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An investigation of the effects of class size on student achievement in Title I elementary schools: A mixed methods study

Dissertation
Author: Jennifer St. Germain Murphy
Abstract:
This was a multi-faceted mixed methods study that investigated several aspects associated to class size and the perceived effects on student achievement in Title I elementary schools. The data collection in this study was conducted through two separate phases. The first qualitative phase was a case study that was comprised of teacher interviews and classroom observations. The case study took place at a Title I school in Central Virginia, chosen for its diverse representativeness of the student population. Classroom interactions were coded during five-minute segments in each full-day classroom observation, as well as field notes made for specific types of instructional methods being used within each Title I classroom: individualized instruction, small group instruction, connecting personally with students, and incorporating technology into daily instruction. While a majority of the interactions within each classroom were positive, patterns emerged within the negative interactions that occurred. Interview responses indicated that the perceived ideal class size for Title I schools is 12-18 students, as well as provided explanations behind the perceived effects of class size on student achievement. Findings from the first phase were used to create a survey that was distributed during the second qualitative phase of this study. This survey was distributed to the larger Title I teacher population within the same school district to generalize the findings from the case study. Finally, systematic student assessment data was collected to compare the perceived effects of class size to the observed effects of class size on student achievement data. Although the findings from the student achievement data were inconclusive, there were several factors associated to class size that are discussed to explain the observed effects on student achievement data in the case study Title I school.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

List of Tables……………………………………………………………………..vi

List of Figures……………………………………………… …………………... vii

Abstract………………………………………………………………………….. ix

I. CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………..1

Statement of Problem……………………………………………………...……....3

Rationale for Study ………………………………………………………….........4

Statement of Purpose…………………………………………………… ………...4

Literature Background…………………………………………………….…........5

Research Questions…………………………………………………………........11

Methodology……………………………………………………………..............11

Findings and Conclusions……………………………………………………......12

Summary………………………………………………………………………… 13

Definitions………………………………………………………………………..13

II. CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE…………………………………….17

Class Size Debate……………………………………………………...................18

Title I Schools………………………………………………………………........37

Best Practices for At - Risk Student Populat ions………………….………………41

Implications for this Study……………………………………………………….47

III. CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY……………………………………………50

Design……………………………………………………………………………51

iv

Participants……………………………………………………………………….54

Data Sources……………………………………………………………………..55

Pro cedures………………………………………………………………………..58

Data Analysis…………………………………………………………………….69

IV. CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS……………………………………………………...71

Classroom Observations……………………………………………………........72

Interviews…………………………………………………………………….....106

Teacher Perception Survey…………………………………………………......122

Student Standards of Learning Assessment Data……………………………....138

V. CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR

FURTHER RESEARCH…………………………………………………………....145

Discussion……………………………………………………………………...14 5

Limitations……………………………………………………………………...153

Conclusions……………………………………………………………………..154

Recommendations……………………………………………………………....155

Implications for Further Research in Education………………………………..156

REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………161

APPENDICES… ……………………………………………………………………….168

Appendix A: Letter to Participants……………………………………………..168

Appendix B: Letter to Parents…………………………………………………..169

Appendix C: Instruction Plan…………………………………………………...170

Appendix D: Diagram of Classroom Interactions and Field Notes…………….171

v

Appendix E: Observation Coding Protocol…………………………………….172

Appendix F: Interview Guide…………………………………………………..173

Appendix G: Letter of Informed Consent………………………………………174

Appendix H: Interview Questions……………………………………………...175

Appendix I: T eacher Perception Survey………………………………………..177

Appendix J: Letter to School Administrator……………………………………179

Appendix K: Cover Letter to Survey…………………………………………...180

Appendix L: Diagram of Classroom A…………………………………………181

Appendix M: Diagram of Classroom B…… …………………………………...182

Appendix N: Diagram of Classroom C…………………………………………183

Appendix O: Diagram of Classroom D………………………………………...184

Appendix P: Email to School Administrators…………………………………..185

VITA……………………………………………………………………………………186

vi

LIST OF TABLES

Page

1.

Original Observation Coding Protocol…………………………………………..60

2.

Revisions to the Observation Coding Protocol…………………………………..64

3.

Lesson Goals for Classroom Observations………………………………………74

4.

Total Amount of Time Coded During Each Classroom Observation……… ……80

5.

