecting honesty.
Finally, each teacher’s behavior as reported in a study by the National Education
Association (1966) was related to student achievement. Characteristics such as setting
high expectations, employing scaffolding, integrating subject matter and providing clear
purpose and direction were all examples of effective instruction (Brophy, 1986).
Effective teachers were reflective practitioners who analyzed their instruction and
accepted responsibility for their students’ outcomes. Teacher effectiveness was linked to
the goals for academic achievement. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to cite
departmentalization as the reason for any school’s success or shortcomings. Freeman
(2009) said it was deemed necessary to analyze factors including teacher training,
principal leadership, and curriculum as factors that contributed to student performance
within a school.
As similar to the finding in the literature, the underlying reason for implementing
departmentalization in the fifth grade at an urban elementary school was to meet the
standards and benchmarks of the MDE’s curriculum. With a continuous decline in the
number of fifth grade students scoring advanced and proficient on the MCT2, there was
an impetus for school reform in order to meet AYP and improve the school’s
accreditation rating as identified by MDE. As a part of the school improvement team, the
teachers evaluated many factors that affected academic achievement prior to
implementing a departmentalized organizational structure, including: (a) responding to
students’ strengths and weaknesses, (b) revising instructional schedules, (c) considering
the needs of various instructional material, resources, and professional development
54
opportunities, (d) establishing instructional teams and learning communities, and (e)
easing students’ transition to middle school.
Another similarity of this case study and the literature was the controversy among
the teachers about the advantages and disadvantages of departmentalization. With
common planning time, collaboration, and professional development, the teachers
provided instruction to the fifth grade students in a departmentalized setting. Although
the teachers in this study were not core content subject specialists, they possessed
knowledge of the subject area content, pedagogical practices, curriculum benchmarks,
and various learning domains of the students. With high expectations for learning, the
teachers in this case study shared the responsibility of planning and providing instruction
as well as sharing the accountability for academic achievement among the students. In
conclusion this case study supports the findings of Freeman (2009) that stated student
performance is contributed to many factors including the organizational structure of the
school.
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METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this chapter is to explain the research methods used to complete
this case study. This case study examined the impact of implementing
departmentalization in fifth grade on students and staff at an urban elementary school.
This chapter contains the methodology used in this case study. It includes a description of
the research design, participants, research question, the research site, data collection
procedures, data analysis techniques, and establishing trustworthiness.
Description of Research Design and Methodology
Case studies are “an exploration of a ‘bounded system’ of a case over time
through detail, in depth data collection involving multiple case sources of information
rich in context” (Creswell, 1998, p. 61). Stake (1995) explained that case studies are
investigated because,
we are interested in them [case studies] for both their uniqueness and
commonality. We would like to hear their stories. We may have reservations
about some things that people tell us, just as they will question some of the things
we will tell about them. But we enter the scene with a sincere interest in learning
how they function in their ordinary pursuits and milieus and with a willingness to
put aside many presumptions while we learn. (p. 1)
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A case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is
needed on a single unit (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991). This case study was designed
to bring out the details from the viewpoint of the participants about departmentalization
in fifth grade by using multiple sources of data. Intrinsic case studies are often used in
exploratory research when researchers seek to learn about some little known phenomenon
by studying it in depth (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). Stake (1995) stated the researcher has
interest in an intrinsic case study when the researcher is primary interested in
understanding a specific situation. Therefore, this intrinsic case study is appropriate and
is very important to the researcher, who is the assistant principal at this research site.
Fraenkel and Wallen (2006) defined a case study as a single individual, group, or
important example that is studied extensively and varied data are collected and used to
formulate interpretations applicable to the specific case or to provide useful
generalizations. Because the researcher was seeking to determine the impact of
implementing departmentalization in fifth grade, this research is categorized as an
intrinsic single case study design.
The goal of case study research is to understand the complexity of a case in the
most complete way possible. Qualitative data from the case study were collected through
participant observation and interviews. The data gathered in this case study addressed the
relevant aspects of departmentalization involving the administrator, teachers, and
students’ experiences, perceptions, and opinions.
This case study also involved the use of quantitative data. The quantitative data
for this study were collected through surveys and MCT2 data. Frequencies and percent
distributions were generated for the data collected from the surveys and MCT2 data. The
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Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used for the analysis of quantitative
data. The paired t-test and the independent t-test were used to check for changes in the
students’ academic performance.
After the researcher was granted permission from the Mississippi State University
Institutional Research Board (see Appendix A) to conduct the study, the researcher met
the principal, fifth grade teachers, ELL teacher, exceptional education teacher, counselor,
literacy coach/interventionist, and academic tutors at an urban elementary school to
discuss this case study and request their participation. All staff members were provided
with a consent form. After obtaining teacher consent, the researcher met with the fifth
grade students to inform them about this case study and provide them with the parent
consent form. If the parent consent form was not returned, the parents were contacted by
phone to inform them of this case study. Another parent consent form was provided for
the students to take home and give to their parents.
When the signed parent consent forms had been collected, students were asked for
their assent. The researcher read the assent form to the students because some students
were not be able to read on the fifth grade level. The researcher was available to students
during transitional time or prior to instructional time for the researcher to answer any
questions about the case study.
The researcher had direct contact with the participants to obtain an in-depth
understanding of how departmentalization impacts teachers, staff, and students’ academic
achievement. This case study allowed the researcher an opportunity to facilitate
interviews and casual conversations with the participants in this case study. The
researcher held numerous casual conversations with teachers and staff during their
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planning time. The researcher conducted casual conversations with students during their
school day. These casual conversations served as continual interviews over the duration
of the case study.
Teachers and staff were provided a written survey. These participants were
instructed to return the surveys to the investigator or place it in the investigator’s mailbox
in the main office at the urban elementary school. The use of a survey with teachers
allowed a sense of anonymity to teachers who work daily with the researcher.
The researcher administered the survey to students in whole group sessions within
the homeroom classes. These surveys were administered to the students in their
homeroom classes at the beginning or end of the instructional day. Again, the investigator
read the survey to the students because of various levels of reading comprehension. As
with the use of surveys with the teachers, the use of a survey with students allowed
students an opportunity to voice their opinions anonymously.
The final procedure consisted of collecting and analyzing the students’ MCT2
standardized test results from the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school sessions. The MCT2
results were compared to determine the difference in the overall achievement among
students. In addition to analyzing the MCT2 results, the responses from the student and
staff’s surveys were analyzed to understand the impact of utilizing a departmentalized
organizational structure in the fifth grade classes on teachers and staff, and on student
academic achievement at MDSES. This understanding was required for a successful case
study.
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Researcher’s Role
For the past 20 years, I have served as a public educator in several communities
within an urban school district (see Appendix B). With 15 years of teaching experience, I
have taught first and fourth grades in the self-contained setting in Hinds County,
Mississippi. I was responsible for teaching reading, language arts, mathematics, science
and social studies. My teaching experiences occurred at two elementary schools and I
have had the opportunity to serve as assistant principal at three different elementary
schools.
After completing student teaching, I attended a job recruitment fair and was
offered a position as a first grade teacher. After signing a contract to teach, I was assigned
to teach at a low performing elementary school within the district. This low performing
Title I school was piloting team teaching in the first grade as a strategy to increase
student achievement. The teaching team consisted of two certified regular education
teachers who were responsible for teaching a class of students all of the core academic
subjects. I served as a team teacher in the first grade. The scores did not increase
significantly and the following year the school did not continue to utilize team teaching.
However, I did continue to teach first grade with the support of an instructional assistant.
After my third year of teaching, I decided to further my education by enrolling in
the Masters of Elementary Education (K-8) Program. In addition to pursuing my
Master’s Degree, I also decided to transfer to another school within the district that was
closer to my home. At my new school, I was assigned to teach first grade. As I taught at
proficient to commendable levels ratings throughout the years, I served on several
committees and began to assist with some of the administrative duties. During my 12th
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year of teaching, I served as the lead teacher, principal designee, and coordinator of the
after school program. It was during this year that my principal encouraged me to pursue a
degree in educational leadership and supervision. After considerable thought and soulsearching, I decided to further my education and professional knowledge by pursuing a
specialist degree in educational administration (K-12). After attaining the degree, my
principal decided to move me out of my comfort zone of teaching first grade. Because of
the decline in academic achievement in fourth grade and my consistently productive
teaching techniques, I was assigned to teach a self-contained fourth grade class in an
attempt to increase students’ achievement. During that year, I also decided to enroll in a
doctoral program in educational leadership and supervision because of my zest for
professional growth as well as professional knowledge in educating youth. When the
scores from the MCT2 were returned to my principal in June, the principal called me in
regards to my students’ performance. I was ecstatic and proud of my students for making
significant gains on the MCT2 as compared to the other three fourth grade classes in the
school. However, I had no idea that another opportunity was forthcoming. During the
second week of July, I was offered the assistant principal’s position at the school.
My responsibilities as assistant principal include many functions that aid the
principal in the overall administration of the school. Some of my responsibilities include:
planning, instructional leadership, management, professional development, fostering
community relations, and promoting interpersonal relationships. Countless hours are
spent on sharing ideas, changing attitudes, challenging others to do their best, creating
high expectations, and maximizing the talents of others.
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Generally, planning helps define both the school’s goals and how to attain the
goals. Planning is one of my major responsibilities and planning allows me to
communicate a sense of purpose and direction while outlining the tasks to be performed.
Without planning, I would not be able to use my time effectively and efficiently.
Planning is also a prerequisite to other leadership functions. It is the basis for monitoring
and evaluation performance. With strategic planning, I assist the principal and staff
members with the development of the School-wide Improvement Plan, the Professional
Development Plan, and the Crisis Plan. Time is also dedicated to working with the grade
level instructional teams and the principal to plan programs such as Parent Teacher
Association meetings, Award’s Day, Parenting Workshops, Dads of Great Students’
meetings, Mothers and Daughters Involvement conferences, Muffins for Moms’
breakfast, and Doughnuts for Dads’ breakfast.
After plans are formulated and activities are organized, my next responsibility is
helping to lead staff members in achieving our school’s goals. As an instructional leader,
I have to use flexibility in facilitating, collaborating, and motivating in order to
accomplish daily tasks. Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the curriculum
is another responsibility. After the morning announcements are made by the principal or
by me, I begin the monitoring process. This includes classroom observations and walking
around the building to see if strategies are being implemented to reach our goals.
Feedback, pre-conferences, and post-conferences are provided to the instructional staff in
an effort to improve the quality of instruction and to compliment productive teaching
methodologies. After analyzing data from assessments, I meet with the team leaders and
instructional teams to utilize the data to improve instruction. Throughout the day, I
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provide on-going assistance and communicate with the staff about productive teaching
strategies, effective classroom management strategies, and strategies to assist with
dealing with students who demonstrate inappropriate behavior. Another responsibility is
working with the special education teachers and academic tutors to ensure IEPs and RTI
interventions are be implemented appropriately. In addition, I try to stay abreast of the
current changes in education by reading professional literature and attending professional
meetings and conferences.
Once I have assisted with workable plans and methods of attaining them, the
plans are implemented with effective management skills. My management skills are used
to assist and monitor the usage of resources (human, financial, and material) to reach the
school’s goals and mission. One of my responsibilities is arranging for substitutes for
teachers who are absent. After the teachers notify me of their intended absence, I contact
substitutes or assign classified instructional staff member to teach for the day. Moreover,
management skills are needed daily to help operate the school. Because of conferences
with parents, professional development sessions, emergency issues, and scheduled IEP
meetings, I have to reassign academic tutors, instructional assistants, or support staff
members to monitor or implement the delivery of instruction for teachers. In addition, I
hold conferences with parents, students, and teachers as needed to support the success of
the school.
Another responsibility is assisting the principal with interviewing, selecting, and
recommending personnel. After candidates are chosen for employment, I help complete
the documents needed with the recommendation for employment that is submitted to the
district’s human resource department. Furthermore, ongoing evaluations of certified staff,
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assisting with reports, responding to discipline referrals, conducting monthly emergency
preparedness drills (fire, tornado, lockdowns, evacuations), monitoring attendance,
supervising students throughout the day, attending school events and activities, inspecting
the building and grounds, and performing other related duties as requested are some of
the other responsibilities that I share with the principal.
Professional development is a continuous responsibility and duty. Along with my
principal, I plan and provide professional development sessions to the staff. In order to be
productive in leading professional development and staff meetings, I have to be aware of
new policies, procedures, and initiatives by attending mandatory training sessions for
administrators. As professional development opportunities (workshops, institutes, and
conferences) exist to address deficits or enhance learning opportunities within my
building, it is my responsibility to attend these sessions independently or with staff
members.
As a mandate in adhering to the school and district’s goal of improving parental
and community involvement, I work with community organizations to enhance the
learning opportunities at my school. There is always a need for tutors, test proctors, book
buddies, reading and science fair judges, and mentors to assist the staff and students
throughout the year. Therefore, it is important for me to communicate effectively my
school’s mission and goals to all stakeholders. Even though it is time consuming, I work
diligently to establish and maintain a rapport with our parents, school adopters, local
businesses and universities so they are willing to volunteer and visit the school. These
agents are vital resources because I sometimes have to solicit donations to support school
activities and programs.
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An important responsibility involves maintaining a safe school environment by
managing conflict in an effective manner. I use a variety of techniques to solve problems
and dilemmas. I have to establish interpersonal relationships while serving as the
arbitrator when conflicts arrive between students, staff and students, as well as staff and
parents. As students and/or parents make a complaint or report a problem, I have to seek
more information and conference with the individuals involved to maintain a positive
school environment that is conducive to learning and teaching. In spite of being able to
lead my school effectively in the absence of my principal, I am constantly dialoguing
with her because she is the individual who is responsible for the overall operation and
function of our school.
In order to perform all of my duties and responsibilities, I work beyond 40 hours a
week. Every day brings new challenges as unexpected disturbances erupt that require my
immediate attention and action. Sometimes, unscheduled conferences cause me to
postpone activities that need to be completed. There is not a continuous pattern to
describe a typical work day. My workload is very heavy and tasks are completed at an
unrelenting pace.
A goal of a principal and assistant principal is to ensure the high performance of
students and staff in achieving the school’s missions and goals. High performance
requires the effective use of leadership functions such as planning, organizing, leading,
and monitoring new strategies, practices, and organizational structure changes. Knowing
that doing the same things would produce the same results, it was time for a change.
After consistent data from the MCT and MCT2 indicated inadequate growth in the
academic performance of the fifth grade, my principal and I started thinking about
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strategies that may help improve our students’ academic performance and achievement as
well as improving our school’s state accreditation rating. Not knowing if it was a good
idea, I had to help come up with a plan. Because all of our fifth grade teachers were
certified through the alternate route process and the majority had prior teaching
experience in a departmentalized middle school setting, I suggested changing fifth grade
to a departmentalized setting as an attempt to increase students’ achievement and
teachers’ performance.
After making the suggestion to change the organizational structure in fifth grade,
the principal and I had to research and gather more information on departmentalization in
elementary school. Because I had been previously transferred from another school in the
district that had a departmentalized fifth grade, I shared some of the advantages and
disadvantages that I had previously experienced while serving as the assistant principal at
the other school. In a joint effort with my principal, we began reading current literature
and speaking with other principals in the district that had departmentalized fifth grades.
There was a consensus between the literature and experiences among the principals with
departmentalized fifth grade. Knowing that every school’s experience would be different,
we decided to talk with the fifth grade instructional staff about changing from a selfcontained to departmentalized setting in addition to establishing instructional and
professional expectations.
Description of Participants
Fraenkel and Wallen (2006) stated purposive sampling is a nonrandom sample
selected because prior knowledge suggests it is representative or because those selected
have the needed information. Therefore, the participants in this case study were purposely
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selected from an urban elementary school. The student participants for this case study
consisted of 60 students from three intact fifth grade homeroom classes. The students’
ages ranged from 10-12 years old. This diverse group of participants had various ethnic
backgrounds, learning abilities, and learning abilities.
The other participants in this study were members of the urban elementary
school’s staff. These participants included: counselor, literacy coach/interventionist,
exceptional education teacher, ELL teacher, two academic tutors, and three regular
education teachers. All of these participants were college graduates with the exception of
one academic tutor, who had taken college courses, but had not completed all the
requirements of a college graduate.
Research Question
This case study was guided by the following question that explored the impact
that departmentalization has on teachers and staff, and on student academic achievement:
How do the fifth grade staff and students transition from a self-contained organizational
structure to a departmentalized organizational structure? The research questions that were
generated to respond to the problem of this study were:
1. What is the preferred organizational structure for fifth grade education after
transitioning from a self-contained to a departmentalized structure?
2. Is departmentalization a more effective practice when attempting to raise
student proficiency levels and content understanding as evidenced by MCT2
scores?
3. Is there a significant difference in the academic achievement among fourth
grade students enrolled in a self-contained setting and those same students
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enrolled in a fifth grade departmentalized organizational structure as measured
by the MCT2 results?
4. How do teachers rank the courses they enjoy and in which they believe they
are most effective teaching?
5. How do the students rank the courses they enjoy the most?
6. What are the teachers’ perceptions of the impact of departmentalization in
their school?
Research Site
This case study was conducted at an urban elementary school in Mississippi.
The research site was located in a residential community, which included several
apartment complexes and businesses, as well as a community park and gymnasium
within the school zone. There were a number of pre-schools and after-care facilities that
served the research site’s students.
Under the Mississippi Assessment and Accountability Reporting System, the
research site was labeled successful. The research site was a public school located in
Hinds County within a low socio-economic community. Approximately 94% of the
students qualified for free meals. The student population of this Title I school included
the following subgroups: 85% Black, 10% English Language Learners, and 5% White.
Males made up 55% of the population. Within grades kindergarten through fifth, 10% of
the students had IEPs.
While conducting this research, the setting was in various locations throughout
the campus. The settings for the student participants and observations were in various
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fifth grade classrooms. The settings for the teachers and support staff participants were
wherever they felt comfortable throughout the campus.
Data Collection
Yin (1994) identified six primary sources of evidence for case study research:
documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant observation,
and physical artifacts. Not all sources are essential in every case study, but the
importance of multiple source data to the reliability of the study is well established
(Stake, 1995). No single source has a complete advantage over the others; rather, they
might be complementary and could be used in tandem. Interviews, casual conversations,
surveys, and MCT2 data were used as instruments in this case study.
In addition, individual and group interviews of the instructional staff were
conducted during planning time in various locations throughout the school. The interview
protocol included open-ended questions regarding the participants’ opinions and
experiences regarding the implementation of departmentalization (see Appendix C).
