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High Stakes Tests, Research Paper Example

Pages: 16

Words: 4281

Research Paper

Project Proposal

According to the South Carolina Education Accountability Act of 1998, there is a mandated examination administered to students at the end of the year in all ‘gateway’ courses in order to fulfill requirements set forth by the State Department of Education. This has become known as the South Carolina End-of-Course Examination Program (EOCEP). The purpose of the EOCEP is actually tri-fold in nature. These mandated exams are used to ensure the instruction in the tested subjects is of the utmost level of academic achievement and students are capable to master this level of curriculum. They also serve as direct indicators of the effectiveness of the school, school district, and program to ensure all requirements are being met pertaining to provisions set that are put into place by the South Carolina Department of Education. Lastly, the tests are used as 20% of the final calculation in the student’s yearly grade in that particular course (Tenenbaum, 2006).

Each year history teachers are mandated to give every student a copy of the course standards pertaining to this test on day one of class. The test is to be given after the course is completed and is not timed. It consists of fifty-five multiple-choice questions and a set of choices for answers. There is only one BEST correct answer and the others serve as distractors for the students. The test is not supposed to be adjusted for socioeconomic factors, race, gender that may occur between students. This will ensure each student a fair chance at completing the examination with success (Tenenbaum, 2006).

Problem and Hypotheses

Literature has actually publicly frowned upon the test and viewed it as too difficult for students due to the nature of the questions being difficult for some students to understand, especially those students who might not have stellar grades in history class in the first place (Christophel, 2010). In Union County, South Carolina, the average score on the history exam was 67.2 percent. The average overall state score was 69.4 percent (Christophel, 2010). State officials have assured parents the tests are reviewed each year so questions may be restructured as needed to ensure the applicable content covered in the guides students receive is the same as that on the exam, but parents have voiced complaints that the methods and questions are unfair for students due to the content and types of questions as opposed as to their view of what is actually occurring in the classroom on a daily basis across the state.

The Children’s Defense Fund reports 322,963 children receiving free or reduced meals via the public school system (Children in South Carolina, 2011). In addition to this, the report also lists 72% students in fourth grade who were unable to read at their grade level and 76% of students in eight grade unable to read at their grade level. This is indicative of an increase in problems with learning and cognition proportionate to certain factors outside of the children’s control, such as food and other need factors.

This proposal suggests the children of South Carolina participate in a study that will be conducted over the course of one year in order to observe whether or not extra tutoring after school geared specifically for the end-of-course history exam will prepare them and increase scores on the EOCEP. The hypothesis is that if students are subjected to two afternoons per week of tutoring in addition to routine class time in history, they will begin to increase their scores on the EOCEP and will earn a passing score on the exam at the end of their sophomore year.

This study will be a randomized controlled study involving participants from three counties in South Carolina. The counties included are Lancaster County, Spartanburg County, and Union County. Participants will be entering the tenth grade when the study begins and will voluntarily participate in the study with consent of their parents. They will receive free tutoring from the hours of 3:30-5:30 p.m. on two days per week and will receive a free dinner immediately afterward before being dismissed to return home. The focus of these tutoring sessions will be structured specifically along the lines of the end-of-course test mandated by the state of South Carolina and participants will take this exam along with all other students at the same time and in the same room when the test is given at the end of each school year.

The study hopes to show an increase in the scores as the after school tutoring and meals provided by the school help with the students’ own academic progress, thus increasing the overall state scores. Furthermore, it hopes to show a relevance to the relationship between low socioeconomic status and academic achievement as indicated by the literature review that follows. Teachers who volunteer their time in order to tutor the students will be compensated in the form of continuing education credits which will be applied toward state licensure renewal for their upcoming term. Other workers (such as cafeteria, janitorial, etc.) who volunteer their time will be compensated with five extra paid personal days to be taken as needed but not to interfere with tutoring or other state testing and such mandated activities.