Total Number of Interactions Coded in Each Classroom………………………..96

6.

Instructional Methods Used During the Classroom Observation………………..99

7.

Units of Meaningful Data Coded from Transcribed Interviews………………..107

8.

Categories and Themes of Coded Interview Resp onses………………………..108

9.

Number of Coded Phrases Within Each Emergent Theme……………………..109

10.

Ideal Class Size Defined by Each Interviewee…………………………………120

11.

Teacher Perception Survey Questions………………………………………….123

12.

Frequency Distribution of Survey Respondents…………………………… …..126

13.

Survey Responses for Optimal Class Size……………………………………...129

14.

Survey Responses for Unfavorable Class Sizes………………………………...129

15.

Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Class Size of 15 Students Scenario Questions………………………………………………………………………..132

16.

Freque ncy Distribution of Responses to the Class Size of 25 Students Scenario Questions………………………………………………………………………..133

17.

Mean Scores of Survey Responses to the Class Size Scenario Questions...……134

18.

Grade 3 SOL Mean Scores, by Teacher………………………………………...140

19.

Grade 5 SOL Mean Scores, by Teacher………………………………………...142

vii

LIST OF FIGURES

Page

1.

Pictorial representation of how Class Size, characteristics of At - Risk Students, and appropriate Instructional Methods support student learning in Title I classrooms.………………………………………………… …………………….17

2.

Timeline of events in the Tennessee class size studies.………………………….23

3.

Timeline depicting data collection processes of Project STAR.………………....25

4.

Line Graph illustrating the long - term advantages of attending a Small Class in Reading, Math, and Sci ence (Adapted from Boyd - Zaharias, 1999).…………….26

5.

Timeline illustrating events of Project STAR and SAGE.…………………........29

6.

Timeline depicting class size reduction initiatives over the past

two decades.……………………………………………………………………...29

7.

Researcher copy of the O bservation Diagram from Classroom

Observation A.……………………………………………………………….......65

8.

Co - observer copy of the Observation Diagram from Classroom

Observation A.…………………………………………………………………...66

9.

Teacher building personal relationships with students in the morning …………..81

10.

Teacher building personal relationships during a time of transition.…………….82

11.

Teacher changing from small group to whole group activity to maintain classroom management……………………………………………………...…...84

12.

Teacher needing to proceed with the lesson………………… …………………..86

13.

Field notes indicating movement of students into small group activity…………88

14.

Coding during a small group activity…………………………………………….90

viii

15.

Data - analysis on the Researcher copy of the Observation

Diagram A………………………………………………………………………..92

16.

Data - analysi s on the Co - observer copy of the Observation

Diagram A………………………………………………………………………..93

17.

Multiple negative interactions with the same student……………………………95

18.

Bar Graph depicting the frequency distribution of teaching experience among survey respondents…………………… ………………………………………...127

19.

Bar Graph depicting the years of Title I experience among K - 5 survey respondents……………………………………………………………………..128

20.

Frequency distribution of class sizes among the survey respondents…………..131

21.

Pictorial representation of Title I teacher pe rceptions regarding the relationship of Class Size, Classroom Climate, and Instruction with classroom……………137

ix

ABSTRACT

This was a multi - faceted mixed methods study that investigated several aspects associated to class size and the pe rceived effects on student achievement in Title I elementary schools. The data collection in this study was conducted through two separate phases. The first qualitative phase was a case study that was comprised of teacher interviews and classroom observati ons. The case study took place at a Title I school in Central Virginia, chosen for its diverse representativeness of the student population. Classroom interactions were coded during five - minute segments in each full - day classroom observation, as well as fi eld notes made for specific types of instructional methods being used within each Title I classroom: individualized instruction, small group instruction, connecting personally with students, and incorporating technology into daily instruction. While a majo rity of the interactions within each classroom were positive, patterns emerged within the negative interactions that occurred. Interview responses indicated that the perceived ideal class size for Title I schools is 12 - 18 students, as well as provided expl anations behind the perceived effects of class size on student achievement.

Findings from the first phase were used to create a survey that was distributed during the second qualitative phase of this study. This survey was distributed to the larger Title I teacher population within the same school district to generalize the findings from the case study. Finally, systematic student assessment data was collected to compare the perceived effects of class size to the observed effects of class size on student a chievement data. Although the findings from the student achievement data were inconclusive, there

x

were several factors associated to class size that are discussed to explain the observed effects on student achievement data in the case study Title I school.

