The economic downturn resulted in the passing of a bill that eliminated size limits for the class including both regular and special education students by the State of Georgia’s legislature.
In addition to the state’s change, Henry County has made a new policy that affects social studies and science classes in middle schools. The county no longer has co-taught or collaborative classes for these subjects in regards to special education. The special education students are given paraprofessional support in lieu of fully certified special educators (School matters, 2008, p.1).
The focus of the research will center on one of Henry County’s twelve middle schools, Ola Middle School (OMS), in McDonough, GA. McDonough is a suburban community located twenty-five miles southeast of Atlanta, Georgia.
The middle school serves students in the age bracket of eleven to fourteen or fifteen in grade levels 6, 7, and 8 with approximately one thousand two hundred and seventy-eight students. Will the increased size of classes and the high percentage of disabled students in OMS have an impact on the overall learning of students not only in the social studies classes but in all the classes?
The mixed research approach will be the most appropriate way to evaluate the situation since there is qualitative and quantitative data to be collected all of which will lead to the achievement of the objectives of the study if effectively carried out. The qualitative research will be used to establish the educators’ viewpoint and assessment of the impact of these changes on the students’ performance.
While quantitative research methods will shed light on the numerical aspects in which students’ performance is judged and to what extent actual class sizes have increased. The quantitative research leads to the hypothesis of the study which states that; the increased class sizes in OMS have a significant impact on the performance of the students. The mixed research method will therefore aid to investigate the relationships between class size, the lack of certified special educators, and student performance. My role as the researcher will be to identify the problem area and establish questions of the research to be answered by the respondents. The background information was collected and analyzed through an extensive literature review before a hypothesis could be fully stated in regards to how the change in classroom settings has impacted students. Data will need to be collected in the forms of teacher/paraprofessional surveys, grade performance, and class size changes for a three-year period. Once the data has all been collected, it will have to be analyzed and interpreted.
The bias that is foreseen relates to the fact that I am a special educator first and a social studies content teacher second. As a special educator, I feel students with learning disabilities need full co-taught or collaborative settings for all academic subjects; not just math and language arts. Reading comprehension or processing deficiencies are not limited to two subjects but span all areas and aspects of the student’s education. I will have to be especially mindful of not looking for data to support my personal views in this matter and focus on the facts the data is providing.
Cluster sampling from one of the twelve middle schools within the given district will work well with methodology because it provides a more manageable and realistically workable group. The cluster will include general education teachers and paraprofessionals working within social studies classrooms with a student with disabilities and all remaining special educators who have worked in co-taught social studies classrooms, excluding me, within the past five years at OMS for 6th, 7th and 8th grades. The target audience for the project will not only include the participating educators but also administrators, department chairs, entire OMS faculty.
Increased class sizes to include more special education students while only providing paraprofessional support of special education students within social studies classes will impact overall student performance (AOL, 2008, p.1).
- Has the increased class size impacted student performances?
- Has the paraprofessional replacement of a special educator in social studies classes hindered special education students learning?
- Do increased numbers of special education students within social studies classes affect student achievement?
- Do the social studies educators have an additional workload and responsibility that has previously been the responsibility of a special educator?
AOL, (2008). AOL Real estate. Web.
School Matters, (2008). School matters: Standards and poor’s. Web.