Debriefing with the participants was conducted to obtain information on the clarity of the
interview questions and their relevance to the study. Extensive notes were taken by the
researcher during the interviews and casual conversations to ensure all data were
accurately described and analyzed.
Also, the researcher observed the participants in their natural settings during
instructional and planning times throughout the academic session. Observations were
conducted to corroborate data collected in the teachers’ surveys and interviews. The data
generated from this case study were used to determine if the implementation of
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departmentalization in the fifth grade produced higher student achievement than the selfcontained organizational method.
One of the techniques of obtaining data is conducting surveys among the
participants. The data collection for students consisted of 10 questions about the
departmentalized organizational classroom structure at the urban elementary school (see
Appendix D). The difference between a self-contained and departmentalized
organizational setting were thoroughly discussed and explained with participants prior to
marking a “yes” or “no” response to the questions. The questions were formulated to help
the researcher gain a better understanding of the instructional methodology in the
departmental organizational structure.
The survey for staff consisted of 17 questions. This survey was about the impact
of departmentalization (see Appendix E). Again, the participants were provided with the
definition of self-contained and departmentalization organizational settings. This
instrument included questions about the following areas: (a) teaching experience, (b)
teaching certification, (c) professional development, (d) most/least favorable taught
subject, (e) preference of organizational structure, and (f) subject specialization.
The participants answered the survey and submitted them back to the researcher
or placed them in the designated location in the front office, ensuring a 100% response
rate. The data were sorted by the investigator and placed into an Excel spreadsheet for
data analysis. The data were analyzed to determine the perceptions and opinions of the
participants regarding the implementation of departmentalization.
The student scores on the MCT2 were also collected for analysis as part of the
case study (see Appendix F). The student scores assisted with the understanding of the
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case of the transition to departmentalization. The MCT2 is based on the revised
statewide language arts and mathematics curricula (MDE, 2011). Tests in language arts
and mathematics are administered each year in May to students enrolled in third through
eighth grades. This test is used to measure language arts and mathematics achievement
for students participating in this case study. The results include a numeric scale score and
a proficiency level. The proficiency level represents standards based on cut scores
established by committees of Mississippi teachers and approved by the State Board of
Education. The proficiency levels are Advanced, Proficient, Basic, and Minimal. The
data are disaggregated into reports at the student, class, school, district, and state levels.
Stakeholders use these reports to diagnose individual student strengths and weaknesses
and to judge the quality of education provided by Mississippi’s teachers.
Data Analysis
Yin (1994) stated that data analysis consists of examining, categorizing,
tabulating, or otherwise recombining the evidence to address the initial propositions of a
study. In order to understand how the fifth grade staff and students transitioned from a
self-contained organizational structure to a departmentalized organizational structure, this
case study employed a series of procedures to help the researcher with analyzing the data.
Data from the interviews and observations were analyzed using the constant
comparative method. Bogdan and Biklen (2007) indicated that the constant comparative
method was a technique for data analysis when there are multi-data sources. These
multiple data sources allowed for the analyzing data from triangulated sources, a
necessary characteristic of qualitative data. According to Goetz and LeCompte (1984a),
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the constant comparative method involves categorical coding, which creates emergent
patterns and themes.
The data from the surveys helped to describe the students and staff’s perception of
departmentalization at an urban elementary school. The results from the survey
instruments are presented in tables by percent and frequency distributions (see Appendix
F). The percentages of responses to each item were summarized. The percentages of
responses to each item were summarized and are presented in chapter four to address the
research question.
Descriptive statistics were computed for the MCT2 scores for each comparison
groups. Group A consists of data from the fifth grade students who received selfcontained instruction in the fourth grade during the 2010 academic session. Group B
consists of data from students who received departmentalized instruction in the fifth
grade during the 2011 school session. The data from the MCT2 scale scores and
performance levels were analyzed using the mean, median and standard deviation and the
paired t-test using an alpha level of .05 for statistical significance. According to Huck
(2000), a coefficient alpha is used for assessing internal consistency. An alpha of .05
means that the probability of a Type I error would occur is 5 times out of 100 (Ary,
Jacobs, & Razavieh, 1996, p. 640). The second statistical test performed by the researcher
is a two-sample t-test which compares the mean scale scores differences between the
2010 self-contained scores and the 2011 departmentalized scores.
The constant comparative method was used to analyze the notes from the
interviews and observations. Data were collected through interviews using open ended
questions to allow the staff to articulate their perceptions and experiences freely and
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spontaneously about departmentalization. The constant comparative method involved
breaking down the data into units and coding them into categories (Lincoln & Guba,
1985). Using the constant comparative method (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007), the researcher
analyzed the transcribed interviews and notes from observations along with the findings
of the surveys and the MCT2 scores as multiple sources of data in search of common
themes.
Trustworthiness
If an investigator’s interpretations of data are to be worthy, the data collection
must be reliable and valid. Reliability refers to the accuracy and precision of a procedure
(Thorndike, 1997). Validity is the degree to which a study accurately reflects or assesses
the specific concept or constructs that the researcher is attempting to reflect or assess.
Social and behavioral scientists critique the validity of studies that use such methodology.
Thus, qualitative researchers utilize various validation strategies to make their studies
credible and rigorous (Creswell & Miller, 2000). Credibility for this case study’s casual
conversations, interviews, and surveys were achieved using the validation strategy of
triangulation. Triangulation increases the reliability of the data and the process (Yin,
1994).
The primary source of data collection used in this case study was interviews,
observations, and a collection of artifacts. Interviews, open-end and focused, were
conducted with the teachers to gain knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages
of departmentalization, instructional planning and procedures, and experiences in a
departmentalized organizational setting since two of the teachers previously taught in the
middle school. Direct observations were continuous as the investigator collect data for
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this case study. MCT2 data and artifacts were also gathered to help understand the impact
of departmentalization on academic achievement.
Trustworthiness, or validity, involves whether the research reports what is
supposed to be reported (Joope, 2000). To Creswell (1998), this is called verification. To
Goetz and LeCompte (1984b), validity is concerned with the accuracy of the findings. To
Creswell and Miller (2000), trustworthiness is dependent on the moral, ethical, and
academic judgments the researcher makes about the research process and the resulting
report of the research.
The involvement of students and teachers increased trustworthiness. Seidman
(2006) indicated there can be “gatekeepers who control access” (p. 43) to participants.
The inclusion of students and teachers was to an attempt to gain the trust of these
“legitimate gatekeepers” (p. 43). Additionally, the students and teachers were
“conversational partners” (Ruben & Ruben, 2005, p. 14).
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RESULTS OF THE CASE STUDY
Chapter Four is a presentation of the results of the research. The purpose of this
study was to examine the change of fifth grade classes from a self-contained structure to
a departmentalized structure. This case study sought to understand how the fifth grade
staff and students transitioned from a self-contained organizational structure to a
departmentalized organizational structure. This case study investigated the impact that
departmentalization had on staff, students, and academic achievement in the fifth grade.
Perceptions of teachers and students of the academic environment and changes were
solicited through the administration of a survey that examined the transition from a selfcontained organizational structure to a departmentalized organizational structure.
Observations were conducted to supplement and clarify data derived from participants’
interviews. MCT2 data were examined to determine student academic achievement
during the transition.
Overview of the Chapter
This chapter reports the results of my research to answer the research question:
How do the fifth grade staff and students transition from a self-contained organizational
structure to a departmentalized organizational structure? This chapter begins with an
introduction of the case which explains how the school changed its fifth grade structure
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from self-contained to a departmentalized setting. Next, the description of the
instructional staff and students is presented. This description is followed by the findings
of the study and a discussion of the findings and the literature. The chapter concludes
with a summary of the chapter.
Case Introduction: Changing the School’s Structure
The elementary school selected for this case study was located in a city of
approximately 174,000 residents. The school was situated in a residential and commercial
section of the city. The school had an enrollment of approximately 460 students in
Grades K-5 with the majority of the population being African Americans. About 10% of
the students received special education services, another 10% received (ELL) services,
and about 95% received free or reduced-price meals. A small population of the students
(about 3%) transferred in and out of the school monthly. The school’s daily attendance
rate was about 95%.
While a large percentage of the third through fifth grade student body overall had
performed basic or proficient on the MCT2 and the school had made adequate yearly
progress (AYP), the fifth grade scores indicated a decline. The mean MCT2 scores for the
fifth grade students were below the district and state average scores. The data revealed
that there was a gap in achievement as students transitioned from the fourth to fifth grade.
This weakness had to be addressed if the school was going to maintain its label as
“successful” under the MDE Assessment and Accountability Reporting System. The
school administration and faculty had much work to do in order to improve the academic
outcomes of all its students. Concern with student academic success was the impetus for
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reorganizing the structure of fifth grade from a self-contained setting to departmentalized
structure.
In August of the 2009-2010 academic year, the school staff reviewed data from
the MCT2 assessment which was administered in the previous school year. As before,
the fifth grade data did not show an increase as compared to the third and fourth grades.
After examining the strengths and weaknesses of the students’ performance with the
school’s instructional team, the administrative team posed questions to determine how the
instructional team could increase the academic performance among fifth grade students.
The instructional team offered many suggestions such as additional tutors and support
staff, smaller teacher-student ratio, after-school tutorial sessions, additional technology,
support from district’s curriculum department, professional development, looping, and
departmentalization. After listening to the feedback, I explained that the administrative
team would work diligently to provide support to the instructional team. I also explained
that some of the suggestions were beyond school level control because of budget
restraints and some were district level decisions.
During the next few weeks, the leadership team and school governance committee
met to discuss test data, professional development, school reform issues, and the Title I
school-wide plan. As a part of the reform effort of deciding to implement a
departmentalized setting in fifth grade, the principal and I began researching literature
and dialoguing with colleagues in other elementary schools within the district about
departmentalization in the fifth grade. Both the principal and I were not surprised to
learn that our colleagues’ experiences regarding the advantages and disadvantages of
departmentalization were similar to the finding among previous studies. With
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inconsistency in the advantages and results of the test data from the other schools that
already departmentalized upper grades, the principal and I had a tough decision to make
that could possibly influence the increase or decrease of the academic performance of our
students.
Prior to initiating an action plan, the principal discussed with the parents of the
students about departmentalizing fifth grade during PTA meetings, conference days,
various assembly programs, and events that parents were invited to attend at the school.
At the end of the first semester, the principal and I met with the fifth grade teachers and
support staff. With a consensus, the principal, fifth grade teachers, support staff, and I
decided to departmentalize fifth grade for the 2010-2011 academic year. This decision
was made after reviewing the district’s first semester test data and our fifth grade had
scored significantly below the district and other elementary schools within the district in
mathematics and science.
During the second semester of the term, before the fall when departmentalization
would be implemented, the principal and I continued soliciting support from the district
level curriculum personnel and seeking ideas from the successful experiences of the
existing departmentalized fifth grade setting at the other elementary schools. An
inventory of all the resources needed to implement departmentalization in fifth grade had
to be undertaken to ensure successful implementation. The fifth grade teachers’
qualifications and areas of certification were examined to determine their new
assignments for the upcoming school year. The school facilities were examined to
reassign teachers to different classrooms for the upcoming year. A 90-minute block
schedule was created to ensure the MDE’s instructional time allotment for each subject.
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Ongoing collaboration occurred throughout the planning process. The principal and I
responded to the concerns of the staff and parents. Yet, the majority of the current fourth
grade students had little concern regarding the transition to departmentalization for the
upcoming year. Most of those students were familiar with all of the staff members.
As the school began counting down the days left to prepare students for the
administration of the MCT2 during the second week of May, the administrative team
received written notification by the district’s human resource personnel that a teaching
contract for the 2010-2011 school year would not be issued to three of our teachers.
These teachers had several years of teaching experience on an emergency teaching
license because of the teacher shortage in Mississippi. Unfortunately, one of those
teachers taught fourth grade and another taught fifth grade self-contained classes. The
news about non-renewing contracts for the upcoming school year was detrimental to the
success of the fourth and fifth grade classes. As the teachers’ anxiety level increased
because of the approaching state test dates and the reality of becoming unemployed, these
teachers exhibited a low morale and did not continue to provide a quality education to
students due to excessive absences. It was understood that they were using their
accumulated sick and personal days to search for other employment opportunities and
prepare for the upcoming Praxis Exam to become highly certified.
After the administration of the MCT2 test, the principal and I received some good
news from the fifth grade teacher who did not receive a contract for the upcoming year.
The teacher was excited to inform us that she had passed the Praxis. As we rejoiced about
her success of gaining the requirements to obtain a standard teaching license, another
fifth grade teacher turned in her letter of resignation. This teacher was resigning because
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her husband had been transferred to Texas. Nevertheless, more bad news was on its way.
Two weeks prior to end of the school year, the Deputy Superintendent announced a
mandatory meeting for all principals and assistant principals. The agenda for the meeting
dealt with personnel and budget issues. The district had a freeze on hiring new personnel,
so the principals could not hire new personnel to fill the vacant positions in the schools.
Based on qualifications and certifications, personnel would be reassigned within the
district to fill the vacant positions throughout the district; therefore, the majority of the
principals and assistant principals were very upset when they left this meeting. Many
thought it was unfair that they did not have a voice or choice in the educators who would
be reassigned to their buildings.
During the last week of school, the principal received the names of the three
teachers who were being reassigned to our school. Our school received one teacher from
the middle school. The other teachers were being reassigned from other elementary
schools. After receiving the names of these teachers, the principal began contacting the
principals from these three schools to gain information about the teachers who were
being reassigned to our school. As the principal and I closed the school year, we
informed a few of the fourth and fifth grade teachers that they might be reassigned to
another classroom for the upcoming year if fifth grade was departmentalized. The
reassignment of classrooms would allow all of the fifth grade homeroom classes to be
located within close proximity to each other. The close proximity among the classrooms
would help to safeguard instructional time and ease the rotation of the 90-minute block
schedule. Assigning the fifth grade classes in close proximity of each other would help to
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decrease the amount of time that students and staff utilized in changing classes as well as
ease the supervision of students during their transition to other classrooms.
On the last contract day for teachers, one of the reassigned teachers to our school
for the next year visited our campus. In a brief meeting with the principal and me, she
expressed her disappointment with being reassigned to the elementary level from the
middle school; however, she would need our assistance while adjusting to her newly
assigned position as a fifth grade teacher. Although she had a few years of teaching
experience at the sixth and seventh grade levels, she had never taught at the elementary
level. In addition, she inquired about the organizational structure of the fifth grade
because of her previous assignment of teaching reading and language arts to sixth and
seventh grade students. The principal explained that we were in the process of
transitioning fifth grade from a self-contained setting to departmentalization for the
upcoming year. However, the principal or I would be contacting the teacher by the end of
the following week to discuss if we would still carry out the plan to departmentalized
fifth grade.
After the meeting with the reassigned teacher for the new school year, a member
of the district’s human resource department contacted us about another teacher who was
being reassigned to our school to fill the vacant position of the teacher who had submitted
her letter of resignation. Again, the principal called this teacher’s principal to gain more
knowledge about her job performance. During the next two days, meetings where held by
the principal and me with the other three teachers to gain more knowledge about their
experience and preference for self-contained or departmentalized classes in order to
assign them in the vacant positions in first, fourth, and fifth grades. After the meetings,
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the principal assigned the two teachers from the other elementary schools to the first and
fourth grade positions. One of these teachers requested lower elementary and the other
teacher had been previously assigned to fourth grade while teaching at the other school.
One of the teachers who had been reassigned from another elementary school did not
have a preference of grade level because of her previous experience at the elementary and
middle school levels. Therefore, this teacher was assigned to teacher fifth grade for the
upcoming year.
On Thursday of the following week, the administrative team met with the three
fifth grade teachers. In the meeting, there was discussion about procedures, school-wide
expectations, and restructuring the fifth grade. After explaining our plans to implement a
departmental structure in fifth grade, the teachers were asked to decide if they would be
more productive in a self-contained or departmentalized organizational setting. After
discussing their previous teaching experiences, preference of subjects to teach, and
professional development needs, the teachers along with the administrative team decided
to implement departmentalization for the upcoming year. One of the teachers expressed
that she was very comfortable with teaching reading and language arts, so she was
assigned those subjects. Another teacher shared that she enjoyed science and had already
registered for some science professional development sessions during the summer. It was
her request to teach science and social studies. After listening to their request, the third
teacher laughed and said, “I will teach math, but I will need some support and
professional development to refine my skills in teaching math.” The principal assured
her of the needed support and professional development because math was one of the
targeted weaknesses in fifth grade. Prior to the close of the meeting, I shared a sample of
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the 90-minute block schedule. From the teachers’ request, revisions would be made on
the days for special subjects and common planning time. The principal also informed
them of professional development sessions and conferences that they could attend during
the summer. Finally, the principal assigned one of the teachers as team leader for the
upcoming year. The team leader was the teacher who already had experience teaching at
our school.
Instructional Staff
The instructional staff who served as participants in this study were members of
the urban elementary school’s staff. The names used in the study are pseudonyms to
protect the identity of the school system, elementary school site, and teacher participants.
These participants included the following educators: counselor, literacy
coach/interventionist, exceptional education teacher, ELL teacher, two academic tutors,
and three regular education teachers.
As I obtained a better understanding of how departmentalization impacted the
instructional staff, I had direct contact with the instructional staff by conducting
interviews, having casual conversations, and observing them in the school setting. At the
beginning of the case study, surveys were administered to the instructional staff (see
Appendix E). During the first and second semester, interviews and casual conversations
were conducted during planning time in various locations throughout the school. These
casual conversations with the instructional staff were conducted to clarify the interview
questions and their relevance to the study. Also, I observed the instructional staff during
instructional and planning times throughout the academic session to corroborate data
collected in the teachers’ surveys and interviews.
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The study participants represented a group of individuals with varying
backgrounds, degrees of education, and experience. These staff members were college
graduates with the exception of one academic tutor, who had taken college courses, but
had not completed all the requirements of a college graduate. Almost half of them had a
Class AA (Masters) level teaching license (see Table 1). More than 66% of the
instructional staff had a certification code of 117 for elementary education fourth through
eighth grades and 22% of them had a certification code of 120 for elementary education
kindergarten through sixth grades (see Table 2). These instructional staff members were
highly qualified to teach fifth grade students in a departmentalized organizational
structure. More than half of the staff members had 5-10 years of teaching experience and
about one-fourth of them had either less than five years or more than 16 years of teaching
experience (see Table 3). In spite of more than half of the staff members having 5-10
years of teaching experience, only one-third of them had 5-10 years teaching experience
at the fifth grade level (see Table 4).