Limits of the study to be considered are the fact only three counties in the state are involved. This will limit others’ accessibility to extra tutoring help. It is the hope, however, that the tutoring offered will prove to increase scores and class structure can be altered somewhat in order to attain this level of teaching in all counties so students will have access to the materials no matter their geographic location or socioeconomic status.

Review of Literature

The first article reviewed pertained to issues with teaching current events in a history class in addition to covering mandatory material required for end-of-the-year state testing. The study was conducted from August 2008 through November 2008 and comprised three high schools. Roosevelt High School included 2500 students with a demographic makeup of over 70% categorized as African American or Latino and more than 50% of the students came from a low socioeconomic background. Armstrong High School included 600 students and consisted of 95% Caucasian students and was predominantly middle class. St. Thomas School was located close to Roosevelt and was classified as a private school that consisted of 900 students who were 95% Caucasian (Journell, 2010).

The study was ethnographic in nature. A total of six history classes were observed an average of three to four times per week and each history teacher was interviewed twice. All teachers had a full understanding of the reason for this study and due to the fact it was conducted in 2008 during the presidential election, all of the teachers understood the historical significance of the election and current events surrounding the election. The coverage of the election was not part of testing requirements for the state test (Journell, 2010).

Results of this ethnographic study were classified into three categories. The curriculum first inclusion included three teachers at Roosevelt. These teachers conducted class as usual and incorporated none of the current events surrounding the election into their history curriculum. There was little discussion at all about the election. One teacher at St. Thomas and one teacher at Roosevelt used the disciplined inclusion category. The curriculum was used like usual and there were inclusions of current events surrounding the election as time permitted. Often there would only be newspaper clippings passed around the classroom and nothing else pertaining to the event would be mentioned. One teacher at Armstrong and one teacher at St. Thomas used the opportunity first inclusion. These teachers prioritized the curriculum around the campaign. They also fulfilled all of the requirements of the mandated state testing simultaneously through their chosen methods of teaching styles (Journell, 2010).

Marulis and Neuman (2010) believe vocabulary and the acquisition of new words to be an essential part of any child’s reading development. They believe the size of a child’s vocabulary is strongly related to how they will eventually read. It is also their belief that there is a significant relationship between the number of vocabulary words a first grade child recognizes and the reading level as the same child progresses through school. This analysis addresses the following questions:  Are vocabulary interventions an effective method for teaching young students and what methodology characteristics are associated with effect size?

A meta-analysis was performed to examine all forms of reading therapy. Studies were included if they included a training, intervention, or technique to increase the ability to acquire new words; if there was an experimental design applied which included a random controlled trial, a pre and post test with control group, or a post intervention with comparison between groups; if participants had no preexisting disabilities; if the study was performed using English words; and if variables included a dependent variable that measured word learning (Marulis & Neuman, 2010).

The goal was to obtain all related intervention studies that met the criteria and this was achieved through search engine optimization, reading analysts, and reading interventionists. Altogether, there were 67 studies and 5,929 children who were studied. The majority of these used a standardized measure of receptive or expressive language. The most prevalent interventions were described with researcher specification by storybook reading and dialogic reading.  This was a heterogeneous sample, as expected and was attributed to variance in the studies (Marulis & Neuman, 2010).

An intervention was conducted as part of a study in an inner city southeastern United States elementary school to determine the various home and school factors which might impact parental involvement in a child’s education (Bartel, 2010). Before the study was conducted, there were beliefs held by teachers and parents about roles and perceptions of life contexts which repeatedly indicated that the parents took an active part in the supervision of their child’s education at home as well as at school. Most of the parents participating were African American and high school educated. Self-reported behaviors by teachers reported an increase in helping parents provide a more stable home for their children, conducive for communication about homework and general student and home life as well as having the parents become more involved in the daily decisions of their children and the community projects occurring in the school and surrounding areas. Most of these parents had previously been put into the same category socioeconomically as other parents on a higher scale, when in fact, these parents might have had more than one job or worked longer hours to support a greater number of children (Bartel, 2010).

