This study aimed to provide recommendations for solving the dilemma of low Virginia Standards Of Learning (SOL) scores of minority students in Granby Elementary School. The present section provides background information about the organization, introduces the problem, discusses its significance, and declares the purpose of the study. This section also states the central research question and lists the key terms utilized throughout the study.
Granby Elementary School, located in Norfolk, VA, was the educational site for this study. The mission of Granby Elementary School is to “ensure that all families and students are engaged in purposeful learning, students are using metacognition and comprehension strategies across all curriculum areas to ensure life-long learning.” According to the school’s official website, “Granby Elementary School is located in a quiet multi-ethnic neighborhood with an array of well-kept dwellings with wooded lots and neatly landscaped yards” (Granby Elementary School, n.d.). The school currently has 581 students, among which 59.2% are African American, 22.7% are white, and 8.1% are Hispanic (Virginia Department of Education [VDoE], 2020). Almost 97% of the students qualify for free or discounted lunch, which demonstrates that the majority of students are from financially disadvantaged families (VDoE, 2020). In terms of students’ success and quality of education provided, School Digger (2021) rates the school 996 among 1,105 elementary schools in Virginia. The student-to-teacher ratio has dropped for three consecutive years since 2017, reaching 13.5 in 2020 (VDoE, 2020). In 2019, the school’s SOL scores in both mathematics and English reading were below the county’s and the state’s averages (VDoE, 2020). In summary, Granby Elementary is an underachieving school in terms of standardized test results.
Introduction to the Problem
The broad problem under analysis is that African American students demonstrate lower academic achievement. The education gap is a considerable issue in the United States that came to the attention of educators and policymakers more than half a century ago (King, 2017). Gilar et al. (2019) describe academic achievement as the extent to which a student achieved short-term or long-term educational goals. Academic achievement is usually quantified using test scores of grade point averages (GPAs) depending on the situation. The achievement gap is dangerous not only for African Americans but also for the well-being of the entire nation, as it spreads inequality (King, 2017).
The problem of the achievement gap is present in Virginia, which was confirmed by Standards of Learning (SOL) scores. According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDoE, 2020b), African Americans have lower average scores on achievement tests. In particular, in Virginia, the average SOL scores of Whites were 86 in reading, 85 in writing, 91 in history and social sciences, 86 in mathematics, and 89 in science (VDoE, 2020b). At the same time, African Americans scored 67 in reading, 65 in writing, 75 in history and social sciences, 68 in mathematics, and 69 in science (VDoE, 2020b). In other words, the average scores of African Americans in all subject areas were lower by 20 points. In Granby Elementary, the SOL score also demonstrated a significant gap in the academic achievement of minority students and their White counterparts. In particular, in 2019, the SOL reading score of Whites was 79, while African Americans’ proficiency level was 56, and Hispanics’ proficiency level was 67 (VDoE, 2020a). Similarly, in mathematics, the Whites’ level of proficiency was 74 against 60 Hispanics and 61 Blacks (VDoE, 2020a). Thus, the problem of academic underachievement is evident among the minority students of Granby Elementary.
Significance of the Problem
The problem of low SOL scores of minority students in Granby Elementary is crucial. As mentioned previously, the majority of students (77.3%) in Granby Elementary belong to an ethnic minority. Thus, the underachievement of minority students in the school has a significant impact on the average achievement of students in the school. According to Lanese (2018), teachers and schools are evaluated based on the results of standardized test scores, such as SOL. Higher scores in standardized testing are associated with increased funding from the government (Lanese, 2018). Increased funding can result in schools hiring new teachers and teacher assistants, which can further increase the achievement of students. According to Hemelt et al. (2021), teacher assistants have a positive influence on math and reading test scores in elementary schools. Thus, improved results of minority students’ scores on SOL tests can increase the prestige of the school and improve the level of workplace satisfaction of teachers. As a result, the retention of teachers can be improved.
The purpose of this study is to provide recommendations for solving the problem of low SOL scores in Granby Elementary. The research will utilize a multimethod approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods. First, five interviews will be conducted with teachers and administrators who have knowledge relevant to the topic. Second, a Likert scale survey will be developed to understand how can the problem of low standardized test scores among minority students in Granby Elementary be solved based on the perceptions of the stakeholders. A sample of teachers will be asked to complete the survey in Google Forms. Descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, and multiple regression will be used to assess the appropriateness and feasibility of the provided recommendations based on teachers’ opinions. Third, be a review of documents from the Virginia Department of Education focusing on Granby Elementary and Norfolk school district students’ performance over the last five years on the SOL. The results of the analysis will be evaluated in light of the findings of previous research.
Central Research Question
How can the problem of low SOL scores of minority students in Granby Elementary School in Virginia be solved?
- Academic achievement – “the communicative (oral, reading, writing), mathematical, science, social science, and thinking skills and competencies that enable a student to succeed in school and society” (Lindholm-Leary & Borsato, 2006, p. 176).
- Achievement gap – “academic performance difference between Whites and minorities” (Carpenter, Ramirez, & Severn, 2006, p. 116).
- Assessment – can refer to the process faculty use to grade student course assignments, to standardized testing imposed on institutions as part of increased pressure for external accountability, or to any activity designed to collect information on the success of a program, course, or University curriculum (Lteef, 2019, p. 2).
- High-stake testing – “tests that carry serious consequences for students or educators” (Marchant, 2004, p. 2).
- Intervention – is a set of steps a teacher takes to help a child improve in their area of need by removing educational barriers (Lynch, 2019, para. 2).
- Minority students – “those who do not belong to a region’s or nation’s majority racial or ethnic group — may be subject to discrimination, whether sanctioned or passive, that can affect their educational achievement” (RAND, n.d., para. 1).
- Standardized testing – tests that require to answer the questions from a pool of questions and graded in a consistent manner to inform the teachers about the level of achievement of a student (Herman & Golan, 1993).
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