Although the instructional staff were deemed highly certified under the federal
requirements mandated through the NCLB, more than 77% of them indicated they did not
believe that their initial college training adequately trained them to teach all subjects at
the fifth grade level (see Tables 5-6). More than two-thirds of the staff indicated that they
had college level training in reading and language arts, but more than two thirds of the
staff did not have any college level training in mathematics (see Tables 7-8). As the fifth
grade transitioned from a self-contained to departmentalized setting, about 66% of the
staff indicated that they did not have a voice in the decision-making process at the school
concerning the 5th grade classroom organizational structure (see Table 9). Furthermore,
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almost 90% of the staff indicated that they did believe that teachers who have specialized
training in a specific subject can better serve students through some type of
departmentalization at the 5th grade level (see Table 10). However professional
development and pedagogical training was provided during the 2010-2011 academic year
to the staff to enhance their ability of teaching the curriculum (see Tables 11-12). More
than 77% of the staff indicated that they had professional development or pedagogical
training on the district or state curriculum and performance standards during the 20102011 academic year (see Table 13). As the staff were instructed to use the test data to
plan their lessons, almost 90% of them indicated that during the 2010–2011 academic
year they had professional development or pedagogical training on how to utilize data to
make decisions about instructional strategies (see Table 14). In the content areas of
reading and language arts, eight of the nine staff participants indicated that they had
professional development or pedagogical training (see Table 15). The staff also placed a
lot of emphasis on mathematics, but six of the nine staff participants indicated they didn’t
have any professional development or pedagogical training in mathematics (see Table
16). With the mandates of NCLB, the staff were held accountable for the performance of
all students including those students with learning disabilities. In an effort to achieve
goals indicated in the students’ IEPs, 90% of the staff indicated they had professional
development or pedagogical training on addressing the needs of students with disabilities
(see Table 17).
Even though professional development was requested to teach mathematics
effectively, the core subjects, language arts and mathematics, which were assessed by the
MCT2, received the highest ranking for the subjects that the teachers enjoyed and felt
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most effective teaching (see Tables 18-22). The instructional staff provided their rankings
for reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies for the students.
Reading and language arts had the highest mean rank, followed by mathematics, social
studies, and science. Science and social studies were tied for the fewest rankings of
number one.
As described in Chapter 3, the teachers who participated in this case study were
purposefully selected because they were responsible for providing instruction to the fifth
grade students. All nine of these educators are females who have various majors and
degrees. The teachers were Ms. McGee, Ms. Hazel, Ms. Hayes, Mrs. Weathersby, Ms.
Gray, Ms. Sam, Ms. Wheeler, Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Jordan. These names used for these
individuals are all pseudonyms. A brief description of each teacher, her perception of
departmentalization in the fifth grade, and a description of the observation of her
instructional practices or planning strategies in the departmentalized setting are provided
in the following sections.
Each teacher was randomly observed once during different instructional blocks
and the counselor was randomly observed during a common planning setting to
corroborate her perceptions of departmentalization. The three core content teachers (Ms.
McGee, Ms. Hazel, and Ms. Hayes) were responsible for teaching all students including
those identified as ELL, Exceptional Education, and Tier III. The two academic tutors,
Ms. Wheeler and Mrs. Green, assisted in the classrooms with the three core content
teachers and provided tutorial sessions in their classrooms with small groups of students.
Mrs. Weathersby, exceptional educational teacher, team teaches with Ms. McGee and
Ms. Hayes in the mathematics and language arts classes. In addition to being a team
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teacher in the general education classes, she provided intense instruction in her classroom
to address specified goals and objectives in her students’ IEPs.
Ms. McGee
Ms. McGee had been an educator for over nine years, but this was her first year at
this school. Her teaching experience has been in three districts in Mississippi, from rural
to urban. Ms. McGee had a bachelor and master’s degree with endorsements to teach
Elementary Education (K-8) and Social Studies (7-12). She had teaching experience at
the elementary and middle school levels. In the middle school, she taught math classes in
a departmentalized setting to sixth graders. Her prior teaching experience at the
elementary level was in a fourth grade self-contained setting. Ms. McGee was
responsible for teaching math to the fifth grade because of her previous experience of
teaching math in a departmental setting in the middle school. Ms. McGee described her
teaching style as very rigorous: “My classroom is very structured with clear, predictable
expectations and I expect students to think critically and to be proactive, diligent, and
invested.”
Ms. McGee believed that departmentalization enables students to be grouped
according to their abilities. Ability grouping allows her to plan lessons and activities that
are geared to the students’ skill levels. She said, “With the assistance of the support staff
(academic tutors, exceptional education teacher, ELL teacher and gift teacher),
differentiated instruction can be individualized to meet the students’ needs.” Ms. McGee
also indicated that departmentalization required team effort and commitment to educate a
diverse student population.
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During the typical work day, departmentalization allowed her to have the
opportunity for ongoing collaboration to support the academic achievement among the
fifth grade students. Ms. McGee said, “Collaboration occurred during common planning
time, team meeting, and Teacher Support Team meetings.” She and the fifth grade
instructional team collaborated about instructional strategies, interventions, and behavior
problems. The opportunity to collaborate made it easier to come up with solutions to the
academic and behavior problems. If a conference was scheduled with a parent to discuss
any concerns, the fifth grade team supported each other by attending the conference and
providing feedback about the students’ performance in the other classrooms.
Ms. McGee believed there were advantages and disadvantages of
departmentalization. Advantages included the opportunity to develop in-depth mastery of
the mathematics curriculum. In the departmental setting, there was less burden of having
to plan lessons for five different subjects. Ms. McGee had more time to create innovative
and challenging lessons that increased her students’ understanding and retention of skills.
As she focused on mathematics only, Ms. McGee had more intense attention of each
student’s progress and deficits. Another advantage of departmentalization was the use of
limited funds to purchase games and manipulatives for just one subject. Prior to teaching
in a departmentalized setting, Ms. McGee had to use limited funding to purchase games
and teaching aids for all five core content subject areas.
To Ms. McGee, the 90 minute classes in the block schedule were the biggest
disadvantage of departmentalization. On numerous occasions, her students needed extra
time to complete assignments or master the focus skill of the day. Because of the strict
block schedule and lack of additional instructional time, a scheduling problem occurred
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when students needed more instructional time to retain basic problem solving skills. In
her self-contained classroom, students needing more time in math could have continued
working on math while the class transitioned to another subject within her classroom, but
in the block schedule, students changes classes and students needing help with math
moved to another class and another teacher.
Ms. McGee’s classroom was located in a portable building adjacent to the other
two fifth grade classrooms. There were 24 students in this classroom. Within the
classroom, the students were divided into six groups that contained four students. The
heterogeneous ability groups of students sat at six tables. There were two tables located
in three rows, which allowed students easy access of rotation to the various small group
learning activities. The white boards were located in the front of the classroom. Each side
of the classroom had a door and three windows. Ms. McGee’s desk, storage closet, and
bookshelves were located in the rear of the room.
I observed Ms. McGee’s class during the second session of the block schedule. As
the students entered the classroom at 9:30 a.m., Ms. McGee stated several times, “Settle
down and begin working on the Bell Ringer/Re-teaching activity.” After a few minutes,
the students quietly began copying the two word problems from the board. As Ms.
McGee passed out the homework assignment, the academic tutor, Ms. Wheeler, took up
the previous night’s homework assignment. The exceptional education teacher, Mrs.
Weathersby, assisted three students with the Bell Ringer Activity. After a few minutes,
Ms. McGee read the word problems to the students. The students provided Ms. McGee
with the steps to solve the problems. While modeling the problem solving steps, Ms.
McGee asked opened ended questions to probe the students’ understanding. Upon
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completion of this activity, the students and instructional staff members quietly exited the
classroom for a restroom and water break.
When the students returned to the classroom, they opened their mathematics
textbook to the day’s lesson on adding and subtracting fractions. Ms. McGee modeled the
steps of adding and subtracting fractions as well as identifying common factors of
numbers. Mrs. Weathersby and Ms. Wheeler assisted Ms. McGee with circulating among
the students to provide assistance and make sure they were on task. During this time, the
noise level began to elevate as assistance was provided to struggling students and time
was provided for students to copy notes from the board. After time was allowed for the
students to copy notes and get assistance from the teachers, Ms. McGee assigned students
to groups in order to complete various activities. Ms McGee reminded the students that
each small group and activity were assigned according to mastery of objectives on the
previous bi-weekly common assessment or previous independent practice assignment.
The students then transitioned from a whole group instructional setting to small
groups in order to participate collaboratively on various activities. This transition was
disorderly because one of the students wandered around the classroom as others began to
collect activities from designated areas in the classroom. Ms. McGee approached the
student as he wandered around the classroom and reminded him of the behavior
expectations for working in a cooperative group. In the meantime, the students worked
cooperatively on their small group activities. One group was facilitated by Ms. McGee
while Mrs. Weathersby and Ms. Wheeler rotated among the other five groups and
provided remediation. As Mrs. Weathersby rotated among the groups of students, one
male student (the same student who previously wandered around the classroom) left his
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center several times to gain her attention for one-on-one assistance. Each time this
student approached Mrs. Weathersby and requested her assistance, she would tell him to
return to his group and raise his hand in order to gain the attention of one of the teachers
in the classroom. After approximately 30 minutes of center activities, Mrs. Weathersby
exited the classroom. As the second session concluded at 11:00 a.m., the students
returned their small group activities to the appropriate areas and a member of each group
explained the objective of the small group’s activity to classmates. While the students
prepared for the next class block rotation, the ELL teacher, Mrs. Sam, pulled three
students from the classroom for tutorial services. These students missed the initial 30
minutes of instruction during the next block of instruction. Upon returning to the next
class, the teacher must provide small group instruction to these three students who missed
the beginning of instruction.
Ms. Hazel
Ms. Hazel had been a fifth grade teacher in a self-contained setting for four years.
All of her teaching experience has been at this school. Currently, she served as the fifth
grade team leader and Science Fair Coordinator at the school. Ms. Hazel was responsible
for teaching science and social studies. She said, “Every student should understand about
how science is such an important factor in our everyday lives and how it can help us
understand the world around us”. Ms. Hazel considered herself as an overachiever and
lifelong learner. Her educational training included four degrees: a Bachelor and Master’s
of Business Education (7-12); a Master’s in Elementary Education (4-6); and an
Educational Specialist in Educational Administration and Supervision (K-12).
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Departmentalization has demanded her to plan jointly with members of the fifth
grade team to meet the needs of students. In order to know the students fully, she
dedicated conversation time with colleagues who know the same students from a
different perspective. One of the advantages of departmentalization was the opportunity
to plan engaging social studies and science lessons as well as discovery lab activities
while integrating language arts objectives within her instruction. Another advantage of
departmentalization was the opportunity to work with all fifth grade students. This
benefitted the students as they enhanced their interpersonal skills by adapting to multiple
learning environments and expectations; unorganized students, however, struggled in the
departmentalized setting. Ms. Hazel believed another disadvantage of
departmentalization was the loss of instructional time as the unorganized students
searched for assignments and school supplies that were left in another classroom.
Overall, working on the fifth grade instructional team allowed Ms. Hazel to grow
professionally. The daily collaboration provided opportunities to solve problems, select
appropriate teaching materials, and generate ideas through brainstorming. The
interactions among the fifth grade instructional team have provided an increased level of
accountability. She stated,
Departmentalization on the elementary level takes a special group of teachers and
mature students to make this concept successful. The instructional staff has to
have similar discipline philosophies and maintain high expectations for all
students. Fortunately, I have had great teammates who are willing to compromise
on some instructional approaches so our students have consistency.
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Ms. Hazel’s classroom was very attractive with bright and colorful charts and
posters on each wall. The white board and podium were located in the front of the
classroom. Bookshelves and a storage closet were in the rear of the room. On both sides
of this classroom were windows and a door. Ms. Hazel’s desk was located near the
entrance of the classroom. Her students’ desks were arranged in clusters to facilitate
small group activities. There were four tables for lab activities and two movable charts
for storage of center activities.
Upon entering this classroom during the last instructional block, Ms. Hazel and
her students participated in a whole group discussion on the differences between physical
and chemical changes among elements, compounds, and mixtures. All of the students
were engaged in the discussion and focused on the learning manipulatives that were used
to enhance the review of investigating matter. There was a sense of mutual respect in the
classroom as students raised their hands to provide input into the discussion. As the
students shared daily activities which represented physical or chemical changes, they
were required to justify and explain their responses. Prior to the end of the whole group
discussion, three ELL students, four Tier III students, and the academic tutor (Mrs.
Green) entered the classroom. (Tier III students are at risk for academic failure and
struggle with mastering objectives in reading, language arts, and/or mathematics with a
minimum of 70% accuracy. The students receive intense small group and/or individual
tutorial support in reading, language arts, and/or mathematics for six consecutive weeks.
After six consecutive weeks of interventions, the Teacher Support Team reviews their
progress monitoring to determine if interventions should be continued for another six
weeks.) Ms. Hazel asked these seven students to sit at a table which was located near her
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desk. Mrs. Hazel assigned students to various groups. Then, she explained the
expectation for small group “Jigsaw” activities. After being reminded of the expectations
for small group activities, the students who had entered the classroom at the beginning of
the third instructional block quickly transitioned into small groups. In four cooperative
“Jigsaw” groups, the students used their science textbooks to answer guiding
comprehension questions about matter. As these students began working collaboratively,
Ms. Hazel and Mrs. Green provided small group instruction to the seven students who
had entered the classroom prior to small group learning activities. After discussing the
day’s objective with these students for approximately 15 minutes, these students were
assigned to join their classmates at various “Jigsaw” groups. (Jigsaw is a cooperative
learning strategy that enables each student of a home group to specialize in one aspect of
a learning unit. Students meet with members from other groups who are assigned the
same aspect. After mastering the material, students return to the home group and teach
the material to their group members.)
Each aspect group consisted of four students who used flow charts to organize
ideas. During this cooperative activity, the students discussed and justified their answers
to the guiding comprehension questions. Ms. Hazel and Mrs. Green rotated among the
groups of students to monitor their progress, check for comprehension, and provide
feedback. After approximately 30 minutes of discussion in the aspect groups, students
rotated back to their home groups for more intense discussion. The rotation among the
groups was very organized as every student adhered to the classroom routines and
procedures in an effort to safeguard the instructional time. Prior to the end of the block
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session, a student from each home group told his or her classmates one fact that was
learned from investigating matter.
Ms. Hayes
Ms. Hayes was beginning her seventh year of teaching. Her previous six years
had been at the middle school level in a departmentalized setting. She has a Bachelor’s
degree in Elementary Education (4-6) and Master’s degrees in Biology (7-12) and
General Science (7-12). Because of her previous teaching experiences in the areas of
reading and language arts, she was responsible for teaching reading and language arts to
the fifth grade students. Ms. Hayes referred to teaching as a passion. With a deep desire
to love, nurture, and inspire children, she described her approach to teaching as varied,
eclectic, dramatic, and passionate. With a determination to build a strong foundation of
essentials that would allow her students to do their best, Ms. Hayes described her students
as awesome, incredible, interesting, intense, challenging, and inspirational. As an
advocate of departmentalization, Ms. Hayes said, “Students are expected to learn at a
much higher level, solve problems, and apply knowledge to real life situations.” She has
spent countless hours researching strategies to help her students excel.
Departmentalization has enabled her to establish and maintain an “awesome”
professional learning community. Her interactions with the fifth grade instructional team
provided great moral support. With the motivation and cooperation among the
instructional team, she has completed her teaching duties with greater satisfaction.
Nevertheless, she expressed that there are some disadvantages to departmentalization.
The rotation of students from class to class has been a problem when she and her
colleagues do not adhere to the schedule. There were also times when she needed extra
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time to teach skills or complete lessons. During those times, she dismissed her class late
and caused a lack of supervision among the students who were waiting to enter her class.
When the students were not properly supervised, they disturbed the other classes by
talking and playing while waiting to enter the next teacher’s classroom.
Ms. Hayes’s classroom was decorated with posters and charts on every wall.
White boards were located on the front and left walls. Ms. Hayes’s desk and podium
were also located on the left side of the classroom. On the opposite side of the classroom
were book shelves and storage cabinets. There were several large windows on the rear
wall of the classroom. The students’ desks were arranged in clusters for small group
instruction. Within the five clusters of desks, there were a total of 20 students with four
students in each cluster.
After the students entered the classroom and spoke to Ms. Hayes and Mrs.
Weathersby, they quietly went to their desks and began recording their homework
assignment from the board into their journals. Then the students quickly copied the bell
ringer from the board. Ms. Hayes circulated among the students putting their progress
reports on the desks. In the meantime, Mrs. Weathersby circulated among the students
and encouraged them to use test-taking strategies and the charts to solve the bell ringer.
After a few minutes, one of the students volunteered to demonstrate on the board how to
“UNRAAVEL” the bell ringer problem and justified her answer. (UNRAAVEL is a test
taking strategy used in all subjects and grades to solve problems.) Then Ms. Hayes began
a whole group discussion about the reading and grammar objectives: facts/opinions,
formal/informal language, and compound subjects/predicates. Several open-ended
questions were asked to probe the students’ understanding. Ms. Hayes provided public
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praise to students who demonstrated partial or complete accuracy. After Ms. Hayes, Mrs.
Weathersby, and the students had the opportunity to provide several examples of each
objective, the students transitioned into their small cooperative groups.
The students worked cooperatively in their small groups for approximately 20
minutes before rotating to another center activity. However, one of the groups had to be
reminded of the appropriate behavior expectations. Both of the teachers, Ms. Hayes and
Mrs. Weathersby, provided direct, explicit instruction to a group of students as they
monitored the other three groups who worked independently. As Ms. Hayes retaught
skills in the small group, one of the male students became frustrated and began to cry.
This student was provided with words of encouragement by Ms. Hayes and his
classmates as they continued using testing taking strategies to solve problems presented
in standardized testing format.
After working in the second group for 20 minutes, Ms. Hayes provided closure
for the lesson by allowing a student from each group to discuss something he or she had
learned in class. Then Ms. Hayes reminded the students to put their notes and
assignments in the designated folder as Mrs. Weathersby assisted two students with
organizing their folders. When Ms. Hayes announced it was time to rotate to the second
block the students quietly stood in a line and rotated to the next instructional block.
Mrs. Weathersby
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education (7-12) and a Master’s Degree in
Mild/Moderate Disabilities (K-12), Mrs. Weathersby attained her teaching certification
through the alternate route program. She worked directly with students who had learning
disabilities. Becoming an educator had been her dream for countless years. Before Mrs.