The home factors were measured through semi-structured interviews with parents and guardians which were based on questions about motivational factors. The same interviews were conducted after the implementation of homework policies and interventions in order to examine the helpfulness of the programs implemented. There were 74 participants at one school participating in the pre and post interviews. All but two were African American and all were in the free/reduced lunch program. There was a 15% increase in parents’ willingness to volunteer at school during functions and events. There was a 19% increase in the parental supervision of homework and a 10% increase in the response to children and parents interacting in other house related activities (Bartel, 2010).

The curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is a standardized procedure developed for assessing a student’s growth in reading, math, spelling, and writing. It was also developed to test the effectiveness of instructional programs in which students were involved. There have been many studies on CBM in reading and these have shown reliability and validity of student performance (Yeo, 2010).

The two types of CBM reading measures that have received the most attention have been reading aloud and mazes. Both of these measures are supposed to make it possibly to identify and provide interventions for students at risk of reading failure due to dyslexia or other reading related problems. It is important to note, CBM is effective also due to the inexpensive nature of the assessment. It has become more popular with high stakes assessments in research and practice and is now being implemented in many schools around the nation on a routine basis (Yeo, 2010). The article used a meta-analysis to research the questions: what is the estimated predictive validity coefficient between CBM and statewide achievement tests in reading, by using the reported correlation coefficients between measures from two previous research studies? Is the predictive validity coefficient between CBM and statewide achievement tests in reading heterogeneous and what are important elements affecting the relationship between the two tests?

The studies used were selected using a three-step process. First, a literature search was conducted to search for studies that investigated the relationship between CBM and statewide achievement tests. The average number of participants in the studies was 1,453 and mostly comprised grades 1 through 8. Twenty-four of the studies used reading aloud and three of the studies used both reading aloud and the mazes (Yeo, 2010).

The results indicated validity for predicting the performance on statewide reading tests in reading. There was also a demonstration of variability within and across studies, which actually indicates heterogeneous studies. This caused extra analysis which indicated various components to affect the strength of the validity between the CBM and state reading tests. There was no significant difference between the two methods, which is different to previous research that had shown the nature of the passage of CBM being likely to affect the CBM reading-aloud performance. A small number of studies utilized in this study could have explained the reason behind the previous numbers (Yeo, 2010).

The South Carolina Department of Education and the Budget and Control Board Office of Research and Statistics partnered together for a study to examine the factors associated with school absenteeism, Body Mass Index (BMI), academic achievement, and SES in a group of fourth grade students (Baxter, Royer, Hardin, Guinn, & Devlin, 2011). Data was collected from a total of  920 students over the course of  2 school years. This included the number of days each student was absent, the number of children participating in the free or reduced meal program, the height and weight of each child, BMI factors vs. age/sex, and PACT(Pre-ACT) test scores. The associations were studied using logistic binomial models in order to adjust for differences between schools (Baxter, Royer, Hardin, Guinn, & Devlin, 2011). The relationship between absenteeism and academic achievement was deemed to be inversely significant. The results support an inverse relationship that exists between absenteeism and academic achievement. This was expected (Baxter, Royer, Hardin, Guinn, & Devlin, 2011).

Several studies have shown that test scores in older children have a strong association with future wages. There have been regression models that controlled for race, age, and ethnicity and showed a link between test scores of 14-year-old children and their earning potential at ages 26-29 (Currie & Thomas, 2001).  In the United States, SES is normally calculated using the parent’s education, occupation, or income, mother’s marital status, and race.

The tests used in this article are standardized tests of reading and mathematics given to children in their schools by their teachers to students at ages 7 and 16. Each child is categorized based on SES at this time and followed after high school to determine their earning potential via diploma, degree, or whatever means the student uses for a job. Interestingly enough, many students at age 16 quit the attempts at the exams because they have no plans to continue with their educations; thus, depleting any future of a higher earning potential or increase in SES for them or their children (Currie & Thomas, 2001).

