Basic educational programs in the United States and their relationships to educational priorities and achievement gains

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1979

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Abstract

The "Back to the Basics Movement" represents one aspect of a continuous effort to facilitate the learning process of American youth. Because of the political, social, economic and educational impact of the movement the researcher has felt a need to conduct a national research study related to the basic schools of the United States. Statement of the Problem. This study has addressed three questions: (1) is there a difference between the Task of Public Education (TPE) as perceived by teachers of basic school programs and by parents of basic school students; (2) have basic schools been more successful than nonbasic schools in raising standardized achievement test scores; and (3) will parent and teacher attitudes related to the importance of the three R's show a high positive correlation with the students1 achievement in reading and mathematics? The purpose of the study has been to answer these questions and to provide information for administrators who must make decisions related to the "Back to the Basics Movement ." Procedures. Parent and teacher participants, selected through a randomized cluster sampling procedure, ranked the TPE items. The discriminant analysis was used to determine the key points of similarity and difference between parent and teacher responses. Longitudinal data, reflecting standardized mathematics and reading achievement scores, were requested from thirty cities with basic educational programs. These public school systems were listed in the April, 1978, Bulletin of the Council for Basic Education. A t test measured the statistical difference between student achievement in basic and nonbasic schools. Findings, Conclusions and Implications. Since the philosophy of basic schools includes maximum interaction between parents and teachers, congruence between these two groups has been assumed. However, the canonical correlation coefficient obtained in testing hypothesis one, indicates that while parents and teachers share similar views, there are significant differences that set the two groups apart. It has been hoped that the delineation of these key differences will provide insight for administrators in curriculum planning and conflict management. The following educational tasks received a higher assessment by teachers than by parents: getting along with others; health, safety, aesthetic, and environmental studies; the desire for knowledge; and a foundation of facts. Parents rated the life skill items higher than teachers. This included career awareness and homemaking. Parents and teachers agreed that the three R's should receive top priority. They also agreed that the task that should receive the least emphasis is the wise use of leisure time. Although the development of self worth was a high priority item for both parents and teachers there were widely divergent views related to this item, therefore the researcher alerts administrators that this is a potential conflict area. Other controversial items were found to be morality (rated higher by parents) and democratic ideals (rated higher by teachers). In post hoc investigations it was found that a respondent's assessment of the educational tasks relates more to his role as a parent or a teacher than it does to the geographic location of the school. It was also found that the views of parents and teachers become more similar after several years of participation in the basic program. Of the participating school districts six or 21 percent reported that students within basic schools had averaged .5 of a grade point higher than students in nonbasic schools on standardized achievement tests. In other school districts the performance of basic students was somewhat superior to nonbasic students, but the difference was not as much as the specified .5 of a grade point. Of the two subjects tested, basic schools reported greater gains in mathematics than in reading. It was also found that the greatest single predictor of student achievement in these subjects is the teachers' response to TPE item two, the development of skill in the three R's. Summary. Even in public school districts that report no significant difference between student achievement for basic and nonbasic schools there is a growing satisfaction with basic programs. This indicates that the impact goes beyond achievement scores. This research has shown that basic schools will be successful in developing congruence of educational goals. Therefore, the researcher presents the basic school as a viable educational alternative for the 1980's-one that utilizes input from a pluralistic society and strives to prepare young people for life.

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