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How do Teachers Understand and Act on policy Directives to Close the Gender Achievement Gap in Writing Present in State Test Scores?

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/7646

How do Teachers Understand and Act on policy Directives to Close the Gender Achievement Gap in Writing Present in State Test Scores?

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Title: How do Teachers Understand and Act on policy Directives to Close the Gender Achievement Gap in Writing Present in State Test Scores?
Author: Stanley, Michael
Advisor(s): Noll, Betsy
Committee Member(s): Roberts, Shelley
Maguire, Patricia
Pence, Penny
Department: University of New Mexico. Division of Language, Literature and Sociocultural Studies.
Subject(s): Achievement Gap
Collaboration
Administration
Tracking
Professional Development
Writing
LC Subject(s): Sex differences in education
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: This qualitative study examined how a group of 9, predominately white, middle-school writing teachers thought about struggling student writers and made sense of national and district policy mandates to close the racial and gender achievement gaps present in state test scores. Data from focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews revealed findings about the teachers’ interactions with school leadership, how they understood and acted upon achievement gaps in writing, and their collaboration as a team of educators. Confusion and frustration typified the teachers’ interactions with school leadership as a number of top-down mandates through Professional Learning Teams and disappointing interactions regarding discipline issues failed to support teachers and seemed to run counter to the stated policy goals of closing the achievement gap. Similarly, lacking a coherent message from the leadership, teachers turned to their own conceptions of the role of teachers and education as they struggled to confront the achievement gap in writing. Here, the research participants sought to reframe the gap discourse in broader terms, yet failed to directly address the role of white privilege that operated in the group. These themes intersected in the group’s discussion about collaboration. While, at the end of the project, participants clearly desired greater collaboration among their team of writing teachers, they also indicated that the school’s tracking system, which impacted both teachers and students, presented daunting challenges to deeper teamwork. The researcher placed these findings within context of the literature in a number of fields, including the gender achievement gap, the teaching of writing, teacher perception of policy, as well as supportive leadership styles, school discipline, critiques of the gap discourse, the role of white privilege, collaboration, and tracking. Ultimately, the findings pointed to the importance of more reflective, collegial conversations—among teachers, as well as between teachers and administrators. The researcher concludes with an argument for the importance of helping teachers develop the capacity to address how issues of identity impact pedagogy, and suggests that the recursive cycles of practitioner action research present one possible way to build this capacity, enhance collaboration, and improve practice towards the goal of heightening student performance.
Graduation Date: December 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/7646

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