Methods and Procedures:

As stated previously, the study will be tested in three counties and will last for one year. Each participant will be in the tenth grade upon beginning the study and will continue through the year until it is time for the end-of-course test in history. There will be a two-hour tutoring session twice a week after school with a hot dinner meal at the school immediately following. This will ensure the delivery of academia for the participants as well as nutrition. The independent variable will be the participating student. Dependent variables will be the attendance to tutoring sessions, participation in dinner meals in the cafeteria, and active participation in the tutoring sessions.

Due to the fact this study will take place in three counties and for the duration of one year, it is only justified for one to understand there might not be complete attendance to every single session by every single student. This will be taken into account and counted in the attendance category as well as the active participation category. If the student is actively participating in the tutoring sessions and attending most of them, he will be learning the information and will be more readily prepared than a student who is getting none of the information or not actively seeking to be attentive.

The study will be a randomized study in the fact that out of all students willing to participate in the study, there will be two groups: a control group and a test group. The control group will be given class assignments during the class tutoring session times and the test group will partake in the actual tutoring sessions during session times. All students will eat dinner at the school because this will help with the nutrition received by the child. There will be random assignment as to which group each student is placed into dependent on a card the student takes while registering for the study. The actual number of students that will participate in this study are not known at this time, but it is thought that if there is dinner offered and tutoring offered, several students will be willing to take the time to participate if parents are willing to grant permission.

Participants will only be accepted into the study if parents give notarized consent or if parents accompany the student to the first tutoring session and show identification while signing the consent forms. This will ensure accuracy of the information and will decrease fraud or validity concerns where information is considered. It will also give parents the opportunity to ask any questions pertaining to the study or the test given at the conclusion of the school year. State representatives from the education board will be in attendance for this meeting. Scores will ultimately be compared via some quantitative method to be decided as deemed fit by the researchers during the initial planning stages of the actual study. Most likely this will be some sort of Cronbach’s test or t-test methodology implementation where the data will be compared with the control group versus the test group on scores across the board for each county. Also, each group will be assessed as far as participation in the attendance of the program and participation in the nutritional part of the program.

References

Bartel, V. (2010). Home and school factors impacting parental involvement in a title I elementary school. Journal of Research in Childhood Education , 209-228.

Baxter, S., Royer, J., Hardin, J., Guinn, C., & Devlin, C. (2011). The relationship of school absenteeism with body mass index, academic achievement, and socioeconomic status among fourth-grade children. Journal of School Health , 81 (7), 417-423.

(2011). Children in South Carolina. Children’s Defense Fund. Children’s Defense Fund.

Christophel, N. (2010). End-of-course exam scores see improvement. Retrieved from Union Daily Times: http://www.uniondailytimes.com/view/full_story/5248079/article-End-of-course-exam-scores-see-improvement-

Currie, J., & Thomas, D. (2001). Early test scores, school quality, and ses: Longrun effects on wage and employment outcomes. Worker Wellbeing in a Changing Labor Market , 103-132.

Journell, W. (2010, Spring). The influence of high-stakes testing on high school teachers’ willingness to incorporate current political events into the curriculum. The High School Journal , 111-125.

Marulis, L., & Neuman, S. (2010). The effects of vocabulary intervention on young children’s word learning: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research , 80 (3), 300-335.

Tenenbaum, I. M. (2006). South Carolina End-of-Course Examination Program Teacher’s Guide: U.S. History and the Constitution. Office of Assessment. Department of Education.

Yeo, S. (2010). Predicting performance on state achievement tests using curriculum-based measurement in reading: A multilevel meta-analysis . Remedial and Special Education , 31 (6), 312-422.