1

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

The issue of class size has been a major debate in education for many years (Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Glass & Smith, 1979). The limits on class size are determined by local school dis tricts. Within a single school district there can be several different populations of students that are serviced. There are schools that service economically advantaged student populations, as well as schools that service at - risk student populations. On e of the issues with regard to class size is that the same number of students can be put in a classroom with a single teacher, regardless of which type of student population is being serviced. Class size may not be viewed as an issue with more economically advantaged student populations, as they are still able to flourish academically (American Educational Research Association, AERA, 2003). Conversely, schools that service at - risk students populations, such as Title I schools, view class size as being more problematic in terms of it creating potential adverse effects on student learning.

The U.S. Department of Education defines Title I schools as those schools in which children of poverty make up at least 35 percent of enrollment. At the federal level, th e element used in defining poverty is the participation in free or reduced - price lunch. In a national assessment of the Title I program, schools with 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced - price lunch are considered to be of high - poverty (Stullich, Eisner, McCrary, & the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 2007). These schools are

2

eligible to use federal Title I funds for schoolwide programs that serve all children in the school (United States Department of Education, USDOE, 2007). A T itle I specialist with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), explained that in practice schools are characterized as Title I under several different provisos (V. Tate, personal communication, December 9, 2008). For example, schools with 35% or more of children of poverty may be considered for Title I services. At the other extreme, schools with 75% or more of children of poverty must be served with Title I services, unless such schools can prove through other criteria that they do not need Title I s ervices. In reality, local school districts decide for themselves what percentage of students of poverty is used as the benchmark for characterizing a school as being Title I. Although poverty level is used to define Title I status, it is up to individual school districts to identify criteria for defining poverty. In addition, individual school districts choose for themselves how to allocate Title I funds. For this particular study, the school district of interest defines poverty based on the percentage of the student population receiving free or reduced - priced school lunches (V. Tate, personal communication, December 9, 2008).

There are several challenges that teachers address within Title I school classrooms, in addition to teaching the curriculum, du e to the large population of these schools being comprised of low - income families. Donnelly (1987) reported that these challenges include a lack of educational support from home, which puts Title I school students at risk of failing or potentially dropping out of school. As a Title I teacher for many years, I have experienced various class sizes: smaller classes of 18 to 20 students, and larger classes of 25 to 30 students. In working with different class sizes, my

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 3

experience has persuaded me that this issu e could be one of the contributing factors in the level of student achievement among at - risk student populations.

Statement of Problem

Since Title I schools in Virginia have a high proportion of low - income families whose children have historically been at risk of failing academically (Donnelly, 1987; Stullich et al., 2007), those students have different academic needs than students in non - Title I areas. Title I students lack the background knowledge gained from life experiences that non - Title I students br ing with them to the classroom. In addition, these at - risk students lack the support (defined as including the access to books, resources, technology, and the educational level and expectations of parents) at home needed to succeed in the classroom (Berli ner, 2009; Donnelly, 1987; Yungmann, 1993). For example, Yungmann (1993) found that a majority of at - risk students’ parents have more fiscal constraints and less quality time to spend with their children. Therefore, they cannot provide necessary experience s for school readiness. Consequently, large class sizes may have an effect on the level of rapport that can be established between the teacher and the students. It is more difficult to devote individual attention to each student in larger - sized classes. In addition, larger class sizes may have an effect on the methods of instruction the teacher attempts to utilize within the classroom. For example, ability grouping, cooperative learning groups, and the use of computers become greater challenges with larg e numbers of students in the classroom. Collectively, these issues related to class size may affect the level of student learning attained within Title I classrooms.

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 4

Rationale for Study

In the past, researchers have investigated the relationship between student achievement and class size in the population at large. With the new standards required of educators today under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002), a quality classroom has been redefined. A quality classroom that serves the needs f or some student populations is not necessarily the best solution for all student populations. Schools that serve low socioeconomic (and hence at - risk) student populations have different needs than those schools that serve non - Title I student populations. I want to study Title I teachers’ perceptions of how class size affects student learning. In particular, I want to study how class size affects participants’ pedagogical decisions and relationships with students. Title I teachers are the experienced in - t he - field experts who deal with the ramifications of class sizes every day; they are the ones that see firsthand how class size potentially modulates the quality of educational experiences in a classroom.