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Weathersby became a teacher at this school, she was a long term substitute within the
district at a middle school. She believes all of her students come to school with their own
unique set of knowledge, skills, and talent. She stated, “All children can learn with the
necessary support and interventions in the right environment. There is nothing more
rewarding then watching a child filled with glee after learning something new.” Her goal
as an exceptional education teacher is to meet students where they are and help them be
successful.
Mrs. Weathersby favored departmentalization because of the advantages for
students and teachers. Departmentalization enabled all students to have exposure to
different teaching styles and methods. Therefore, her students were able to solve
problems with a variety of techniques. In addition to the exposure of multiple teachers,
students were taught to adapt to changes. As an advantage of departmentalization for her,
Mrs. Weathersby had weekly opportunities to collaborate with the fifth grade
instructional staff about her students’ strengths and weaknesses. The ongoing
collaboration enabled her to gain additional strategies to use when reviewing and reteaching the skills that were previously taught in the regular education classrooms.
There were also some disadvantages of departmentalization. One of the negative
aspects of departmentalization was the time restrictions. Adhering to the strict schedule
limited the learning opportunities of her students. Because of her students’ deficits and
learning disabilities, she needed more time to differentiate instruction for her students to
comprehend the skills and objectives. Another negative aspect of departmentalization
was the inconsistent expectations among teachers for maintaining an orderly environment
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conducive for learning. Instructional time was also lost as students rotated classes and she
spent time redirecting students to settle down in a different learning environment.
Mrs. Weathersby had experiences with departmentalization on both elementary
and middle schools levels. She said,
Departmentalization at the middle school level was a more pleasant experience
for me. Not only did I have the opportunity of collaborating and working as a
team with the grade level subject specialist teachers, I also had the opportunity to
work and collaborate with other exceptional education teachers.
She explained that the current collaboration is not effective between her and one
of her colleagues because of conflicting personalities. She had negative experiences
attempting to team teach in the regular classroom when the other teacher did not want her
to assist and interact with the other students without IEPs.
Mrs. Weathersby shared a portable classroom with another exceptional education
teacher. A wall partition separated her half of the classroom. Posters, anchor charts, and
students’ work samples are used to decorate the walls. Bookshelves and cabinets aligned
the front wall and the rear wall was aligned with Mrs. Weathersby desk and a table. On
each side of the room were tables with learning center activities and manipulatives. Two
tables are located in the center of the room where students sit during instruction. Two
small windows and a window in the door provided very little sunlight in the classroom.
Being the exceptional education teacher for fifth grade, Mrs. Weathersby spent
half of her time providing inclusion instruction in the regular education classrooms with
Ms. McGee and Ms. Hayes. (Because some of her students have specific learning
disabilities in the areas of reading and mathematics, the mandates within the students’
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IEPs required her to team teach in the regular education reading/language arts and
mathematics classes. However, she assisted and provided accommodations within the
IEPs to her students with Science and Social Studies activities.) During the other half of
the instructional day, Mrs. Weathersby provided small group instruction to meet the
mandated goals within her students’ IEPs. Her students received one or two 45-60
minutes of small group (pull-out) instruction for reading/language arts skills and/or
mathematics skills. For small group instruction, these students were grouped according to
their needs, deficits in skills and objectives, and other heath impairments. Unfortunately,
small group pull-out caused these students to miss instruction from all three core content
classes when their needs could not be met during times for special subjects such as music
and library. While conducting a classroom observation, Mrs. Weathersby taught four of
her students how to use appropriate reference materials to understand and gain
information from the text. After listening to the story “Through Grandpa’s Eyes” students
inferred the meaning of the vocabulary words in context of the passage. After the
discussion of the meaning of the vocabulary words, the students used the dictionary,
thesaurus, and internet to verify their inferences of the words as well as define the
vocabulary words. Close proximity between Mrs. Weathersby and students allowed her
to redirect two students’ attention back on their assignment. Prior to the closure of the
lesson, Mrs. Weathersby reminded her students of the behavior expectations and played a
file folder game on using context clues to understand unfamiliar words.
Ms. Gray
Ms. Gray’s had a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education (K-8) and a
Master’s Degree in Guidance Counseling (K-12). With 22 years of teaching experience in
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two school districts in Mississippi, she had been working at this urban elementary school
since 1990. She had taught self-contained kindergarten and second grade classes.
Currently, she was the literacy coach and interventionist for all grade levels in the school.
As the literacy coach, Ms. Gray provided ongoing, job-embedded training and support for
teachers to build their capacity and effectiveness as reading teachers to struggling
students. Her duties as interventionist included: working with at-risk students to reduce
the number and severity of school discipline referrals, tracking the progress of referred
students’ behavior and academics, and working closely with staff member to provide
appropriate resources for referred students. In addition to providing direct instruction to
students and serving as a resource to classroom teachers, Ms. Gray believes that all
students can learn with the support of a caring teacher, a nurturing learning environment,
and a challenging curriculum.
As chairperson of the Teacher Support Team (TST), she helped teachers examine
students’ work samples, gives assessments to students, interprets data, and assist in the
RTI efforts. Her primary responsibility as interventionist was to improve student
achievement among the at-risk students by providing interventions to assist them with
being successful in school. Daily management skills were required to document progress
monitoring data of the interventions. Ms. Gray scheduled weekly meetings with teachers,
instructional assistants, and academic tutors to ensure fidelity of the interventions. In the
absence of the assistant principal, Ms. Gray facilitated team meetings and TST meetings
to review data and determine the appropriate interventions for students’ deficits. Other
duties included providing assistance to teachers in the completion of TST documentation
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forms and performing classroom observations on behalf of the school district’s
psychometrist.
Her role as the literacy coach involved collaborating and serving as liaison
between the teachers, assistant principal, principal, and district curriculum specialist to
improve literacy learning. Ms. Gray was also responsible for sharing research and
modeling effective instructional practices for teachers within our building. During team
and staff meetings, she discussed effective and innovative teaching strategies and
assessment techniques for language arts. Many of her suggested strategies helped the fifth
grade instructional staff with differentiating instruction.
During the fifth grade team meeting, Ms. Gray served as the facilitator. She
emphasized the growing number of students needing interventions for academics and
behavior. With the assistance of the teachers, the previously taught objectives that were
assessed on the bi-weekly common assessments were identified for each core content
subject. After analyzing the results of the assessments, Ms. Gray and the teachers
identified students who scored below 70% in each subject. They grouped the students
according to objectives not mastered for the purpose of reteaching skills during the
following week. Ms. Gray provided the following suggestions for assisting students:
facilitating more frequent teacher lead small groups; incorporating UNRAAVEL using
transparencies for whole group, guided practice, and independent practice; using state
aligned questions in test format for homework to practice UNRAAVEL strategies;
integrating more charts and graphs for students to read and gather information; and reteaching skills and objectives not mastered during tutorial sessions. Prior to adjourning
the meeting, Ms. Gray and the fifth grade instructional team discussed the objectives that
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would be taught during the next two weeks and other strategies that could be used in
tutorial sessions with students who received additional instructional support through Tier
III interventions, ELL support, and IEP goals.
As a former teacher in self-contained classrooms, Ms. Gray opposed
departmentalization. She expressed,
Teachers are more competent in their instructional strategies when they are
responsible for teaching all academic subjects to their students.
Teachers are more effective in the classroom when they have sole responsibility
for their students’ academic performance on high stakes state assessments.
Because of differences among the teachers’ expectations, there might be variance
in the rigor of the instructional methods. These differences in expectations for
student achievement would be a major disadvantage of departmentalization in any
grade.
In spite of her opposition to departmentalization, she believed teachers benefitted
from the daily collaboration of brainstorming ideas and strategies. Additionally, more
time was devoted to planning authentic and compelling lessons for one or two subjects.
Mrs. Sam
Mrs. Sam had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education (K-6) and
Master’s Degree in English as a Second Language (K-12). She had teaching experience
in one school district in Alabama and three school districts in Mississippi. Mrs. Sam had
spent almost 30 years teaching diverse youth at urban and rural schools. With teaching
experience in kindergarten through sixth grades in self-contained settings, her goal was to
teach effectively and instill and empower a passion for learning among her students. As
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the ELL teacher, Mrs. Sam enjoyed having students from many multiple ethnic
backgrounds. She had been absolutely honored to teach at this school (research site) for
22 years. Mrs. Sam had always worked diligently to create a comfortable classroom
environment for her students. She said, “I strive to meet my students at their mastery
level and finds ways of teaching that impacts them individually.” Her primary goal was
to guide the ELL students toward gaining knowledge and skills to increase their English
proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Upon registering for enrollment in the school, parents were required to complete a
Home Langue Survey. After reviewing the Home Language Surveys completed by their
parents, Mrs. Sam conducted assessments for eligibility in the ELL program. Mrs. Sam
provided remediation tutorial services for the ELL fifth grade students who qualified for
the supplementary services. Two of our ELL fifth grade students did not qualify for the
services. In order to qualify for ELL services, two factors were considered: a score of
minimal or basic on the MCT2 administered during the prior academic year and a score
below the mastery level on the World Class Instruction Design and Assessment for two
years. When teaching language objectives to the fifth grade students, Mrs. Sam created
lessons and activities to help them understand the English language and extend their
background knowledge. The district and state provided an ELL curriculum, but her
instruction was tailored to the students’ needs and integrated with the District’s adopted
textbook.
Her collaboration with the fifth grade team had not been consistently effective.
Being the ELL teacher for all grade levels within the school limited the opportunity to
regularly plan and interact with the fifth grade instructional team. Sometimes, her
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colleagues dialogued with her as she went to their classrooms to get her students for the
ELL services. Along with the transition to her designated instructional setting on the
stage in the auditorium, instructional time was lost when students are transitioned to
different classes.
As an advocate for departmentalized classes for fifth grade students, Mrs. Sam
believed our students needed the exposure of departmentalization to better prepare them
for middle school. The exposure in the departmental setting allowed students the
opportunity to adapt to various teaching styles. She also believed that departmentalization
required students to become more responsible and organized when keeping notes and
assignments for multiple teachers. In spite of her favoring departmentalization for fifth
grade, Mrs. Sam believed there were many disadvantages to departmentalization.
Because her office was located on the stage, her students lost instructional time while
transitioning to and from various classes. (The school’s student population has grown
over the past decades. Therefore, new grade level homeroom classes were created in the
portable classrooms which were once used for the gifted, ELL, speech, and intervention
classes. Because of the spacing issues for classroom, the ELL classes were held on a
separate corridor from the fifth grade homeroom classes.) When going to the fifth grade
classrooms to get her students for ELL services, the teachers would sometimes stop their
instruction to dialogue with her about needs and deficits of their ELL students. Therefore,
the collaboration with the fifth grade team was not consistent. Her ability to plan and
collaborate with the fifth grade instructional time was also limited because she was
responsible for working with all teachers and ELL students in grades kindergarten
through five.
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Many of the support staff were not assigned classrooms due to the previous
overcrowded classes. For the past few years, the student population had grown
tremendously at the school. In order to elevate overcrowded classes, new homeroom
classes were created by the administrators. Therefore, support staff were forced to use the
back of classrooms or small partitioned areas for tutoring or working with students.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Sam’s office was too small for her students to receive the
supplementary ELL service. She used the stage in the auditorium for classroom
instruction. There were four tables where the students sat in small groups for instruction.
There were bookshelves and tables where center activities and manipulatives were stored
for students to access. Her students had access to four iPads when technology was
integrated in the lesson.
As I conducted an observation, Mrs. Sam began her lesson with a review of the 12
Powerful Words. Two of her students led their classmates in singing the “12 Powerful
Words.” (The 12 Powerful Words helped students to better understand questions on
standardized test. These words were used to promote higher order thinking skills.) After
singing the “12 Powerful Words,” the students explained the meaning of the words. Next,
Ms. Sam used anchor charts to review some previously taught skills: root words, prefixes,
suffixes, and affixes. After the skills were reviewed, her eight students were divided into
two groups. One group of students worked cooperatively to identify the meaning of
words with affixes. The other group identified affixes that could be added to root words
to create a new word. During the group activities, Mrs. Sam asked the students openended questions to probe their understanding. After 30 minutes of small group activities,
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the students concluded the lesson by sharing their learning experience with members of
the whole group.
Ms. Wheeler
Ms. Wheeler began her career as an academic tutor in the middle school prior to
transferring to the elementary level as a mathematics academic tutor. In an effort to
enhance her professional knowledge, she enrolled in graduate school to pursue a Master’s
Degree in Business Education (7-12). With four years of experience as an academic tutor,
she strived to create hands-on mathematical activities which were fun and challenging for
students. She set high standards for all of her students. She said, “Every student is unique
and I want to nurture those differences”.
Ms. Wheeler believed that departmentalization enhanced the opportunity to
collaborate with the fifth grade team about instructional strategies, test-taking strategies,
and interventions. Even though she was responsible for tutoring mathematical concepts,
she engaged in continuous dialogue with her colleagues to stay abreast of the objectives
being taught in the other content areas. The team collaboration helped enhance her
professional growth by listening to strategies being used to effectively teach other content
subjects. Occasionally, she was requested by the principal or assistant principal to serve
as a substitute teacher in the absence of Ms. McGee.
Ms. Wheeler believed departmentalization offered the advantage of teaching the
subject that she was most comfortable and effective in teaching the objectives. She said,
Departmentalization provides many benefits to the teachers and students, but may
not be the best organizational strategy for our students. Teachers are able to
concentrate and plan more rigorous and hand-on activities for fewer students in a
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departmentalized setting. However, all students may not be held to the same high
expectations for academic success in this setting. If a teacher has higher
expectations of one of her classes, these students may be motivated to excel at a
greater rate than the other classes. The review of data from our district’s nine
weeks examinations reveals that the scores are consistent and the average among
the test data were significantly higher or lower from the other classes among each
academic subject. It is apparent that students in one were being taught with more
rigor and challenging learning opportunities. Therefore, the expectations were not
consistent for all classes.
She also believed another disadvantage in departmentalization was learning the
numerous learning styles of a larger population of students.
Ms. Wheeler began her daily routine by assisting with the mathematics instruction
in Ms. McGee’s classroom during the first class block. After 9:30 a.m., she began pulling
students for RTI interventions or small group tutorial sessions. Ms. Wheeler was assigned
to the intervention room to implement interventions and small group tutorial sessions.
The intervention room was a classroom in the main building which was shared by both
fifth grade academic tutors. There were white boards located on the front and side walls.
Bookshelves and closets were aligned against the back wall. In front of the windows on
the outer wall were 12 computers. In addition, there was a mobile media center with 24
laptops. Students used the computers or laptops when technology was integrated into the
lessons. A smart board was also used to integrate technology into the lessons. She used a
table and stackable storage containers to organize and keep her instructional
manipulatives.
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Ms. Wheeler worked with her students at a large table at the rear of the classroom.
In an observation of her tutorial session, a small group of students used cognitive skills to
review for a bi-weekly common assessment. Ms. Wheeler reviewed and modeled a few
problems that required comparing and ordering decimals to the nearest thousandth. As
she modeled how to solve the problems, she asked the students to use the test-taking
strategy of eliminating the obvious incorrect answer. Once the students had eliminated
the incorrect answer, they identified the key words that indicated which mathematical
basic operation was needed to solve the problems. The students provided the steps to
solve the problems and answered questions asked by Ms. Wheeler. After the students had
the opportunity to solve problems independently, Ms. Wheeler concluded her lesson with
a review of the daily objective.
Mrs. Green
Mrs. Green was the academic tutor for fifth grade language arts. She had taken
college courses in Psychology, but had not completed all of the requirements of a college
graduate. Mrs. Green had been employed by the district for 25 years with experience as
an instructional assistant in kindergarten and first grades as well as an academic tutor for
third and fifth grades. In kindergarten and first grades, the homeroom teachers and Mrs.
Green provided the delivery of instruction for all core subjects in self-contained settings.
For the past 10 years at the school, she provided tutorial support in language arts for third
and fifth grades. During the district’s extended year summer program, she retaught skills
to the fifth graders who received support services in the ELL or Special Education.
Mrs. Green was overjoyed and grateful for the part she played in fostering
students’ success. She said, “It is important to use several examples and instructional
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methods to help students understand and demonstrate their knowledge of the objectives.”
Mrs. Green enjoyed working with fifth grade students because most of them had a goal of
going to middle school and worked harder to achieve that goal.
Mrs. Green believed there were several advantages of departmentalizing fifth
grade. The instructional team utilized their planning time to create authentic lessons to
meet the diverse needs among the students. Each member of the instructional team
became more competent in the one or two subjects that she was responsible for teaching.
As each member of the fifth grade instructional team became more competent, the
students would benefit and achieve at a higher level. She also shared some of the
advantages of departmentalization for students. Departmentalization helped prepare the
fifth grade students for middle school. Students became more responsible with organizing
assignments for multiple teachers. The departmentalized organizational structure helped
students adapt to multiple teachers’ personalities.
There were also some disadvantages of departmentalization. Mrs. Green believed
some of the fifth grade students struggled in a departmentalized setting because of their
maturity level. The lack of maturity among some of the students hindered their
organizational skills and readiness to adapt to multiple teaching styles. Some of the
students had not acquired the organizational skills needed for transition among classes in
the departmentalized setting. Along with the students, departmentalization had a negative
impact on the experiences for some teachers. Collaboration among the fifth grade
instructional staff was difficult because of personality conflicts. This hindered the
students’ progress when the instructional staff allowed their feelings to interfere with
collaboration effort regarding students’ needs based on test data. The next disadvantage
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of departmentalization was adhering to the 90-minute block schedule in the
departmentalized setting. The restricted block schedule limited the opportunity for some
students to fully comprehend skills because the academic tutor must tailor her instruction
to adhere to a strict schedule in order that students do not return to class late and miss
instruction for another subject in the block schedule rotation.
Ms. Hayes and Mrs. Green were unable to work cooperatively and effectively
together; therefore, Ms. Hayes did not have the support of an academic tutor in her
classroom. (Because of the number of students in other grades needing strategic
instruction and Tier III interventions, there was not another academic tutor who could
assist in fifth grade. However, Ms. Hayes did receive assistance from another support
staff, who was designated to keep students assigned to in-school suspension.
Unfortunately, this staff member only assisted Ms. Hayes on the days when there were
not any students assigned to in–school suspension.) From the directives of the principal,
Mrs. Green assisted Ms. Hazel with science instruction during the first block period.
