Title: All Students Can Learn: Effects of Curriculum Alignment on the Mathematics Achievement of Third-Grade Students.
Author: Mitchell, Felicia Moss
Publication Information: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Montreal, Quebec, Canada, April 19-23, 1999).
ERIC number: ED440838
Abstract: This study involved over 4,000 third grade students in a large (90,000+) suburban-emerging-urban school district. The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of curriculum alignment on student achievement in mathematics as measured by the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (IOWA) after one year of implementation in the DeKalb County School System. Curriculum alignment was the treatment or independent variable in the study: the misalignment traditionally associated with classroom instruction and test items on standardized tests. The topic of curriculum alignment is sparsely represented in the literature; however, upon careful examination and extrapolation, a richer historical background emerges. This study presents a new model which depicts the four-pronged historical roots of curriculum alignment in Effective Schools Research, measurement/standardized testing, curriculum, and Learning Theory. Within these four areas was found a common mantra: what is taught should be tested and what is tested should be what is taught. As simple as it may sound, this quest, originating from dissimilar camps, has struggled for legitimacy. The struggle to legitimize curriculum alignment is centered around the use of standardized tests to sort and/or eliminate groups of people with score cut-offs and/or program eligibility requirements. The lack of support from some educators emanates from the use of test scores to quantify accountability. This study focused on the variables that serve as known predictors of poor performance on standardized tests--poverty, race, gender and school size. Therefore, one of the key issues of this study is whether equity is a by-product for the alignment process. There were five research questions with parallel null hypotheses. The statistics used to examine these hypotheses were a t-test and ANOVA. Of the five hypotheses examined, one proved statistically significant. There was a statistically significant difference in the overall scores of matched third grade students on the IOWA after one year of implementation of curriculum alignment with a national curve equivalent (NCE) mean gain of 5.12 points in mathematics. According to the results, curriculum alignment appears to be an effective strategy in increasing student achievement in mathematics with third graders. It also appears to weaken the predictability of variables in student performance, namely, socioeconomic status, race, gender, and school size, since there was no statistically significant difference in the academic growth within the categories of the intervening variables. For these reasons, the study concludes with a reference to curriculum alignment as a potential curriculum equalizer. Educators are given an additional responsibility as researchers to go beyond the results to study implications and long-term effects as it relates to the specific needs of disadvantaged children. With that in mind, it should be noted that the emergence of curriculum alignment as a strategy to improve test scores may not be congruent to efforts to improve the quality of instruction. Curriculum planners must be vigilant in their scrutiny of the worthiness of that to which instruction is being aligned. Nevertheless, children deserve to know and study the criteria by which they are to be measured. (Contains 11 references.) (Author/CCM)