By relating teachers’ perceptions regarding class size at Title I schools to issues of classroom quality, this study may provide solid evidence indicating a need for policy changes to address the provision of the most effective and meaningful educational experiences for all students today and in the futu re.

Statement of Purpose

The ultimate purpose of this study is to provide insight into how class size affects student learning. Of the many facets of that insight, this study explores the perceptions of experienced teachers in Title I schools concerning c lass size and how it influences

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 5

student achievement. By focusing on this specific aspect of class size, the findings of this study have the potential to make a significant impact on the decisions of both policymakers and administrators regarding class siz e in Title I schools.

Literature Background

This section provides a brief overview of the extant research on topics related to this study. This research will be revisited more thoroughly in Chapter 2: Review of the Literature.

A recent study (Baker, G rant, & Morlock, 2008) showed that teacher - student relationships predict children’s successful school adjustment and the achievement of elementary school - aged children. They found that students’ having a relationship with a teacher based on warmth, and tru st was associated with positive academic outcomes. In addition, the same positive outcomes were connected to entailing low degrees of conflict between student and teacher.

School Outcomes and Class Size

Many other studies have looked at the implications o f class size for academic outcomes. A meta - analysis on early class size studies (Glass & Smith, 1979) showed mixed conclusions regarding the impact of class size on student achievement. However, Glass and Smith reported that several problems existed in th e class size studies of the past. These problems included literature searches that were often overly selective, and studies that were typically narrative and discursive. These were compounded by the fact that previous authors seemed to make errors in aggre gating quantitative findings. Glass and Smith’s meta - analysis categorized the research on class size into four stages: the pre -

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 6

experimental era (1895 - 1920), the primitive experimental era (1920 - 1940), the large - group technology era (1950 - 1970), and the in dividualization era (1970 - present). They suggest that at the start of each new stage, the sophistication of research methodology increased, and the effects of class size on student achievement were examined from different perspectives. Taking all findings of their meta - analysis into account, Glass and Smith concluded that earlier studies on class size showed that more was learned in smaller class sizes.

More recently, Slavin (1990) suggested that smaller classes have only moderately positive effects comp ared to larger class sizes. Even then, according to Slavin, these moderately positive effects were only seen in students that had experienced smaller class sizes for three or more consecutive years. In addition, Slavin argued, it would be more beneficial to hire additional teachers to provide one - to - one tutoring rather than to reduce class size, and the effects on student achievement would be just as great. However, Slavin also made the point that reduced class size had the potential to improve school ton e and morale, and aid in teacher retention.

One of the most influential studies on class size was Tennessee’s experiment called Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (Project STAR), (Achilles, 2003; Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Boyd - Zaharias, 1999). Project STAR was a large - scale, randomized experiment that included 11,600 students, and 1,300 teachers in 76 schools and 42 districts (AERA, 2003). Project STAR provided some of the most substantial evidence to date that smaller class sizes yield better results in s tudent achievement in all subject areas, as well as in classroom behaviors (AERA; Boyd - Zaharias). Students who were

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 7

placed in a smaller – sized class performed better in terms of achievement. Longitudinal studies spawned from the original Project STAR expe riment have followed the same students as they moved into regular sized classrooms, as well as on to high school (Achilles; AERA; Biddle & Berliner; Boyd - Zaharias; Januszka, 2008). Findings from these studies indicated that students who experienced smalle r class sizes earlier on in their elementary education continued to exhibit higher school achievement levels through high school and had higher graduation rates (Boyd - Zaharias).

One limitation from the STAR project was the representativeness of the studen t population. It did not quite match the U.S. population in that very few Hispanic, Native American, and immigrant families were living in Tennessee in the middle - 1980s (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). However, it laid the groundwork for studies that followed. According to Biddle and Berliner, Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) was one such study that stemmed from the results of Project STAR. SAGE confirmed the results of Project STAR, only this time the sample was more representativ e of the U.S. population in that a majority of the sample consisted of low - income and minority students (AERA, 2003). AERA reported that the SAGE experiment showed that the positive impact of smaller class size is greater for low - income students.