Whether in whole or small group, Mrs. Green integrated reading and writing skills within
the science lessons. After the first block, Mrs. Green pulled small groups of students for
tutorial sessions in language arts. Mrs. Green shared a classroom with Ms. Wheeler. She
used the front of the classroom to provide interventions to several small groups of
students. In an observation of Mrs. Green working with five students in her classroom,
she began her lesson by reviewing the school-wide test-taking strategies of the “12
Powerful Words” and “UNRAAVEL”. After reviewing the test-taking strategies, Mrs.
Green used the smart board and created a Venn diagram to compare and contrast a
glossary and dictionary. After the whole group activities, the five students used their
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dictionaries to complete the next activity independently. Using their vocabulary words,
students looked in the dictionary to find the meaning, part of speech, pronunciation, and
origin. While the students worked silently, Mrs. Green monitored them and provided
feedback and assistance as needed. Mrs. Green concluded her lessons with another whole
group activity. Using flashcards, the students matched the vocabulary word to its
meaning.
Mrs. Jordan
In 1991, Mrs. Jordan began her career in education as an instructional assistant in
a second grade self-contained classroom. While working as an instructional assistant, she
decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies (7-12). Once certified, she began
teaching social studies in the departmentalized setting to seventh and eighth graders.
After teaching for three years in the middle school, she pursued a Master’s degree in
Social Studies (7-12). While working with students who required counseling and therapy
sessions to adapt in the general education classroom, she decided to pursue a Specialist’s
degree in Guidance Counseling (K-12). With the counseling degree, Mrs. Jordan had the
opportunity to provide music therapy to students at the Mississippi State Hospital for five
years and then returned to the elementary school as a guidance counselor. Mrs. Jordan
had the opportunity of serving as the guidance counselor at the school for five years.
Mrs. Jordan worked hard to help our students develop a strong sense of ethics,
moral confidence and self-discipline through counseling services and teaching the
character traits. She enjoyed working with children because every day presented a new
challenge. She believed our fifth grade students faced unique and diverse challenges, both
personally and developmentally, that had an impact on their academic achievement. As
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the elementary counselor, she provided education and intervention services, which were
essential in removing barriers to learning and promoting academic achievement. Mrs.
Jordan also counseled students in whole group, small group, and individual settings
throughout the week. In addition, she met with the fifth grade instructional team to make
sure mandates were met in the IEPs for students with Emotional Disabilities. Mrs. Jordan
spoke with students about topics such as goal setting, decision making, understanding self
and others, coping strategies, effective social skills, substance abuse, and diversity
awareness. She was also a member of the school’s TST committee and Crisis
Management Team, who worked with the teachers and administrators to create Behavior
Intervention Plans and Behavior Goals. Throughout the academic year, she provided
professional development sessions to the staff on revised or newly approved district’s
policies. She was the school’s liaison to various state or county agents and departments
within the district by assisting the fifth grade students with their transition to middle
school, reporting abuse to the Department of Human Service, or referring a parent to
therapy sessions with behavioral health services, etc.
In an interview with Mrs. Jordan about the implementation of departmentalization
in the fifth grade, she provided feedback about the planning and monitoring process. She
believed departmentalization had to be planned very carefully at the elementary level.
Departmentalization could be easily implemented in the fifth grade with the consideration
of teachers’ input and buy-in. Mrs. Jordan also believed this organizational strategy
would be more successful if all of the fifth grade instructional team shared similar
teaching philosophies and met frequently to discuss concerns with classroom
management, homework policy, progress reports, and the district’s pacing guide of the
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curriculum. She also stressed the importance of support from the administrative team to
ensure team commitment and best instructional practices.
Mrs. Jordan discussed some of the advantages and disadvantages of
departmentalization in the fifth grade. One of the advantages for the instructional staff
was collaborating with the fifth grade instructional team during team meetings and
common planning sessions. During those collaboration sessions, she discovered how
some students relate differently to various staff members. Another advantage of
departmentalization was that the instructional team could develop a more accurate
synopsis of the students and better meet their needs. In spite of the advantages of
departmentalization for the instructional staff, she believed the students suffered from the
loss of instructional time while rotating to the next teacher’s class. Also, instructional
time was lost as teachers reestablished classroom control after students transitioned into
their class at the beginning of the instructional block.
In an observation of the fifth grade planning meeting for writing a student’s IEP,
Mrs. Jordan assisted the teachers with identifying some social and behavioral goals for a
student after Ms. McGee, Ms. Hayes, and Mrs. Weathersby identified the short term
instructional objectives for language arts and mathematics. Mrs. Jordan discussed some
interventions that would be helpful in assisting the emotional disturbed student function
in the inclusion and special education classrooms. In an effort to track the progress
monitoring of the student’s behavior, Mrs. Jordan shared a tracking sheet that she created
to document this student’s progress weekly by each teacher. She also verified that this
student would receive small group counseling services as well as 20 minutes of
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individual therapy. After there was consensus of the revisions to this child’s IEP, the
meeting was adjourned.
Students
The fifth grade students who participated in this case study were 10-12 years old.
This diverse group of students had various ethnic backgrounds, learning abilities, and
learning disabilities. Most of the students came from families of a low socio-economic
status. Because of financial hardships or being migrants, a few of the students had
attended several schools prior to their fifth grade academic year. Some of the financial
hardships included students not having permanent homes, residing in shelters, hotels, or
with relatives. However, the majority of these students had attended this school since
kindergarten. In spite of challenges from their socio-economic status, these students
attended school regularly with a desire to learn.
While in direct contact with the students, I observed the students in their
classrooms during instructional time, had casual conversations, and administered a survey
to obtain an in-depth understanding of how departmentalization impacted academic
achievement (see Appendix D). The casual conversations occurred during the school day
either in whole group or individual settings. Casual conversations were held in the
morning and afternoon as the small groups of students left various tutorial sessions. Prior
to dismissal, casual conversations were held in the homeroom classes with the whole
group of students.
In October, the survey was administered to students in whole group sessions
within the homeroom classes at the beginning or end of the instructional day. Because of
the various levels of reading comprehension, I read the survey to the students. The survey
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revealed 60% of the students indicated that the fifth grade academic year was the first
time they had received instruction in a departmentalized setting and more than 71% of the
students indicated that they preferred the departmentalization organizational structure
than the self-contained setting (see Tables 23 and 25). In the departmental setting,
students rotated to the three fifth grade homeroom teachers for instruction of the core
subjects. During the first hour of the 90-minute block, the students received direct
instruction from the teachers and a support staff member. However the last 30 minutes of
the 90-minute block was used for small group tutorial support provided by the academic
tutors, ELL teacher, and exceptional educator teacher as mandated by MDE. These
tutorial sessions occurred daily.
While observing the students in their classrooms, the majority of the students
adhered to the classroom expectations but indicated that they did not have the opportunity
to develop a close relationship with the multiple teachers in the departmentalized setting
(see Table 26). A small population of the students required behavior interventions or
behavior goals within their IEPs in an effort to keep them focused academically. Because
of the lack of a close relationship with the teachers, 88% of the students did not believe
that the departmentalization organizational structure had a positive effect on them
socially and academically after transitioning from a self-contained setting (see Table 27).
The fifth grade is the bridge year in the elementary setting as students prepare to
enter the middle school. The students had far greater responsibilities in terms of working
independently, remaining focused for longer periods, and having their materials
organized. The key to a successful year for these students included daily organization of
subjects and assignments. They were eager to rotate from the various teachers and
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different classrooms in spite of them believing departmentalization did not enhance
teaching and learning in the fifth grade.
There was a strong emphasis placed on all of the core subjects. As the students
worked collaboratively and independently, they learned to organize and synthesize
information. Most of these students struggled to learn objectives within the fifth grade
curriculum and more than 90% of the students indicated that they did not like their
teachers’ instructional style (see Table 28). In spite of intent of departmentalization
enhancing subject specialization among their teachers, the students felt that the
curriculum standards were not taught in a more detailed and comprehensive manner when
compared to their previous teachers’ instructional style in the self-contained setting (see
Table 29). Over 95% of the students indicated that the teachers did not allow them to
have input during the delivery of instruction (see Table 30). When inquiring about the
lessons in the departmentalized setting, about 88% of the students indicated the lessons
were not more engaging and interesting than the previously taught lessons in the selfcontained organizational setting (see Table 31). Furthermore, many of these students
indicated that they did not understand what the teacher wanted them to learn (see Table
32).
Based on these students’ beliefs, the lack of statistically significant differences in
the mean scores of the 2010 and 2011 MCT2 results was one of the validations of their
perceptions of departmentalization. After changing from a self-contained setting to a
departmentalized structure, the mathematics and language scores improved slightly, but
there was no significant difference between the 2010 scores in a self-contained fourth
grade setting and the 2011 scores in a departmentalized fifth grade setting (see Tables 33117
36). In spite of the lack of significant gains in academic achievement after transitioning
from a self-contained to departmentalized setting, these students enjoyed the subjects that
were assessed by state exams. They ranked mathematics and language arts as the most
enjoyable subjects.
Research Question
The purpose of this study was to examine the change of fifth grade classes from a
self-contained structure to a departmentalized structure. This case study explored the
impact that departmentalization had on teachers and staff, and on student academic
achievement. The case study examined the question: How do the fifth grade staff and
students transition from a self-contained organizational structure to a departmentalized
organizational structure? Six research questions were addressed.
Research question one asked: What is the preferred organizational structure for
fifth grade education after transitioning from a self-contained to a departmentalized
structure? About one-third of the teachers indicated that they preferred the traditional
organization structure, while two-thirds of them preferred the departmentalization
structure (see Table 24). As noted in the interview with Ms. Gray, she opposed
departmentalization. It was her belief that teachers are more competent in their
instructional strategies when they are responsible for teaching all academic subjects to
their students. In contrast to Ms. Gray’s belief, Mrs. Weathersby and Mrs. Sam were
advocates of departmentalization. Mrs. Weathersby indicated that she favored
departmentalization because of the advantages for students and teachers. Mrs. Sam
favored departmentalization in the fifth grade because students needed exposure to
departmentalization to better prepare them for middle school.
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About 70% of the students indicated that they preferred the departmentalization
organizational structure and about 30% of the students preferred a self-contained setting
(see Table 25). Although the majority of the students preferred the departmentalization
organizational structure in fifth grade, 95% of the students indicated that they did not like
their teacher’s instructional style (see Table 28). Unfortunately 93% of the students
indicated that they did not believe the standards were taught in a more detailed and
comprehensive manner (see Table 29). Changing to a departmentalized structure did not
enhance the lessons because 88% of the students indicated that they did not believe the
lessons were more engaging and interesting than the previously taught lessons in a selfcontained organizational setting (see Table 31). Furthermore, 88% of the students
acknowledged that the departmentalization organizational structure did not have a
positive effect on them socially and academically after transitioning from a self-contained
setting (see Table 27).
Research question two asked: Is departmentalization a more effective practice
when attempting to raise student proficiency levels and content understanding as
evidence by MCT2 scores? An analysis of the MCT2 data indicated the language arts
score improved from a mean of 145.62 in 2010 to a mean of 148.12 in 2011. The
mathematics score improved slightly from a mean of 148.74 in 2010 to a mean of 148.81
in 2011. A t-test was also computed to examine if there were differences in the academic
performance of the fifth grade students after the academic environment was changed
from a self-contained setting to a departmentalized structure. Even through the mean
language arts and mathematic scores for 2011 were greater than the mean language arts
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and mathematics scores for 2010, the statistical analysis indicated that there was no
significant difference between the pre and post scores (p > .05) (see Tables 33-36).
Research question three asked: Is there a significant difference in the academic
achievement among fourth grade students enrolled in a self-contained setting and those
same students enrolled in a fifth grade departmentalized organizational structure as
measured by the MCT2 results? An independent t-test was computed to examine if there
were differences in the academic performance of the students in a self-contained setting
in the fourth grade and those same students in the departmentalized structure in fifth
grade. The language arts and mathematics scores were higher for the students in 2011
than in 2010. Although both, language arts and mathematics, scores improved over the
examined period and were greater in 2011, the statistical analysis indicated that there
were no significant differences between the pre and post scores (p > .05) (see Tables 3336).
Research question four asked: How do teachers rank the courses they enjoy and in
which they believe they are most effective teaching? Using the data from the
questionnaire administered to the teachers, they ranked the core subjects that they most
enjoyed teaching and in which they were most effective. The teachers provided their
rankings for the subjects reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.
The frequencies of the rankings indicated reading/language arts received the most
number one rankings followed by mathematics. Science and social studies had the fewest
number one rankings (see Table 37).
The interview with Ms. Wheeler revealed departmentalization offered the
advantage of teaching the subject that she was most comfortable and effective in teaching
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the objectives. She believed teachers are able to concentrate and plan more rigorous and
various hands-on activities for students in the departmentalized setting. In another
interview with Mrs. Green, she indicated that each member of the instructional team
became more competent in the one or two subjects that she was responsible for teaching.
As each teacher became more competent in teaching, the students would benefit and
achieve at a higher level.
Research question five asked: How do the students rank the courses they enjoy
the most? The students provided their rankings for the subjects reading/language arts,
mathematics, science and social studies. Mathematics received the most number one
rankings followed by reading/language arts, and science. Social Studies received the
fewest number one rankings (see Tables 37-40).
Research question six asked: What are the teachers’ perceptions of the impact of
departmentalization in their school? The prevailing theme that emanated from the
discussions within the interviews and observations was that departmentalization required
team effort and commitment in order to effectively educate a diverse student population
and promote successful academic achievement. Changing from a self-contained setting to
a departmentalized structure forced the instructional team to share accountability in
providing a quality education to their students. Departmentalization demanded the
teachers to meet regularly and discuss strategies, strengths and weaknesses from ongoing
test data, interventions, differentiated instruction, and best instructional strategies to meet
the needs of their students. Another attribute of implementing departmentalization in the
fifth grade provided the teachers with the opportunity to plan more in-depth lessons with
hand-on activities for one or two core content subjects with the goal of higher academic
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achievement. Departmentalization also enabled each teacher with the opportunity to work
with every student and learn how students related differently with other teachers. These
teachers also believed commitment was needed in developing and maintaining
interpersonal skills to work more effectively as a team to educate students. These teachers
discovered the importance of maintaining consistency with rules, discipline, classroom
procedures, and classroom management.
In the interviews, the teachers described their interactions with the other members
of the fifth grade instructional team during a typical work day. They agreed that
departmentalization created a professional learning community that promoted ongoing
collaboration to support academic achievement among the students. The common daily
planning periods during the hours for special subjects enabled them to come up with
solutions to the academic and behavior problems. The departmentalized organization
setting allowed them to grow professionally as they supported each other and provided
feedback about the students’ performance in the other classrooms. These interactions
among the teachers provided an increased level of accountability and provided great
moral support.
The teachers discussed some advantages of working in a departmentalized setting.
In this setting, they no longer had the extra burdens of having to plan lessons for five
different subject areas. In addition to creating the opportunity to work with all fifth grade
students, the extra freedom attached to the departmentalized setting afforded the teachers
the opportunity to monitor the students’ progress and/or deficits and generated more time
to create innovative and challenging lessons that increased students’ understanding and
retention of skills. Additionally, they collaborated with the fifth grade academic team
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about instructional activities, test-taking strategies, and interventions for academic and
behavior.
There were some specific problems or disadvantages in the departmentalized
organizational setting encountered by these teachers. They believe the 90 minute block
schedule was an occasional drawback to the departmentalized setting when students
needed extra time to complete assignments. Along with the block schedule and rotation to
various classes, departmentalization had a negative impact on the students who had
difficulty with organization. The negative impact of departmentalization was further
compounded by the loss of instructional time during the rotation of students from class to
class when teachers did not adhere to the schedule and students entered classrooms in a
playful mood, not ready to learn, while creating a distraction to the other classes while in
route to their change of classes.
Case Analysis: Discussion of Literature and Finding from the Study
This case study was designed to investigate the impact of departmentalization on
staff, students, and academic achievement in the fifth grade after transitioning from a
self-contained setting. The study was guided by the research question: How do the fifth
grade staff and students transition from a self-contained organizational structure to a
departmentalized organizational structure? Both quantitative and qualitative data were
collected and analyzed. In order to determine reliability and validity, the results of this
case study were compared with published literature and previous research findings.
There were similarities and differences found after analyzing the case and
literature. The first similarity was the instructional staff’s preference for an organizational
structure. Chan et al. (2009) stated many educators in the elementary school were
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unanimous in their advocacy for the departmental organizational strategy. About onethird of the teachers preferred a self-contained setting, while two-thirds of them preferred
departmentalization. Yet, this contradicted Franklin (1967) who stated most elementary
teachers in fourth and fifth grades that changed from a self-contained setting to a
departmental structure preferred to teach only one or two subjects.
Gerretson et al. (2008) believed one of the advantages of departmentalization
provided opportunities for students to make significant gains in academic achievement
when lessons were taught with more intensity. In addition to this belief, the students
support for departmentalization was very high in spite of them indicating that they did not
believe the lessons taught in the departmentalized structure were more engaging and
interesting than the previously taught lessons in a self-contained organizational setting.
The students’ support of the teachers seemed to be low in addition to them not
developing a close relationship with their teachers. These students expressed skepticism
about whether the departmentalization organizational structure had a positive effect on
them socially and academically after transitioning from a self-contained setting. In spite
of the students expressing some disadvantages of departmentalization in the fifth grade, a
large number of students indicated they preferred the departmentalization organizational
structure. The responses of the students seemed to be consistent with the findings
reported by Chan and Jarman (2004) that there have been concerns about the educational
process in the elementary schools, which include organizational patterns or grouping
strategies in self-contained and departmentalized classrooms.
One of the possible reasons for skepticism regarding the effectiveness of the
teachers in the various education organizational patterns was the perception regarding
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whether the teachers were knowledgeable and competent in teaching all subject areas.
Often times, teachers say they do not feel like they have enough time to implement what
is required nor do they have enough training (McCall et al., 2008). As a consistency in
the literature and findings of the case study, the teachers indicated that the restrictions
and limitations of the 90-minute block schedule was a major disadvantage of
departmentalization. This was an important concern because Wang, Haertel, and Walberg
(1993-1994) claimed there were many issues that can affect student achievement such as
teachers’ effectiveness of practices and commitment, classroom management and
discipline, student engagement, positive learning environment, clear and high standards,
collaboration among the instructional team, staff development, strong leadership, and
parental involvement. As noted in the case, the teachers indicated that the block schedule
did not allow flexibility for differentiated instruction as needed to address the various
needs of the students.
