Brown, K.E. & Medway, F.J. (2007). School climate and teacher beliefs in a school effectively serving poor South Carolina (USA) African-American students: A case study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 529-540.
Summary of article
Low income and ethnic minority students in American schools are more likely to have lower achievement and aptitude test scores, more likely to be placed in special education, and more likely to drop out of school. Possible factors for these discrepancies include inequitable access to health care, the difficulty of the family in supplementing education at home, a lower quality of teaching in these schools, and an environment that does not stress the importance of education. Research has been conducted in an effort to identify the elements found in effective schools that are serving these traditionally underperforming populations, and this study is an attempt to build on that body of knowledge.
The key assumption of the article is that certain factors are integral in successfully working with low income and ethnic minority students, and that these factors can be identified and then applied to other school settings.
An elementary school in South Carolina was chosen for this study because of its recent national recognition two years in a row for academic school achievements. The population of the school is over 70% African-American and most students are of low socioeconomic status. The school’s recent successes were based on a 5-year improvement plan that focused on high student expectations. A total of 13 teachers (3rd, 4th, and 5th grade levels) were contacted; nine (eight female, one male) of them consented. These nine nominated six teachers as being exemplary, and then these six were asked to participate in the qualitative portion of the study. All teachers were certified to teach at their grade levels and four of them held a master’s degree. Part of the study also included video tapings of their classrooms.
Two survey instruments were used for the quantitative portion of this study. The first, Organizational Health Inventory (OHI) measured teacher’s opinions on school climate. Five factors were assessed: institutional integrity, community leadership, resource influence, teacher affiliation, and emphasis on academics. Teachers responded to 37 statements on a 4-point scale (rarely occurs; sometimes occurs; often occurs; very frequently occurs). The second instrument, Primary Teacher Questionnaire (PTQ), assessed practices most commonly utilized in the classrooms. Teachers responded to 39 statements reporting their own beliefs towards teaching. The scale for the PTQ ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
In addition to the inventory and questionnaire, teacher interviews comprised of 17 questions drawn from Ladson-Billings work were asked from the six exemplary teachers. Class videotapes were finally conducted to determine if the recurring themes from the interviews could be identified. Classrooms belonging to the exemplary teachers were videotaped twice.
Rather than hypotheses, the researchers posed three research questions for the study. First, they were interested in describing the climate of a school that is effectively teaching economically disadvantaged minority students. Second, they were looking to determine teachers’ beliefs about effective instructional methods, and third, they were interested in exploring the relationship between teachers’ expectations and their instructional methods.
Procedure Nine teachers were asked to nominate six of their colleagues whom they considered to be exemplary according to a definition provided by the researchers. Once nominations were submitted two teachers from each grade level (3rd, 4th, and 5th) were asked to participate in the qualitative portion of their study. Permissions from the district, teachers and classrooms (for videotaping) were requested and…