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It is important for educators to develop teaching methods that are effective and that can be replicated in numerous schools. A method that shows promise of being both effective and replicable is to use scripted teaching programs (Colt, 2005). However, there are also criticisms of scripted learning programs (Sawyer, 2011; Schroeder, 2002). One scripted teaching program, Success for All (Slavin & Madden, 2001), was implemented in English Language Arts (ELA) at a middle school in South Carolina that has had difficulties preparing students to pass South Carolina educational standards. This middle school is the location for the proposed study. The research will examine the student outcomes for classes in which a scripted program is used as compared to outcomes of the more traditional teaching method. It will also examine the reasons for the program’s success or lack of success in preparing students in ELA.
Background of the Study
Teachers are an important ingredient in the education of children. A well-trained and enthusiastic teacher can have very positive effects on children no matter what their socio-economic or ethnic background (Slavin, 2005). In fact, according to the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (2005), one of the most notable results of educational research is that teachers make more of a difference in students’ educational outcomes than student backgrounds do. However, a problem is that not all teachers are equally effective in their methods. As a result, students at schools with less effective teachers may make less progress. The idea behind scripted teaching programs like Success for All is that proven methods that are used by effective teachers can be written out in a teaching script that any teacher in any school can use. The goal is to copy the success of effective teachers by providing a script for teaching.
The scripts that teachers use in programs like Success for All instruct the teachers how to explain concepts, ask questions, and respond to feedback from students. These scripts are tightly worded so that teachers are instructed exactly what to say to students, even when they ask questions about a topic (Lee, n.d.). Therefore, the script takes much of the guesswork out of teaching a subject such as ELA because the it instructs the teacher on what to say to students at every point of the class.
A problem with scripted teaching is that it is not clear if it increases learning for all students, or what factors may be related to its effectiveness. Despite there being claims of success, scripted programs have been criticized as having drawbacks. These include the criticism that scripted programs prevent teachers from responding to students individually, and that they emphasize lower-order skills (Sawyer, 2004). In relation to the first kind of criticism, Commeyras (2007) mentioned that different teachers may be better than others at targeting their script for individual students.
It may be that the success of scripted programs varies, depending on factors such as how the program is introduced, how much training is given teachers in using it, and other variables. It also may be true that the use of scripted programs should be tailored to the circumstances of the individual school. For example, in a study of scripted and non-scripted middle schools, Bias (2009) concluded that it was important for school administrators to involve teaching staff in the selection of scripted teaching programs and that school leaders may need to allow for collaborative changes to scripted teaching programs.
Statement of the Problem
Middle schools in America are challenged to meet state standards by effectively educating their students. The general problem is to understand what methods can help middle schools effectively educate their students in English Language Arts (ELA) and meet state standards. Scripted teaching programs have shown some promise of being effective in improving outcomes for some grades (Ball, Cohen, & Rowan, 2010), but it is not clear how effective they are at the middle school level. The specific problem for this study is whether use of a scripted teaching program in English language arts in a South Carolina middle school resulted in improved outcomes for students of the program when compared to outcomes for a standard-based curriculum that was used previously. The study will further investigate the reasons for the improved or not improved outcomes.
Scope of the Study
The proposed research will be a case study that examines the case of a single South Carolina middle school in which a scripted program, Success for All (Slavin & Madden, 2001), was implemented. Success for All was introduced into the school to take the place of a standards-based curriculum in English Language Arts (ELA). The research will gather several kinds of data. First, it will gather numerical data on the student outcomes in school years in which traditional standards-based teaching methods were used for teaching ELA, and also from the year the scripted program was introduced. The two sets of data will then be compared to learn the initial success of the scripted teaching program.
Also, this case study will survey the teachers at the middle school to determine their perceptions of the effectiveness of the scripted program and how it might be improved. For this purpose, a brief online survey of 8 to 10 items will be used, including both close-ended and open-ended questions. The teachers’ responses to the open-ended questions will be analyzed to determine any themes or patterns in their responses. Finally, the researcher’s perceptions and extensive knowledge about the school and about implementation of the scripted teaching program at the school will be used to help interpret the numerical data and the responses of the teachers. Based on these findings, recommendations will be made that may increase the chances for success of the scripted program if it continues to be used at the school. The recommendations may also increase the chance for success of newly introduced scripted ELA programs in other middle schools.
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Purpose of the Study
There has been controversy about the pedagogical value of scripted teaching programs. To help learn what this value may be, more empirical studies are needed that measure the student outcomes for such programs in comparison to outcomes of traditional teaching methods? The purpose of the proposed case study is to add to the knowledge about the effectiveness of scripted teaching programs. It will do this by gathering information about the outcomes of a scripted program in a single middle school in South Carolina where students have had difficulties meeting state educational standards. The study will also investigate the reasons why the scripted teaching program had these outcomes. Though the study will concern only one middle school, the in-depth investigation of outcomes and the reasons for these outcomes may benefit other schools. In particular, they may benefit other schools having difficulties meeting state educational standards, and schools with a student population mostly from a lower socio-economic group.
An assumption of the proposed study is that it is important to find effective ways to teach ELA to middle school students. Many schools, especially those in high-poverty areas, struggle to find more effective ways to teach their students and meet state standards. An in-depth investigation of the scripted program in the selected middle school will provide information that may be valuable to the school itself, as well as to middle schools in different locations.
It is also assumed that the scripted teaching program that is investigated, Success for All, is a good representative of other scripted programs for teaching ELA at the middle school level. Finally, it is assumed that the teachers who are surveyed will provide their accurate and unbiased perceptions about the scripted teaching program and about the pros and cons of how it was implemented in the school.
The research question for the proposed study is the following: How successful was a scripted teaching program in helping teachers teach English Language Arts in the chosen middle school and what factors affected its degree of success? It is expected that the study will find that the use of a scripted program had mixed results for the success of ELA students at the middle school, and that this was due to several factors related to its implementation.
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The social significance of the study is that it will increase knowledge about the effectiveness of scripted teaching programs used at middle schools that are failing to meet state educational standards. It will also increase knowledge about the factors that affect the effectiveness of scripted teaching programs. This kind of knowledge is greatly needed in today’s society to prepare young people for an increasingly technological world. Some educators consider scripted teaching programs to be a major step toward the goal of educating children effectively (e.g., Colt, 2005). However, it is not clear that these programs are the most effective for every school or what factors determine success. This study will help answer these important questions.
The most direct social value of the study is that it may provide knowledge that will improve implementation of the scripted program at the middle school, if the school continues using the program. The school has had serious problems meeting South Carolina educational standards for student outcomes, and any knowledge that might improve the scripted program’s implementation and student outcomes could be very valuable. The knowledge gained may also be socially valuable to other middle schools that use scripted teaching programs or that are contemplating using them.
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The study will be delimited to a single middle school in South Carolina and will not investigate the success of scripted learning programs at other middle schools, and will not investigate the outcomes of scripted teaching for students at either elementary or high schools. Further, the study will be delimited to a school that has had problems fulfilling South Carolina learning standards for various subjects, including ELA, and that has a high percentage of students who come from a lower socio-economic background. Also, the study will be delimited to studying the outcomes for use of scripted teaching for ELA, and not for other subjects. Finally, the study is restricted to data from only three school years and will not investigate outcomes for other years.