Appendix A

Proposal

Issue letters to county schools informing them of the project and meeting with representatives to discuss (July before school begins in August)

Issue letters to all tenth grade parents informing and inviting to participate in the study

Sign up night and information night (August around when classes begin)

Tutor session one (sessions will follow each week on these days) TBD

Tutor session two (sessions will follow each week on these days) TBD

First semester meeting to discuss progress (November)

Second semester tutor session one (sessions will follow each week on these days) TBD

Second semester tutor session two (sessions will follow each week on these days) TBD

End of the year course test TBD

Meeting to discuss the aspects of the plan and success/failure (June after class ends)

Appendix B

The literature review in this proposal was informative and interesting. It was actually through the review that the final plans for the proposal were pieced together due to the understanding of what parents felt when teachers unknowingly thought something differently about their methods of parenting. It became very clear while reading the article about the “Impact of parental investment in a title I elementary school” that parents from low socioeconomic families struggle more than ever to provide for their families and are often misunderstood.

“The relationship of school absenteeism with body mass index, academic achievement, and socioeconomic status among fourth-grade children” was also informative in the sense that it gave a vision of some of the reasons why low-income families and obesity are related. Although this proposal is not about obesity as such, obesity is important when speaking of nutrition and children who are more nourished are able to concentrate and improve their learning skills. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper nutrition. This is why there is a nutrition component in the proposal; it ensures the children a healthy dinner twice per week in addition to the other meals being prepared by the school.

“Early test scores, school quality, and ses: Longrun effects on wage and employment outcomes” was informative due to the end of the article. The fact many students quit the exams before finishing and ensured their failure spoke volumes about their acceptance of poverty and their continual degraded socioeconomic standings. It has been said that poverty is generational and this article explains that to some extent. It is important for us to find a way to help as many children as possible succeed in order to increase the outcomes of long-term employment.

“The influence of high-stakes testing on high school teachers’ willingness to incorporate current political events into the curriculum” gave a good overview of the teaching styles of different teachers and helped me understand that it does not necessarily matter if a teacher is employed in a public or private school with regard to his method of teaching. The material can all be delivered effectively if the teacher has the ability to connect with his students and communicate accordingly.

“The effects of vocabulary intervention on young children’s word learning: A meta-analysis” was deeply helpful because it exposed all sources of linguistics, not simply peer-reviewed and published sources. There were analysts consulted in order to provide as much accuracy and detail for us to understand how the intervention methods would be helpful to younger children especially as they got older and acquired more vocabulary words. In the end, the importance of teaching early vocabulary to students is the most salient point of the article.

“Predicting performance on state achievement tests using curriculum-based measurement in reading: A multilevel meta-analysis” was helpful in understanding why most reading tests consists of various mazes and reading articles to test student cognition. It gave me a better understanding of the progression of the difficulty level as the state testing in the area of reading continues from year to year and why some students may have a problem with these types of questions. If we are able to help our students work through the challenges during elementary school, they will succeed with state testing more often when they progress into higher grades.

Appendix C

Each of the articles reviewed have the potential to help in my future career plans, although none of the articles are enough to stand alone as a sufficient means to determine what path I envision my career to take. Therefore, I will not divide the articles and concentrate on each one; rather, I will integrate them into the most important points I believe were acquired so that knowledge may help with future endeavors.

Socioeconomic status is an important part of education and our society today and it has always been important, although many times has been overlooked due to concentrating on more ‘important’ issues. Children who are born into poverty already have a struggle as far as education is concerned and if programs (be it educational or nutritional) can be implemented to help with their wellbeing, this positive extrinsic motivation will give many children the needed push in the right direction to move away from poverty into a world where there is more to offer and better opportunities for their livelihood.

Children are going to learn at a different pace and with different means. Because of this, it is of utmost importance to implement methods to help these children as much as possible instead of concentrating on the most ‘common’ ones such as mazes or reading aloud. There are many methods of learning and many ways of assessing these methods. State and federal officials must reevaluate mandatory tests to ensure those tests are targeting most students and not simply the ‘common’ ones. Learning styles do vary and they change as our minds adapt to new things. It is important to evaluate these tests on a routine basis to ensure our children are receiving the materials they need in order to adequately prepare for not only the state tests, but for the future as well.

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