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Thesis/Dissertation Seminars

Dissertation Defense: Middle Grades Science in Florida: A Comparison of Student Achievement in Comprehensive and Subject-Specific Science Courses 2013–2017

ED 306
February 15, 2018 @ 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Announcing the Final Examination of Kenneth R. Moore for the degree of Doctor of Education

The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a difference in student achievement on the 8th grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment (FCAT) 2.0 Science/Statewide Science Assessment (SSA) for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 between two groups of school districts: those that offered comprehensive middle grades science courses and those that offered subject-specific middle grades science courses. An additional purpose was to ascertain if student demographic characteristics (school district student population, low socioeconomic status (SES), and English learner (EL) status were associated with student achievement in school districts that offered either of the two types of science courses.

To improve student science achievement, many Florida school districts have changed middle grades science course offerings and curriculum from traditional subject-specific science courses to comprehensive or general science courses. However, there was a dearth of research showing if either type of science course improved student achievement on standardized science assessments.

While no statistically significant differences were found in school district mean scale scores between the two school district groups, additional analyses revealed statistically significant differences in pass rates, raw scores, and variance of scores between the two school district groups. The data suggest that comprehensive courses may increase low SES student achievement, while subject-specific courses may increase EL achievement. The variance of mean scale scores was greater for the comprehensive group, suggesting inconsistencies in implementation of comprehensive science courses. The primary implication of this study is that educational leaders should not expect to effect significant improvement in student science achievement simply by changing the type of science course offering. Any changes to middle grades science courses should be made with consideration to student needs and demographics, teacher professional development and support, course structure, and the need for flexibility in teacher assignments.

Committee in Charge: Rosemarye Taylor (Chair), Lee Baldwin, Valerie Storey, Su Gao


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