With efficient planning and preparation, knowledge of teaching and learning, and
subject matter proficiency, teachers can be effective in any organizational plan. However,
a teacher may yield different results based on her strengths and deficiencies. Teachers,
like students, have multiple intelligences. According to Ackerlund (1959), it is nearly
impossible to be an expert in all subject areas. It is necessary for teachers to have an
adequate understanding of the subject matter they are responsible for teaching (Flick &
Lederman, 2003). The analysis of this case study uncovered that the three core content
teachers had no subject area endorsements of teaching certification for their assigned
subjects. These teachers only had prior experience teaching their assigned core subjects.
As Dropsey (2004) stated, specialization has complemented higher academic standards;
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therefore, it could be argued whether these teachers had specialization or experience.
Therefore, the implementation of departmentalization as a more effective practice as an
attempt to raise students’ proficiency levels and content understanding as evidenced by
MCT2 scores could not be validated by the results of this study. There was no significant
difference in the mean scores of MCT2 data from 2010 to 2011. This could be a result of
a lack of subject matter knowledge or it could be a lack of motivation towards teaching
the assigned core subject. Kemp and Hall (1992) confirmed student achievement is
related to teacher competence in teaching. The literature also indicated that
departmentalization provided the advantage of planning meaningful lessons that were
taught with more intensity (Gerretson et al., 2008). The literature further indicated that
the teachers’ strengths and abilities played a role in creating lessons that promoted higher
academic achievement on district and state assessments.
Although these students were enrolled in a self-contained setting in the fourth
grade and transitioned to a departmentalized setting in the fifth grade, there was not a
significant difference in the academic achievement as measured by the MCT2 results.
The results of no significant difference in language arts and mathematics mean scores
from 2010 to 2011 contradicts the literature that indicated teachers’ strengths do affect
student achievement. Chang et al. (2009) stated, one of the advantages of
departmentalization allowed students to receive educational instruction from teachers
who specialized in particular disciplines. The language arts teacher, Ms. Hayes, believed
she was very effective in teaching her assigned core subjects. She felt that reading and
language arts were strengths for her. The mathematics teacher, Ms. McGee, expressed a
need for more professional development and support from the principal and assistant
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principal. Yet, in neither subject was a significant difference in the MCT2 mean scores
observed.
Several previous studies found a sharp achievement drop occurred when students
transitioned from a self-contained setting to a departmentalization organizational
structure (Alspaugh & Harting, 1995; Grooms, 1967; Lamme, 1976; Reuman, 1984).
This was one of the differences from the analyses of the literature and this case study.
After changing from a self-contained setting to a departmentalized structure, there was
not a decrease in language arts and mathematics academic achievement on the MCT2
from 2010 to 2011. After ranking the courses the teachers enjoyed and believed they
were most effective, the frequencies of the rankings indicated reading/language arts
received the most number one rankings followed by mathematics. Furthermore,
Mathematics received the most number one rankings followed by reading/language arts
from the students. Even though subject specialization could not be validated by the case
study, there was no sharp decrease in academic achievement.
Some did not support departmentalization in elementary schools because this
setting did not support an environment for the teachers to truly know their students.
McGrath and Rust (2002) did not advocate departmentalization because it promoted a
subject centered emphasis rather than a more child centered emphasis. As Legters et al.
(1993) stated, a teacher who provided daily instruction to several different classes of
students cannot get to know well the needs of each individual. Other opponents of
departmentalization believed students who changed teachers for various periods of the
day would not relate to multiple teachers as strongly as when only one adult was in their
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classroom. These previous research findings were similar to the responses from the
students in the case study who did not develop relationships with their teachers.
In a related research study conducted in fourth through sixth grades, some
respondents had reservations about departmentalization because students lost time while
changing classes (National Education Association, 1966). Similar responses were
provided by the participants in this case study about their perceptions of the impact of
departmentalization in their school. The teachers believed that instructional time was lost
during the rotation of classes in the block schedule. Instructional time was also lost as
teachers redirected students’ inappropriate behavior or assisted students who lacked
organizational skills. Another similarity was the flaw in collaboration. Woods (1958)
believed there was a lack of collaboration among the instructional team in the
departmentalized setting. In spite of most of the teachers deeming collaboration was an
advantage of departmentalization, there was a weakness with collaboration between Ms.
Hayes and Mrs. Green because of a lack of interpersonal skills. The final discrepancy was
with the previous study conducted by Harris (1996) of low socioeconomic students that
scored significantly higher in the departmentalized structure. The student participants in
this case study were from a low socio-economic status, but they did not score
significantly higher after transitioning to a departmental structure in fifth grade.
Summary
This chapter presented the findings that resulted from the analyses that were
compiled to address the impact of departmentalization on staff, students, and academic
achievement in the fifth grade. The staff at an urban elementary school wanted to offer its
fifth grade students the best opportunity in enriching their learning as well as improving
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academic performance on the MCT2. With a large percentage of the third through fifth
grade student body performing at basic or proficient levels on the MCT2, the fifth grade
scores indicated a decline. As an attempt to address this weakness, the principal, fifth
grade teachers, support staff and I decided to departmentalize fifth grade for the 20102011 academic year. Unfortunately, the findings of this study revealed there were no
significant difference in the 2010 to 2011 mean scores in language arts and mathematics
as measured by the MCT2.
The findings of this case study also indicated that there was a relationship
between changing organizational structure and academic success. Because the teachers
and students were familiar with the self-contained setting, they had to adjust to the
changes of being in a departmentalized structure. This diverse group of students
encountered far greater responsibilities in terms of working independently, remaining
focused for longer periods, and having their materials organized. The teachers shared
accountability in planning and delivering instruction to their students. In addition, the
teachers and students also revealed advantages and disadvantages of the departmentalized
structure that were either similar of different from findings of previous studies within the
literature.
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SUMMARY, DISCUSSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Chapter V is a presentation of the summary, discussions, and recommendations.
The purpose of this study was to examine the change of fifth grade classes from a selfcontained structure to a departmentalized structure. This case study investigated the
impact that departmentalization has on staff, students, and academic achievement in the
fifth grade. This study was developed because it was believed that the way in which an
urban elementary school’s fifth grade classrooms are organized could have a direct
impact on students’ educational experiences. Special attention was needed to examine the
manner in which education was dispersed in order to fulfill the school’s mission of
providing children with the skills necessary to be academically proficient and to excel to
their fullest potential.
Participants in this case study were purposely selected from an urban elementary
school. The student participants in this case study consisted of 42 students from three
intact fifth grade homeroom classes. The other participants in this study are members of
the urban elementary school’s staff. These participants included: counselor, literacy
coach/interventionist, exceptional education teacher, ELL teacher, two academic tutors,
and three regular education teachers.
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Overview of the Chapter
This chapter begins with a summary of the previous chapters. Next, there is a
presentation of the limitations and delimitations of this case study. Recommendations are
provided for educators who may consider departmentalization in the fifth grade. The final
part of this chapter provides recommendations for future research.
Summary
Heibert et al. (2002) noted that NCLB Act of 2001 has placed great emphasis on
raising academic standards for students as well as professional standards for educators.
The federal mandates of NCLB have heightened concerns about students who are
performing below grade level (USDE, 2006). State assessments have become
increasingly important in assessing student learning. Mississippi used the MCT2 to assess
students in grades three through eight on language arts and mathematics standards in the
spring of every year (MDE, 2011). Schools utilized the results of the MCT2 to determine
if students were meeting grade level standards.
In this case study, the instructional staff at an urban elementary school was
specifically focusing on the performance of fifth grade students on standardized tests.
After carefully considering issues that involved student achievement and after analyzing
the MCT2 data at this urban elementary school, the fifth grade teachers and support staff
discussed strategies to increase student achievement. Departmentalization, an
organizational structure that allowed more than one teacher to provide the instruction for
the core subjects, would be implemented as a strategy to increase academic achievement
in fifth grade. According to Chan and Jarman (2004), departmentalization allowed
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teachers to teach in their area of specialization and students moved from one classroom to
another for instruction.
Through departmentalization, three teachers along with the support staff were
departmentalized to teach the fifth grade students at an urban elementary school. One
teacher specialized in Reading and Language Arts instruction, another teacher specialized
in Mathematics, and a third teacher specialized in Science and Social Studies instruction.
These teachers did not teach in the manner of a traditional self-contained classroom;
instead, their classrooms were centered on their specialty area. Each teacher provided
instruction daily in a 90-minute block. In this setting, each teacher had every student
every day, allowing them to work collaboratively to monitor the progress of their
students.
This study examined the change of fifth grade classes from a self-contained
structure to a departmentalized structure. This case study investigated the impact that
departmentalization had on staff, students and academic achievement in the fifth grade.
From the analysis of data, this study would be useful in determining the feasibility of
departmentalization in the fifth grade. This case study assisted the researcher in
determining if a departmentalized organizational structure would be a more effective
practice when attempting to raise student proficiency levels and content understanding as
evidenced by MCT2 scores while increasing teacher satisfaction.
As the supporting framework for this case study, the social constructivist theory
was chosen to relate the importance of the setting in which students acquire and develop
knowledge. Departmentalization provided opportunities for students to interact with
multiple content specialists who provided quality learning opportunities (Andrews, 2006;
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Becker, 1987; Findley, 1967; Gerretson, Bosnick, & Schofield, 2008; McPartland, 1987;
Moore, 2008; Page, 2009; Sowers, 1968). Although high-stakes testing demanded a
standardized curriculum, the concept of the setting where learning took place was a
relevant focus of this case study.
A review of the related literature indicated that many issues have arisen from the
publishing of school and district scores that became a perceived beacon of educational
success in the eyes of the public (Merenbloom & Kalina, 2007). The publishing of data
from state assessment in local newspapers and new broadcast has caused the community
to make judgments regarding the administration and teaching staff. This had led to a
growing emphasis on changing the way elementary schools educated students. These
perceptions of citizens regarding high stakes test data have caused educators to search for
pedagogical strategies that would enhance student learning.
Many previous studies were conducted to determine the effectiveness of
departmentalization in the elementary school. In previous related studies conducted by
Woods (1958) and the National Education Association (1966), there was controversy
about the effectiveness of departmentalization. Departmentalization has been accepted by
some elementary schools, while being accepted by others. Chan et al. (2009) believed
departmentalization had several advantages: more efficient instruction, enrichment of the
curriculum, better equipped classrooms, collaboration of grade level instructional teams,
highly trained teachers, targeted professional development, maximized instructional and
planning time, retention among teachers and better transition of elementary students into
middle school. The advantages noted in the literature suggested a strong possibility of
implementing departmentalization to raise academic achievement of students and job
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satisfaction among teachers. In the literature, Erb and Stevenson (1999) also emphasized
the benefits of having instructional teams in the departmental setting for all students
including bilingual students and students with learning disabilities. Departmentalization
allowed students to become familiar with the mechanics of middle school. Another
advantage of departmentalization provided teachers with more time for learning and
planning compelling and rigorous lessons. According to Delviscio and Muff (2007),
departmentalization also enabled teachers to perfect their knowledge while teaching to
their strengths. Furthermore, when multiple teachers shared the responsibility of
instructing a group of students, the instructional team produced a sense of community and
shared commitment.
The Nebraska Department of Education (2000) believed there were some
disadvantages: overemphasized subject matter, difficulty managing behavior, termination
of the unity in school life, overload of work for students, and prevention of integrating
subject matter. Ackerlund (1959) noted there was a belief that the focus on one subject
did not permit an adequate teacher-student relationship or expertise in knowledge leading
to improved teaching ability. Therefore, students did not receive the structure needed to
be successful in the elementary school. Because of block scheduling and restricted
timing, there was a limited amount of time that could be spent on a subject and students
may not acquire the needed information within the allotted time.
In the United States, the elementary curriculum was generalized into broad areas
consisting of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It gradually became more specialized at the
intermediate and upper grade levels into more specific subjects. Because of the generality
of the elementary curriculum, there was a greater emphasis on methods and styles of
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teaching. The typical elementary school curriculum was organized around broad fields
such as language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science. The standards movement,
which gained momentum in the late 1990s, has required more standardized testing in
elementary schools. Strongly endorsed by United States President George Bush, the
standards approach was infused into NCLB. The goal of NCLB was to ensure that all
children had a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education,
and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement
standards and state academic assessments (NCLB, 2001).
Teacher knowledge was directly related to the academic success of students.
Under NCLB, the federal government, states and school districts made some progress in
carrying out the law’s requirement for educators (Manzo, 2004). An important
component of accountability under NCLB was the plans that states ensured all teachers of
core academic subjects were highly qualified. The instructional importance of
paraprofessionals was also recognized, and these individuals were also required to meet
minimum qualification standards (Simpson, LaCava, & Graner, 2004).
According to Goldberg (1994), teachers and the quality of teaching made the
biggest difference in improving student performance. Simplicio (2000) asserted dated
methods of instruction were no longer by themselves sufficient and effective tools for
teaching. The learning process has changed and educators have been challenged to
change as well. School and district wide professional development programs were used to
help teachers develop their skills and abilities (USDE, 2000).
There were also attributes needed to teach in the elementary school. Some of the
attributes necessary for quality instruction included: content knowledge and attitude,
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pedagogical knowledge, knowledge of students, and knowledge of curriculum. Attitudes
that supported teaching included an enthusiasm and a willingness to create time for
instruction and recognize that all students had the right to be engaged in meaningful,
learning activities. Teachers who possessed positive attitudes encouraged similar attitudes
in their students by modeling curiosity. These teachers also used problem solving
approaches to answer questions, while being open to new ideas and respecting honesty.
These teachers set high expectations, employed scaffolding, integrated subject matter,
and provided clear purpose and directions into their instruction (Brophy, 1986).
The research design was a case study. As defined by Fraenkel and Wallen (2006),
a case study is as a single individual, group, or important example that is studied
extensively with varied data collection used to formulate interpretations applicable to the
specific case. Because the researcher was seeking to determine the impact of
implementing departmentalization in fifth grade, this research is an intrinsic single case
study design. Qualitative data were collected through participants’ observations and
interviews. Quantitative data were collected through surveys and MCT2 data. The data
from the interviews and observations were analyzed using the constant comparative
method. Data from the surveys helped to describe the students and staff’s perceptions of
departmentalization. The results from the survey instruments were presented by percent
and frequency distributions. Descriptive statistics were computed for the MCT2 scores
for each comparison groups of the 2010 self-contained scores and the 2011
departmentalized scores. A constant comparative method was used to analyze the notes
from the interviews and observations. Open ended questions from the interviews allowed
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the staff to articulate their perceptions and experiences freely and spontaneously about
departmentalization.
The researcher used purposive sampling to obtain the participants. The fifth grade
students, teachers, and support staff at this urban elementary school represented the
participants. The 60 fifth grade students’ ages ranged from 10-12 years old. This diverse
group of participants had various ethnic backgrounds, learning abilities, and learning
disabilities. The other 12 participants were staff members. These participants included:
counselor, literacy coach/interventionist, exceptional education teacher, ELL teacher, two
academic tutors, and three regular education teachers. All of these participants were
college graduates with the exception of one academic tutor, who had taken college
courses, but had not completed all the requirements of a college graduate.
The researcher had direct contact with the participants to obtain an in-depth
understanding of how departmentalization impacts teachers, staff, and students’ academic
achievement. As assistant principal at the research site, her goal was to ensure the high
performance of students and staff in achieving the school’s missions and goals.
Therefore, she was instrumental in planning and implementing the change from a selfcontained setting to a departmentalized setting. The researcher utilized various validation
strategies to make this study credible and rigorous. Credibility for this case study’s casual
conversations, interviews, and surveys was achieved using triangulation. Trustworthiness
was dependent on the moral, ethical, and academic judgment that the researcher made
about the research process and the report of the findings.
The research site is a public school that was labeled successful under the
Mississippi Assessment and Accountability Reporting System. The site was in a low
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socio-economic community. The student population of this Title I school included the
following subgroups: 85% Black, 10% English Language Learners, and 5% White. Males
made up 55% of the population. Within grades kindergarten through five, 10% of the
students had IEPs.
The focus of this case study was the implementation of a departmentalization
model in the fifth grade. In the natural setting, the researcher observed participants to
seek a better understanding of the impact of departmentalization in the fifth grade classes
on students, staff, and academic achievement. Questionnaires were provided to the
participants. The data collection for the students consisted of 10 questions about the
departmentalized organizational classroom structure. The staff’s data collection consisted
of 17 questions. Interviews were also conducted with the teachers. The researcher also
compared two years of summative test results in language arts and mathematics to
ascertain if students excelled greater after transitioning from a self-contained to a
departmentalized setting. The test data was divided into two specific levels: students
taught the core subjects in a self-contained setting during fourth grade and the same
students received instruction in a departmentalized organizational structure during fifth
grade.
Six research questions were generated to respond to the problem of this study.
Research question one asked: What is the preferred organizational structure for fifth
grade education after transitioning from a self-contained to a departmentalized structure?
Even though the personal preference of 71% of the students preferred
departmentalization, the results of the analyses indicated that 88% of the students did not
believe that the departmentalization organizational structure had a positive effect on them
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(see Tables 25 & 27). The teachers and students had conflicting views about the benefits
of the departmentalization. Two-thirds of the teachers preferred departmentalization,
while about one-third of the teachers indicated they preferred the self-contained structure
(see Table 24). About 90% of the students indicated they did not understand what the
teacher wanted them to learn and about 93% of them indicated they did not believe the
standards were taught in a more detailed and comprehensive manner (see Tables 29 &
32).
According to the interview with Ms. Gray, she opposed departmentalization. It
was her belief that teachers are more effective in the classroom when they have sole
responsibility for their students’ academic performance on high stakes state assessments.
In contrast to Ms. Gray’s belief, Mrs. Weathersby and Mrs. Sam favored
departmentalization. Mrs. Weathersby indicated that she favored departmentalization
because of the advantages for students and teachers. Mrs. Sam favored
departmentalization in the fifth grade because students needed exposure to
departmentalization to better prepare them for middle school.
About 88% of the students indicated they did not believe the lessons taught in the
departmentalized structure were more engaging and interesting than the previously taught
lessons in a self-contained setting (see Table 31), and 95% indicated they did not like
their teachers’ instructional styles (see Table 28). The students believed that their
teachers’ support was low because, as 93% of them indicated, they did not develop a
close relationship with the teachers (see Table 26). Furthermore, 88% of the students
indicated that they did not believe departmentalization had a positive effect on them
socially and academically after transitioning from a self-contained setting (Table 27).