More re cently, in a review of research on the relationship between class size and student engagement, Finn, Pannozzo, and Achilles (2003) looked at how small class sizes in the elementary grades have been associated with increased academic performance. They saw a consistent, integrated explanation of "why" small classes have positive effects. In observing classes in which class sizes were reduced, major changes occurred

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 8

in students' engagement in the classroom. Engagement was comprised of "learning behavior" and a continuum of prosocial and antisocial behavior. Both were highly related to academic performance.

Nationwide Research

The United States Department of Education (USDOE, 1999) conducted its own research into the positive and negative aspects of class size . They also looked at smaller class size in terms of financial obligations, and the implications of reducing class size for states’ budgets in education. The USDOE report addressed whether it would be financially sound to promote smaller class sizes. Clas s size reduction was found to represent a considerable commitment of funds, and created a potential sizeable impact on the availability of qualified teachers. The report suggested that setting small class sizes for only targeted student populations could b e one option that would limit the amount of funds needed. Although the report did not give a definitive solution on how to fund a nationwide class reduction initiative, it concluded that reducing class size to below 20 students would lead to higher student achievement.

Effectiveness of School Programs

In addition to the impact of class size, the effectiveness of different school programs has been researched. Ceperley (1999) presented a report on the effectiveness of Title I programs in four Virginia distri cts. In the report, Ceperley compared student achievement levels at two more - effective and two less - effective rural elementary schools. One of the characteristics used to compare the four schools was class size. School climate, culture, and school leade rship were also compared. Here again, class size was

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 9

the chief factor among those studied that was associated with better student achievement levels at the more - effective schools.

Effective Instructional Methods

In looking at the effectiveness of Title I schools, certain instructional methods were found to work best with at - risk student populations. Barr and Parrett (2008) provided fifty strategies that work with underachieving and at - risk students. These fifty strategies were derived from a comprehensiv e effort to collect, analyze, and summarize research - based strategies for which there was evidence of effectiveness in educating low - performing students (Barr & Parrett). They agreed with Baker et al. (2008) and Finn et al. (2003) in identifying a strong r elationship between teacher and student as a factor in decreasing behavior problems in the classroom, thus increasing time for instruction.

Connecting culturally . Barr and Parrett (2008) also suggested connecting culturally with the students in order att ain effective teaching and learning. This means relating effective practices to the social, cultural, and historical characteristics and backgrounds of students and eliminating school and classroom practices that actually place the culturally diverse stud ent at risk.

Individualized instruction.

Individualized instruction was another strategy that was found to be successful in teaching at - risk students (Barr & Parrett, 2008). Barr and Parrett suggested that personalizing and individualizing instruction ad dresses the particular deficiencies of every student. Computer - assisted instructional programs used as teaching tools for students were found to be a successful method of individualizing instruction for at - risk students. A growing number of interactive com puter - assisted

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 10

instructional programs have proven to be unusually effective in this effort (Barr & Parrett; Macaruso, Hook, & McCabe, 2006).

All of Barr and Parrett’s (2008) strategies are successful with at - risk student populations, but they require a gr eat amount of the classroom teacher’s time. These strategies address on an individual basis the benefits for smaller class sizes of at - risk student populations mentioned above.

Counter Arguments

Kahlenberg (2000) argued the counterpoint on the class siz e issue in regards to at - risk student populations. Kahlenberg reported that Title I schools are inefficient in meeting student needs, regardless of class size. In addition, he suggested that no school should have more than 50 percent low - income students. Rather, there should be economic school integration through controlled public school choice intended to create middle - class schools with student populations distributed equally across different economic groups. These middle - class schools were viewed as to producing more beneficial educational experiences. Kahlenberg’s argument was that class size was not the issue; rather it was the make - up of the student population that made a difference. In contrast, studies such as STAR and SAGE clearly show that class size is the crucial issue that affects student learning for elementary school aged children (AERA, 2003; Boyd - Zaharias, 1999; USDOE, 1999).

Implications of This Study

Dating back to 1920, there has been a profusion of research conducted on the effects of class size (Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Glass & Smith, 1979). In addition, there

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 11

have been several studies dedicated to at - risk student populations. However, there is little research on the effect of class size with elementary students specifically in Titl e I schools. This study will investigate the effects of class size on student learning at Title I schools. In doing so, I will examine how class size affects teacher student relationships. In addition, I will explore how class size may affect the pedagog ical decisions made by teachers in Title I classrooms, ultimately affecting student learning.

