Examining instructional decisions of highly-regarded secondary teachers enacting a curriculum aligned to state standards
Fox Roye, Oneida
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Despite firm knowledge of the instructional actions taken by skillful teachers, the evidence of persistently low levels of literacy achievement among urban secondary students underscores the complexity of achieving meaningful change in routine teaching practices. This study was motivated by the need to improve teaching practices and improve literacy achievement among Black and Latino youth. In this mixed-methods study, I researched the extent to which the understandings about effective instruction guided the instruction of two highly-regarded secondary English language arts classroom teachers. The data for this study included initial teacher interviews, videos of classroom observations, teacher and researcher reflections of practice, and teacher retrospective interviews. The analyses included identifying, analyzing, and classifying: (1) the occurrence of explicit instruction of reading strategies, development of requisite background knowledge, culturally responsive pedagogy, and disciplinary literacy in English language arts secondary classrooms, (2) the types of decisions teachers make related to these factors when enacting a standards-based curriculum, and (3) how these decisions affect student achievement. The analyses led to two major findings: (1) both teachers modified the new standards-based language arts curriculum, but in varied ways and for substantially different reasons; and (2) the students whose instruction included the use of research-based strategies to access and build requisite background knowledge along with disciplinary literacy strategies made significant gains in reading achievement. The overall results of this study confirm and expand the existing literature in several ways: (1) by calling attention to how curricular modifications related to the development of requisite background knowledge and instruction in disciplinary literacy strategies serve to facilitate students’ access to complex texts; (2) by identifying some of the reasons for and obstacles to curricular modification for particular teachers in particular contexts; and (3) by providing preliminary evidence of positive reading outcomes for Black and Latino students who read complex texts in classrooms in which teachers emphasize disciplinary literacy practices, development of requisite background knowledge, and explicit instruction in comprehension strategies.