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Research question two asked: Is departmentalization a more effective practice
when attempting to raise student proficiency levels and content understanding as
evidence by MCT2 scores? The students’ reading and mathematics scores improved from
2010 to 2011. Analyses were computed to examine if there were difference in the
academic performance of the fifth grade students after the environment was changed
from a self-contained setting to a departmentalized structure. In examining how the fifth
grade staff and students transitioned academically from a self-contained organizational
structure to a departmentalized organizational structure, a review of the Language Arts
scores indicated improvement from a mean score of 145.62 in 2010 to a mean score of
148.12 in 2011. The mathematics scores improved slightly from a mean score of 148.74
in 2010 to a mean score of 148.81 in 2011. In each case, even though the mean scores for
2011 was greater than the mean scores for 2010, the statistical analysis indicated that
there was no significant difference (see Tables 33-36).
Research question three asked: Is there a significant difference in the academic
achievement among fourth grade students enrolled in a self-contained setting and those
same students enrolled in a fifth grade departmentalized organizational structure as
measured by the MCT2 results? The results of the analyses indicated the students who
preferred self-contained classes performed better than students who preferred
departmentalized classes in both academic areas. The language arts and mathematics
scores were higher for students who preferred self-contained teachers in 2011 than it was
for students who preferred departmentalized teachers. However, the language arts and
mathematics scores improved over the period examined, but the differences were not
statistically significant (see Table 33-36).
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Research question four asked: How do teachers rank the courses they enjoy and in
which they believe they are most effective teaching? The teachers provided their rankings
for reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. In each case, the
teachers’ perceptions about the core subjects they most enjoyed teaching and felt most
effective teaching were evenly matched. In each case, reading/language arts had the
highest mean rank, followed by mathematics, social studies, and science (see Table 37).
According to the interview with Ms. Wheeler, she revealed departmentalization
offered the advantage of teaching the subject that she was most comfortable and effective
in teaching the objectives. She believed teachers are able to concentrate and plan more
rigorous and various hand-on activities for students in the departmentalized setting. In
another interview with Mrs. Green, she indicated that each member of the instructional
team became more competent in the one or two subjects that she was responsible for
teaching. As each teacher became more competent in teaching, the students would benefit
and achieve at a higher level.
Research question five asked: How do the students rank the courses they enjoy
the most? The students provided their rankings for reading/language arts, mathematics,
science, and social studies. Mathematics received the highest mean ranking, followed by
language arts, science, and social studies (see Tables 38-40).
Research question six asked: What are the teachers’ perceptions of the impact of
departmentalization in their school? The teacher believed departmentalization required
team effort to provide a quality education to a diverse student body. The demand for
ongoing collaboration and team planning created a learning community to support the
educational endeavors in fifth grade.
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The teachers believed there were many advantages and disadvantages of the
departmentalization organizational structure. Students were exposed to multiple teaching
strategies by receiving instruction and/or support services from multiple teachers. The
teacher took advantage of using their planning time to create learning activities and
assessments for fewer subjects. Departmentalization also created team accountability for
the students’ academic and behavior performances. In spite of the advantages of
departmentalization, the teachers believed the block schedule restricted teaching and
learning opportunities. They were pressured into adjusting their lessons to 90 minutes
daily. With a need for more instructional time, the rotation of classes complicated the
need to safeguard instructional time. Instructional time was lost as students changed
classes. The teachers also wasted instructional time by redirecting students’ inappropriate
behavior and helping unorganized students look for assignments.
An analysis of the case and literature reveal similarities and discrepancies. Erb
and Stevenson (1999) said students coming from a self-contained setting were
accustomed to having a small group of peers and one teacher. If students fail to connect
to their peers and the teachers, they would have a higher rate of academic failure (Coffey,
2008). Even though some advocates of the block schedule argued that longer class period
allowed greater opportunities to get to know students on a personal level (Fritz, 2007).
The block schedule was a major dilemma for the teachers in this case. Contrary to these
findings, the students did not feel connected to the teachers as a result of not establishing
a relationship. However, there was not a higher rate of academic failure on the MCT2
data from 2010 to 2011.
142
Another discrepancy was with expectations for academic success. Alpaugh and
Harting (1995) advised schools should expect achievement declines during the
transitioning year when changing from a self-contained setting to a departmentalized
structure. This was not the expectation of the staff in the case. After several years of
declining academic achievement levels on the MCT2, the principal and assistant principal
discussed strategies that would enhance the academic achievement in fifth grade. As an
attempt to increase students’ academic achievement, the school transitioned the fifth
grade from a self-contained setting to a departmentalized structure. In spite of the high
expectations for academic achievement, the responses of the students in this case seemed
to be similar with the findings reported by Chan and Jarman (2004) that there have been
concerns about the educational process in elementary schools with departmentalized
classrooms.
Another similarity in the findings and literature was that the effectiveness of the
teachers was related to student achievement. Brophy (1986) said, setting high
expectations, employing scaffolding, integrating subject matter, and providing a clear
purpose with directions were all example of effective instruction. The teachers used
various instructional strategies as well as differentiated instruction to meet the needs of
their students. As a team, the teachers accepted responsibility for their students’ outcomes
by sharing ideas, developing intervention strategies, and working collaboratively to
educate the students.
This urban elementary school was under increasing pressure to improve student
achievement outcomes and carry out its mission of preparing youth with the skills to
compete in a global economy as well as to participate constructively in a democratic
143
society. As part of this pressure, policymakers have developed increasingly sophisticated
accountability and support systems to steer schools toward improved performance. Along
with the new accountability systems, there has been threats of state takeover are part of a
widespread climate of dissatisfaction with many schools. Often under intense scrutiny,
elementary schools have begun to implement reform efforts.
The effectiveness of departmentalization can definitely be debated. This case
study brought effective organizational structure to the forefront. While there was still a
lack in proof for which school structure was more effective, this study indicated that
departmentalization did not produce significant gains in the means scores of the MCT2.
The assistant principal believed departmentalization would improve student achievement
if the teachers were able to share their specialized knowledge in a subject. The teachers
who participated in this study also felt departmentalization was an effective way to
ensure meaningful learning, but meaningful learning was significantly different form
ensuring successful standardized test takers. The findings of this case study indicated that
learning occurs when the teachers are well prepared and organized each day.
Limitations
Merriam (1998) indicated
The case study offers a means of investigating complex social units consisting of
multiple variables of potential, importance in understanding the phenomenon.
Anchored in real life situations, a case study results in a rich and holistic account
of a phenomenon. It offers insight and illuminates meaning that expand its
readers’ experiences. (p. 41)
144
The limitation of this case study was the uncertainty that the findings were caused
by departmentalization. This case study examined whether departmentalization was
related to better instruction and academic outcomes. McPartland (1987) stated specialists
provided higher quality content instruction than generalists at some cost to teacherstudent relationships. The students in this case study did not develop a close relationship
with their teachers. The teachers in this case study were not specialists; therefore the lack
of the specialists teaching model in a departmentalized setting did not validate higher
quality instruction. Furthermore, a study by McGrath and Rust (2002) found that selfcontained fifth grade students outperformed departmentalized fifth grade students in
academic achievement.
Delimitations
Delimitations surfaced as this case study was conducted. This study included the
participants from one specific urban elementary school during a specific period of 2010
through 2011 in which the school implemented departmentalization in the fifth grade. It
may be that one year was not enough time to discern meaningful changes in students’
performances as well as the students and staff perceptions. Another delimitation of the
study was the data collection. This case study used the quantitative data from only two
content core subjects.
Recommendations
The completing of this case study allowed for an examination of ways in which to
proceed in the future on improvements to departmentalization. Since departmentalization
in fifth grade did not guarantee a significant difference in the academic performance of
145
students in fifth grade as measured by the MCT2, every aspect of departmentalization
should be thoroughly considered before plans of implementation. From the information
provided in this case study, the following recommendations are made for stakeholders
and researchers.
Stakeholders
Principals, instructional staff, students, and parents have been very concerned
about the continuous decline in the number of students performing advanced and
proficient on state and district assessments. As a result, there have been continuous
concerns about efforts to reform the current educational practices through restructuring to
enhance students’ performance. One recommendation is that the principal and staff
examine the procedures and determine the effectiveness of departmentalization
throughout the academic year and over a number of years. As needed, school
administrators should schedule ongoing professional development and in-service for all
teachers and instructional staff involved in departmentalization. It is important for the
instructional leadership team, instructional staff, and school governance committee to
review students’ progress and teachers’ performance on a regular basis to determine the
effectiveness of departmentalization.
Comparing several years of data in multiple grades would result in a more
accurate analysis of the fifth grade structure. It is recommended that departmentalization
in the fifth grade should be continued for a long enough time for the effectiveness to be
analyzed and revised to meet the needs of students and staff. A suggestion for similar
future research is to examine archival MCT2 data for an extended period of time for the
two different fifth grade organizational settings, self-contained and departmentalization.
146
Another suggestion is to conduct further research in the area of departmentalization for
other elementary grades.
An improvement in communication with parents and students should be carefully
considered by the school administrators. School administrators and teachers should be
sure that each new group of students and parents are well informed about
departmentalization. It is suggested that parents play a role in determining some of the
aspects in the organizational strategies. It is important that the administrators and teachers
communicate with parents in a consistent and timely manner. Questions and comments
from parents should be discussed and responses should be given in a timely manner.
Future Research
Relevant research failed to consider consistently the effect of instructional
strategies, teacher preparation, and professional development opportunities in the
departmentalized settings. After analyzing the results of this case study, the
implementation of departmentalization could be improved by careful consideration of the
following suggestions. The first recommendation is conduct further studies and examine
the impact of teachers’ experiences and training on the effective implementation of
departmentalization in fifth grade. The second recommendation would be to implement
the same fifth grade departmentalized plan. It would also be interesting to have two
elementary schools from different urban districts implement the same departmentalized
plan in fifth grade, then analyze and calculate the data. The third recommendation for
future research is to conduct studies in an elementary school which may not necessarily
need to increase academic achievement; therefore, the impact of organizational structure
147
changes could be evaluated by conducting further research in high performing elementary
schools.
As stated in the literature, schools should create a learning environment that
fosters productive relationships between the teachers and students. Proponents (Becker,
1987; Chang et al., 2008; Dropsey, 2004; Harris, 1996; Lobdell & Van Ness, 1963) of the
traditional self-contained settings argued that students’ social and emotional needs are
better met in settings where students can develop meaningful relationships with peers and
teachers with whom they are more familiar. Conducting future studies on the topic of the
impact of organizational structure on students’ emotional and social development is the
fourth recommendation.
As educators are constantly searching for new ways to help students, another
recommendation is to implement departmentalization in fifth grade classes with the
emphasis of integrating skills from all disciplines into the various instructional blocks.
Students today continue to move from one discipline to the next discipline forcing the
information and content to be disconnected. Integrating the various disciplines of the
common core standards will enable students to understand the connections among the
disciplines. While most teachers are willing to accept changes and new strategies that will
reform the educational system, ongoing professional development opportunities will be
required in order to meet the needs of the students.
Finally, departmentalized settings have many definitions and are organized
differently in various schools (Chan & Jarman, 2004; Chang et al., 2008; Dropsey, 2004;
Gerretson et al., 2008; Hood, 2010; McGrath & Rust, 2002; Moore, 2008; Reys &
Fennell, 2003). An area for future research is to define these different settings and
148
formulate comparison groups based on those definitions. Using these definitions,
empirical research can be conducted to further examine the relationship of organizational
structure and student achievement.
149
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INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD’S LETTER
159
Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects
P.O. Box 6223
Mississippi State, MS 39762
(662) 325-3294
October 22, 2010
Lynn A. Horton
3344 Old Jackson Road
Terry, MS 39170
RE: IRB Study #10-094: A Case Study of Academic Achievement in Departmentalized Fifth
Grade Classes at an Urban Mississippi Elementary School
Dear Ms. Horton:
The above referenced project was reviewed and approved via administrative review on
10/22/2010 in accordance with 45 CFR 46.101(b)(1). Continuing review is not necessary for this
project. However, any modification to the project must be reviewed and approved by the IRB
prior to implementation. Any failure to adhere to the approved protocol could result in suspension
or termination of your project. The IRB reserves the right, at anytime during the project period, to
observe you and the additional researchers on this project.
Please note that the MSU IRB is in the process of seeking accreditation for our human subjects
protection program. As a result of these efforts, you will likely notice many changes in the IRB's
policies and procedures in the coming months. These changes will be posted online at
http://www.orc.msstate.edu/human/aahrpp.php. The first of these changes is the implementation
of an approval stamp for consent forms. The approval stamp will assist in ensuring the IRB
approved version of the consent form is used in the actual conduct of research. You must use
copies of the stamped consent form for obtaining consent from participants.
Please refer to your IRB number (#10-094) when contacting our office regarding this application.
Thank you for your cooperation and good luck to you in conducting this research project. If you
have questions or concerns, please contact me at [email protected] or call 662-3253994.
Sincerely,
For use with electronic submission
Nicole Morse
Assistant Compliance Administrator
cc: Dwight Hare (Advisor)
160
RESUMÉ
161
Resumé
LYNN A. HORTON
3344 Old Jackson Rd. Terry, MS 39170| 601-906-8290 | [email protected]
OBJECTIVE
To obtain an administrative position that will allow me to contribute to the
educational system by fully utilizing strong leadership abilities, innovative
organizational skills, and sound instruction and learning techniques that improve
student achievement; prepare students for the challenges of living and working in
the 21st Century; and motivate students to become independent, life-long learners.
PROFILE
To obtain an administrative position that will allow me to contribute to the
educational system by fully utilizing strong leadership abilities, innovative
organizational skills, and sound instruction and learning techniques that improve
student achievement; prepare students for the challenges of living and working in
the 21st Century; and motivate students to become independent, life-long learners.
EDUCATION
Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
Ph.D. in Education Administration K-12
Dissertation: “A Case Study of Academic Achievement in Fifth Grade
Classes at an Urban Elementary School”
(Anticipated) 2013
Mississippi State University, Meridian, MS
Ed.S. in Educational Leadership K-12
2005
Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
M.S. in Elementary Education K-8
1997
Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
B.S. in Elementary Education K-8
1992
162
HIGHLIGHTS OF ADMINSTRATIVE QUALIFICATIONS











Leads, evaluates, and maintains the instructional focus
Ensures that best instructional practices are incorporated into teaching
strategies
Selects, recommends, and evaluates building personnel
Develops and enforces procedures for effective student discipline in
accordance with district policies and procedures
Supervises building maintenance and bus transportation
Provides appropriate staff development
Maintains and executes policies of the Board of Trustees and District
administration
Oversees the assignment of substitute teachers from the approved
substitute list
Communicates the goals and objectives of the school
Prepares school reports
Performs other related duties as requested or assigned
ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE
Principal - Jackson Public School District
- Present
2013
Assistant Principal - Jackson Public School District
2007 - 2013
Summer School Principal – Jackson Public School District
2011
Summer School Principal – Jackson Public School District
2008
Coordinator of 21st CCLC Program – Jackson Public School District
2006
- 2008
163
TEACHING EXPERIENCE
4th Grade Teacher – Jackson Public School District
– 2007
2006
1st Grade Teacher – Jackson Public School District
– 2006
1992
OTHER EXPERIENCE
Tutor – Knowledge Learning
1998 - 2005
PRESENTATIONS
“Positive Behavior Interventions and Support”
Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
“Core Traits of Successful Living”
Christ Missionary Industrial School, Jackson, MS
AFFILIATIONS, HONORS, AND MEMBERSHIPS
Mississippi Professional Educators
Parent Teacher Association
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
Heroines of Jericho
Ladies of the Circle of Perfection
Pi Lambda Theta Honor’s Society
Alpha Epsilon Lambda Honor’s Society
Jackson Elementary Principal’s Association
164
Nov. 2010
Aug. 2004
INTERESTS
Assisting Youth and Seniors
Reading
Fishing
Riding Horses and ATVs
Camping
165
INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
166
Interview Protocol
Hello! This interview is designed for the purpose of gathering data about the
departmentalized organizational classroom structure in fifth grade at Minnie D. Sykes
Elementary School. As a participant, you will be interviewed about your experiences as
an instructor in the departmentalized organizational structure. Your participation is
voluntary and you may refuse to answer any questions that make you feel uncomfortable.
The staff and students in forthcoming years of Minnie D. Sykes Elementary School will
benefit from this study. The benefit of this study is to help provide a more in-depth
understanding of the instructional classroom structure of departmentalization. There are
no risks or discomforts in participating in this study.
The notes and records of this research will be kept confidential. The researcher will not
identify who has agreed to participate in this study. Participant’s names will not be used
in the publication of this research. Pseudonyms will be used for all participants in this
research.
If you have questions regarding the specifics of this study, please contact me at 601-9068290 or the dissertation director, Dr. Rufus Dwight Hare at 662-325-7110. For additional
information regarding your rights as a research participant, please feel free to contact
Mississippi State University Regulatory Compliance at 662-325-5220 or by email at
[email protected]
Please provide a response to the following question?
1. How does departmentalization impact your role as a fifth grade teacher?
2. Can you describe your interactions with the other members of the fifth grade
instructional team during a typical work day?
3. What are some specific advantages of working in a departmentalized
organizational setting?
4. What are some specific problems or disadvantages you have encountered working
in a departmentalized organizational setting?
5. Is there anything else that you would like to share about your experiences as an
instructor in a departmentalized setting?
Thanks for your participation.
167
DATA COLLECTION FOR STUDENTS
168
Data Collection for Students
Notice to Participants
This interview questionnaire is designed and administered for the purpose of gathering
data about the departmentalized organizational classroom structure in fifth grade at
Minnie D. Sykes Elementary School. Your participation is voluntary and you may refuse
to answer any questions that make you feel uncomfortable. All information will be kept
strictly confidential. No respondent will be identified individually. Please do not put your
name or any other identifying marks on this questionnaire. Please read the following
descriptions before answering questions and complete by October 29, 2010. Thanks for
your participation.
1. Self-contained
An elementary self-contained structure generally consists of one instructor who is a
generalist and teaches the entire required core subjects (Reading/Language Arts,
Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) to one group of students for the complete
academic year.
Departmentalization
Departmentalization is an organizational structure where several teachers with extensive
knowledge in certain subjects share the responsibility of teaching core subjects
(Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) for all students
during separate time blocks.
Instructions
Mark (X) by your response to each question. Please select only one response to each
question.
1. Was your fifth grade academic year the first time that you received instruction in a
departmentalized organizational setting?