Research Questions

The following research questions will be investigated as they relate to class size and student learning at Title I schools:

What aspects assoc iated with class size identified by teachers (extracted from open - ended discussions with teachers in Title I schools) either enhance or detract from:

(1) the pedagogical decision - making processes that go into daily learning?

(2) the management of the clas sroom?

(3) the climate of the classroom?

(4) the interactions between teachers and students?

Methodology

A mixed - methods design was used to collect data for this study. The collection of data occurred in two phases. The first qualitative phase was compris ed of a case study at a Title I school in Central Virginia. During the case study participating Title I teachers partook in two separate interviews and a full - day classroom observation. The purpose of the first interview was to review instructional practic es and goals for each participating teacher as preparation for the classroom observation that followed the next day. The

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 12

purpose of the classroom observation was to explore what type of interactions take place in a Title I classroom, as well as make note o f what instructional methods and practices were being used. Finally, the second interview was conducted to explore teacher perceptions regarding the effects of class size on the several aspects of the Title I classroom.

The findings from the first phase w ere then used to create a survey that was distributed to the larger Title I population of the same school district during the second quantitative phase of this study in an effort to generalize the findings from the case study. In addition, systematic stude nt achievement data was collected for Grade 3 and Grade 5 of the case study school to compare perceived class size effects to the observed class size effects on student achievement data.

Findings and Conclusions

Through the classroom observations and teach er interviews, it was found that the interactions within the classroom drive both the classroom management and classroom climate. Additionally, this relationship also affects the pedagogical decisions made within the Title I classroom. However, it was obse rved that the most beneficial instructional methods were being used within each classroom. Findings from both the case study and the survey conclude that the perceived ideal class size for Title I students is between 12 to 18 students. Additionally, class size was consistently perceived to be the driving force behind all aspects within the Title I classroom. Finally, the findings from the student achievement data were inconclusive in portraying effects from class size.

Class Size and Title I Stude nt Achievement 13

Summary

Although the student achieve ment data was inconclusive in showing any effects from class size, there were several nuances associated to class size that were present, and are discussed in the Findings and the Discussion chapters of this study. Furthermore, although the perceived effec ts of class size appeared to be quite different from the observed effects of class size on student achievement, the consistent perceptions of the participating teachers and survey respondents should not be taken lightly. Each offered insight into what inst ructional methods are being used within the Title I classroom, as well as a perception of how class size effects the efficiency of using such instructional methods. The findings from this study also provide several implications for further research in area s related to the topic of this study, as well as other dimensions within the realm of education.

Definitions

These terms are used consistently throughout this study:

At - risk students

– are students who are not experiencing success in school and are pot ential dropouts. They are usually low academic achievers who exhibit low self - esteem. Disproportionate numbers of them are males and minorities, and generally are from low socioeconomic status families (Donnelly, 1987). These students may have parents w ith low educational backgrounds who may not have high educational expectations for their children (Yungmann, 1993). In addition these students have disciplinary and truancy problems, and exhibit impulsive behavior (Donnelly).

Full document contains 201 pages
Abstract: This was a multi-faceted mixed methods study that investigated several aspects associated to class size and the perceived effects on student achievement in Title I elementary schools. The data collection in this study was conducted through two separate phases. The first qualitative phase was a case study that was comprised of teacher interviews and classroom observations. The case study took place at a Title I school in Central Virginia, chosen for its diverse representativeness of the student population. Classroom interactions were coded during five-minute segments in each full-day classroom observation, as well as field notes made for specific types of instructional methods being used within each Title I classroom: individualized instruction, small group instruction, connecting personally with students, and incorporating technology into daily instruction. While a majority of the interactions within each classroom were positive, patterns emerged within the negative interactions that occurred. Interview responses indicated that the perceived ideal class size for Title I schools is 12-18 students, as well as provided explanations behind the perceived effects of class size on student achievement. Findings from the first phase were used to create a survey that was distributed during the second qualitative phase of this study. This survey was distributed to the larger Title I teacher population within the same school district to generalize the findings from the case study. Finally, systematic student assessment data was collected to compare the perceived effects of class size to the observed effects of class size on student achievement data. Although the findings from the student achievement data were inconclusive, there were several factors associated to class size that are discussed to explain the observed effects on student achievement data in the case study Title I school.