_____ No
_____ Yes
2. Did you understand what your teacher wanted you to learn?
_____ No
_____ Yes
3. Were the standards taught in a more detailed and comprehensive manner?
169
_____ No
_____Yes
4. Does your teacher allow the students to have input during the delivery of instruction?
_____ No
_____ Yes
5. Were the lessons more engaging and interesting than the previously taught lessons in a
self-contained organizational setting?
_____ No
_____Yes
6. Do you like your teacher’s instructional style?
_____ No
_____Yes
7. Were you able to develop a close relationship with your teacher?
_____ No
_____ Yes
8. Rank your favorite core subject which was taught in the departmental organizational
setting from (1) MOST ENJOYABLE to (4) LEAST ENJOYABLE.
_____ Reading/Language Arts
_____ Mathematics
_____ Science
_____ Social Studies
9. Did the departmentalization organizational structure have a positive effect on you
socially and academically after transitioning from a self-contained setting?
_____ No
170
_____ Yes
10. What is your personal preference for the classroom organizational structure for fifth
grade students?
_____ Self-contained
_____ Departmentalization
171
DATA COLLECTION FOR TEACHERS
172
Data Collection for Teachers
1. Data Collection of Teachers
Dear Teachers:
As part of the requirements to complete doctoral studies at Mississippi State University, I
am completing the dissertation component of my degree program. Your participation in
this study is requested. Thanks in advance for your responses. Please complete by
October 29, 2010.
Sincerely,
Lynn A. Horton, Ed. S.
2. Important Information
Confidentiality Statement:
The notes and records of this research will be kept confidential. The researcher will not
identify who has agreed to participate in this study. Participant’s names will not be used
in the publication of this research. Pseudonyms will be used for all participants in this
research.
Voluntary Participation:
Participation in this study is voluntary. You may change your mind and withdraw from
this study at any time without penalty of loss of any benefit to which you may be
otherwise entitled.
Contacts and Questions:
If you have questions regarding the specifics of this study, please contact Lynn A. Horton
at 601-906-8290 or the dissertation director, Dr. Rufus Dwight Hare at 662-325-7110.
For additional information regarding your rights as a research participant, please feel free
to contact Mississippi State University Regulatory Compliance at 662-325-5220 or by
email at [email protected]
3. Purpose of Study
In the fall of 2009, the fifth grade faculty at Minnie D. Sykes Elementary School changed
from a self-contained classroom structure to a departmentalized structure. The purpose of
the research is to investigate and understand the impact that departmentalizing has on
teachers and staff, and on student academic achievement at Minnie D. Sykes Elementary
School. Please read the following descriptions before proceeding to answer questions.
173
Self-contained
An elementary self-contained structure generally consists of one instructor who is a
generalist and teaches the entire required core subjects (Reading/Language Arts,
Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) to one group of students for the complete
academic year.
Departmentalization
Departmentalization is an organizational structure where several teachers with extensive
knowledge in certain subjects share the responsibility of teaching core subjects
(Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) for all students
during separate time blocks.
_____ Check here to indicate you have read the above information explaining your
voluntary participation and confidentiality rights.
Instructions
Mark (X) by your response(s) to each question.
1. How many years of teaching experience do you have?
_____ Less Than 5 Years
_____ 5 – 10 Years
_____ 11 – 15 Years
_____ 16 + Years
2. How many years have you taught fifth grade?
_____ Less Than 5 Years
_____ 5 – 10 Years
_____ 11 – 15 Years
_____ 16 + Years
3. What is your teaching class level of Mississippi Licenses?
_____ Class A (Bachelor’s Degree Level)
_____ Class AA (Master’s Degree Level)
_____ Class AAA (Specialist Degree Level)
_____Class AAA (Doctorate Degree Level)
4. What are your certification endorsement codes? (Click all that apply)
____117 Elem. Ed. (4-8)
____120 Elem. Ed. (K-6)
____119 English (7-12)
____125 Music, Performing Arts (K-12)
____140 Spanish (K-12)
____165 Music Ed. Instrumental (K-12)
174
____154 Mathematics (7-12)
____174 Reading (K-12)
____166 Music Ed. Vocal (K-12) ____182 Physical Science (7-12)
____177 English as a
____188 General Science (7-12)
Second Language (K-12) ____196 Speech Communications
____192 Social Studies (K-12)
(7-12)
____206 Emotional Disability
____215 Speech Language Clinician
(K-12)
(K-12)
____221 Mild/Moderate Disability ____222 Severe Disability (K-12)
(K-12)
____223 Mild/Moderate Disability
____224Mild/Moderate Disability
(K-8)
(K-12)
____436 Guidance Counselor (K-12)
____901Middle Grade Math (7-8) ____440 Library/Media (K-12)
Supplemental Only
____902 Middle Grade Lang. Arts
____903 Middle Grade Soc. Studies
(7-8) Supplemental Only
(7-8) Supplemental Only ____904 Middle Grade Science (7-8)
Supplemental Only
____905 Middle Grade Math (7-8)
Spec. Ed.
____906 Middle Grade Lang. Arts (7-8)
Supplemental Only
Spec. Ed. Supplemental Only
____907 Middle Grade Soc. Studies ____908 Middle Grade Science (7-8)
(7-8) Spec. Ed.
Spec. Ed. Supplemental Only
Supplemental Only
____910 Spec. Ed. Fundamental
____ 971 Teacher Academy (7-12)
Subject HQ (K-12)
____ 983 STEM-Science, Technology,
Engineering & Math (7-12)
5. Have you had any specific college-level training in the area of
reading/language arts?
_____Yes
_____ No
If you answered yes, how many college-level content courses have you taken?
_____
6. Have you had any specific college-level training in the area of mathematics?
_____ Yes
_____ No
If you answered yes, how many college-level content courses have you taken?
_____
7. Have you had any specific professional development or pedagogical training
in reading/language art?
_____ Yes
_____ No
If yes, approximately how many workshops or training classes in
pedagogical, reading/language arts strategies? ______
175
8.
Have you had any specific professional development or pedagogical training
in mathematics?
_____ Yes
_____ No
If yes, approximately how many workshops or training classes in
pedagogical, mathematics strategies? ______
9. Have you had any professional development on the district or State curricula
and performance standards?
_____Yes
_____No
10. Have you had any professional development on how to utilize data to make
decisions about instructional strategies?
_____Yes
_____No
11. Have you had any professional development on addressing the needs of
students with disabilities?
_____Yes
_____No
12. Rank the core subjects areas from (1-4) with one being the subject you most
enjoy teaching to four being the subject you least enjoy teaching.
_____ Reading/Language Arts
_____ Mathematics
_____ Science
_____ Social Studies
13. Rank the core subject areas from (1-4) with one being the subject you feel
most effective teaching to four being the subject you feel least effective
teaching.
_____ Reading/Language Arts
_____ Mathematics
_____ Science
_____ Social Studies
13. What is your preference for the classroom organizational structure for fifthgrade students?
_____ Traditional
_____ Departmentalization
14. As a teacher, did you have a voice in the decision-making process at your
school concerning the fifth-grade classroom organizational structure?
176
_____ Yes
_____ No
15. Did your initial college training adequately train you to teach all subjects at
the fifth-grade level?
_____ Yes
_____ No
16. Do you believe teachers who have specialized training in a specific subject
can better serve students through some type of departmentalization at the
5th grade level?
_____ Yes
_____ No
Thanks for your time and cooperation.
177
TABLES
178
Table 1
Level of Mississippi Teaching Licenses
Frequency
Class A (Bachelors
Degree Level)
Table 2
5
55.6
Class AA (Masters
Degree Level)
4
44.4
Total
9
100.0
Certification Codes of Participants
117
Frequency
Percent
6
66.7
120
1
11.1
177
1
11.1
Total
8
88.9
Missing
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Table 3
Teaching Experience
Less Than 5 Years
Table 4
Percent
Frequency
Percent
2
22.2
5-10 years
5
55.6
16+ Years
2
22.2
Total
9
100.0
Years Teaching 5th Grade
Less Than 5 Years
Frequency
Percent
6
66.7
5-10 years
3
33.3
Total
9
100.0
179
Table 5
Number of College Level Training Courses
Frequency
2
Percent
1
11.1
3
2
22.2
4
2
22.2
5
1
11.1
Total
6
66.7
Missing
3
33.3
Total
9
100.0
Table 6
Perceptions of Adequacy of Initial College Training
Yes
Table 7
Percent
2
22.2
No
7
77.8
Total
9
100.0
College-Level Training in the Area of Reading Language Arts
Yes
Table 8
Frequency
Frequency
Percent
6
66.7
No
3
33.3
Total
9
100.0
College-Level Training in the Area of Mathematics
Yes
Frequency
3
Percent
33.3
No
6
66.7
Total
9
100.0
180
Table 9
Teachers’ Input in the Decision-Making Process at School
Yes
Frequency
Percent
1
11.1
No
6
66.7
Total
7
77.8
Missing
2
22.2
Total
9
100.0
Table 10
Belief that Teachers with Specialized Training Can Better Serve
Yes
Frequency
Percent
8
88.9
No
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Table 11
Workshops or Training Classes in Pedagogical Reading Language Arts
Strategies
Frequency
2
Percent
2
22.2
4
1
11.1
5
2
22.2
10
2
22.2
15
1
11.1
Total
8
88.9
Missing
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Table 12
Training Classes or Pedagogical Training in Mathematics
4
Frequency
Percent
2
22.2
5
1
11.1
Total
3
33.3
Missing
6
66.7
Total
9
100.0
181
Table 13
Professional Development on the District or State Curricula and
Performance Standards
Yes
Table 14
Percent
7
77.8
No
2
22.2
Total
9
100.0
Professional Development on Utilizing Data
Yes
Table 15
Frequency
Frequency
Percent
8
88.9
No
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Professional Development or Pedagogical Training in Reading Language
Arts
Yes
Frequency
Percent
8
88.9
No
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Table 16
Professional Development or Pedagogical Training in Mathematics
Yes
Frequency
Percent
3
33.3
No
6
66.7
Total
9
100.0
182
Table 17
Professional Development on Addressing the Needs of Students with
Disabilities
Yes
Table 18
Frequency
88.9
No
1
11.1
Total
9
100.0
Frequency of Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching
1. Reading/Language
Arts
5. 6-1st
6. 3-2nd
7.
Table 19
Percent
8
2. Mathematics
8.
9.
10.
11.
3. Science
3-1st
3-2nd
2-3rd
1-4th
12. 1-2nd
13. 3-3rd
14. 5-4th
15.
4. Social
Studies
16. 2-2nd
17. 4-3rd
18. 3-4th
Descriptives of Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching
N
Rank of Reading/Language
Minimum
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
9
1
2
1.33
.50
Rank of Mathematics
9
1
4
2.11
1.05
Rank of Science
9
2
4
3.44
.73
Rank of Social Studies
9
2
4
3.11
.78
N
9
Arts
183
Table 20
Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective Teaching
19. Reading/Language
Arts
23. 1
24. 1
25. 1
26. 2
27. 1
28. 2
29. 2
30. 1
31. 1
Table 21
21. Science
32.
33.
34.
35.
36.
37.
38.
39.
40.
41.
42.
43.
44.
45.
46.
47.
48.
49.
4
4
3
1
3
1
1
2
3
4
3
2
4
4
3
4
4
2
22. Social
Studies
50. 4
51. 2
52. 4
53. 3
54. 2
55. 4
56. 3
57. 3
58. 4
Frequency of Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective Teaching
59. Reading/Language
Arts
63. 6-1st
64. 3-2nd
65.
Table 22
20. Mathematics
60. Mathematics
66.
67.
68.
69.
61. Science
3-1st
1-2nd
3-3rd
2-4th
70. 2-2nd
71. 2-3rd
72. 5-4th
73.
62. Social
Studies
74. 2-2nd
75. 3-3rd
76. 4-4th
Descriptives of Ranking of Subjects Teachers Feel Most Effective Teaching
N Minimum
Rank of Reading/Language
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
9
1
2
1.33
.50
Rank of Mathematics
9
1
4
2.44
1.23
Rank of Science
9
2
4
3.33
.86
Rank of Social Studies
9
2
4
3.22
.83
N
9
Arts
184
Table 23
Fifth Grade Academic Year as First Time Students Received Instruction in a
Departmentalized Organizational Setting
Yes
Table 24
Frequency
59.5
No
17
40.5
Total
42
100.0
Teachers’ Preference for the Classroom Organizational Structure for Fifth
Grade Students
Frequency
Traditional
Table 25
Percent
3
33.3
Departmentalization
6
66.7
Total
9
100.0
Personal Preference for the Classroom Organizational Structure for Fifth
Grade Students
Frequency
Self-Contained
Table 26
Percent
25
Percent
12
28.6
Departmentalization
30
71.4
Total
42
100.0
Students Develop a Close Relationship with Teachers
Yes
Frequency
Percent
3
7.1
No
39
92.9
Total
42
100.0
185
Table 27
Departmentalization Organizational Structure Has a Positive Effect
Yes
Table 28
5
11.9
37
88.1
Total
42
100.0
Students’ Approval of Teacher's Instructional Style
Percent
2
4.8
40
95.2
Total
42
100.0
Standards Taught in a More Detailed and Comprehensive Manner
Frequency
Percent
3
7.1
No
39
92.9
Total
42
100.0
Teachers Allow Students to Have Input
Yes
Table 31
Frequency
No
Yes
Table 30
Percent
No
Yes
Table 29
Frequency
Frequency
2
Percent
4.8
No
40
95.2
Total
42
100.0
Lessons More Engaging and Interesting
Yes
Frequency
Percent
5
11.9
No
37
88.1
Total
42
100.0
186
Table 32
Understanding of What the Teacher Wanted Students to Learn
Yes
Table 33
Frequency
Percent
5
11.9
No
37
88.1
Total
42
100.0
Paired Samples Statistics—Language Arts Tests
Language Arts 2010
Language Arts 2011
Mean
N
Std. Deviation
Std. Error Mean
145.61
42
15.10
2.33
148.11
42
12.09
1.86
Paired Differences
Language Arts 2010
Mean
-2.50
t
df
-1.73
14
Sig. (2-tailed)
.090
Language Arts 2011
Table 34
Paired Samples Statistics—Mathematics Tests
Mathematics 2010
Mathematics 2011
Mean
N
148.73
42
Std. Deviation
9.88
Std. Error Mean
1.52
148.80
42
8.73
1.34
Paired Differences
Mathematics 2010
Mean
-.071
t
df
-.075
41
Mathematics 2011
187
Sig. (2-tailed)
.941
Table 35
Independent t-Test—Comparison of Academic Scores for Students’
Preference of Self-Contained and Departmentalization
Table 36
2010-2011 Comparison of Academic Performance
Language Arts 2010
N
Minimum
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
42
110.00
168.00
145.61
15.10
Language Arts 2011
42
109.00
170.00
148.11
12.09
Mathematics 2010
42
128.00
164.00
148.73
9.88
Mathematics 2011
42
122.00
160.00
148.80
8.73
N
42
188
Table 37
Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching
77. Reading/Language
Arts
81. 1
82. 1
83. 1
84. 2
85. 1
86. 2
87. 2
88. 1
89. 1
78. Mathematics
79. Science
90.
91.
92.
93.
94.
95.
96.
97.
98.
99. 4
100.
101.
102.
103.
104.
105.
106.
107.
2
4
2
1
3
1
1
2
3
189
3
3
4
4
3
4
4
2
80. Social
Studies
108.
3
109.
2
110.
4
111.
3
112.
2
113.
4
114.
3
115.
3
116.
4
Table 38
Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable
117.
Reading/Lang
uage Arts
118.
Mathem
atics
119.
nce
Scie
121.
122.
123.
124.
125.
126.
127.
128.
129.
130.
131.
132.
133.
134.
135.
136.
137.
138.
139.
140.
141.
142.
143.
144.
145.
146.
147.
148.
149.
150.
151.
152.
153.
154.
155.
156.
157.
158.
159.
160.
161.
162.
163.
164.
165.
166.
167.
168.
169.
170.
171.
172.
173.
174.
175.
176.
177.
178.
179.
180.
181.
182.
183.
184.
185.
186.
187.
188.
189.
190.
191.
192.
193.
194.
195.
196.
197.
198.
199.
200.
201.
202.
203.
204.
205.
206.
207.
208.
209.
210.
211.
212.
213.
214.
215.
216.
217.
218.
219.
220.
221.
222.
223.
224.
225.
226.
227.
228.
229.
230.
231.
232.
233.
234.
235.
236.
237.
238.
239.
240.
241.
242.
243.
244.
245.
246.
2
1
3
2
1
3
3
2
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
2
3
2
3
2
4
2
3
1
4
4
4
2
2
3
2
4
2
2
3
2
1
2
4
1
4
4
1
3
1
1
2
2
4
1
3
3
3
2
1
3
3
3
2
4
1
1
2
3
2
4
1
2
1
4
1
2
3
2
3
3
2
1
3
3
2
3
1
1
4
2
4
3
4
1
1
3
4
1
2
3
3
4
4
4
1
1
2
4
1
1
1
2
2
1
2
1
3
1
1
3
1
1
1
3
2
1
1
4
2
3
190
120.
So
cial
Studies
247.
3
248.
4
249.
2
250.
4
251.
3
252.
4
253.
2
254.
4
255.
2
256.
4
257.
4
258.
4
259.
4
260.
2
261.
2
262.
1
263.
4
264.
3
265.
4
266.
3
267.
3
268.
4
269.
4
270.
3
271.
3
272.
3
273.
3
274.
3
275.
4
276.
4
277.
4
278.
1
279.
4
280.
4
281.
4
282.
4
283.
4
284.
4
285.
3
286.
2
287.
3
288.
2
Table 39
Frequency of Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable
289.
Reading/Lang
uage Arts
290.
Mathem
atics
293.
294.
295.
296.
297.
298.
299.
300.
Table 40
13-1st
10- 2nd
15-3rd
4-4th
17- 1st
8-2nd
8-3rd
9-4th
291.
nce
Scie
301.
1st
302.
2nd
303.
3rd
304.
101688-4th
292.
So
cial
Studies
305.
21st
306.
72nd
307.
12
-3rd
308.
21
-4th
Descriptives of Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most Enjoyable
N
Rank of Reading/Language
Minimum
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
42
1.00
4.00
2.21
1.00
Rank of Mathematics
42
1.00
4.00
2.21
1.20
Rank of Science
42
1.00
4.00
2.38
1.08
Rank of Social Studies
42
1.00
4.00
3.23
.90
N
42
Arts
1 = Ranking of Core Subjects Teachers Most Enjoy Teaching, 2 = Ranking of Subjects
Teachers Feel Most Effective Teaching, 3 = Ranking of Subjects Students Feel Most
Enjoyable
191