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«Behavioral Dissonance and Contested Classroom Spaces: Teachers’ and Students’ Negotiations of Classroom Disciplinary Moments by Rebecca Neal A ...»

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Additional information about the teachers and students involved in this study is presented in a subsequent section.

IDA is a kindergarten through 8th grade charter school located in a large metropolitan area in a southwestern city of the United States. The school was founded in

1998. IDA’s mission statement is to educate every student, including those considered “at risk”, to become lifelong learners and successful members within society. It is unclear how students become identified at-risk, but such language is used on the school’s All institutional and personal names are pseudonyms.

webpage to describe the school’s population and is also included in the school’s mission statement.

This year there are approximately 130 students registered at IDA with almost an equal percentage of male and female students. The majority of the students at the school are African American (44%) and Hispanic (43%). Eight percent of students were reported as White with American Indian/Alaskan Native students making up about 5% of the population. Over three-fourths of the student population is eligible for free or reduced lunch programs as compared to a state average of 47 percent. Eligibility of the National School Lunch Program is based on family income levels. No data were reported for special education, recent immigrants or English language learner students.

Regarding school outcomes, only achievement data information was available.

According to the 2011 test results of the state’s instrument to measure student achievement on learning standards, students in grades 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th at IDA performed below the state average in reading, mathematics, and writing. Based on the 2011 Terra Nova/Stanford Achievement Test (SAT 9) results, school wide performance levels of students were as follows: Language Arts, 28% (3% below district level);

Mathematics, 31% (5% above district level); and Reading 31% (5% above district level).

The goal on this test is for students to score at the national average which is 50%. Data were not available on school dropout rates, graduation, or discipline infractions.

The campus perimeter is marked by a fence and includes a large dirt and grass area. There are several buildings on campus: the administrative office building, bathrooms, cafeteria that doubles as an all-purpose room, and three pods for the lower, middle and upper grades. Inside the administrative building are a computer room, staff lounge, and offices. Within each pod, there are four rooms (all connected). Each pod building is shaped like a square that has been divided into quadrants. Inside, there are four rooms with each room having three doors: an entrance and two interior doors for passage into another room (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Diagram of Intellectually Designed Academy.

There are a total of 17 persons on staff at IDA: a director/administrator, founder/special education specialist, administrative assistant, nine teachers, two teaching assistants, nutrition specialist, building engineer/custodian, and bus driver. Class sizes are small ranging between 17 to 22 students. Some classrooms are multi-grade levels or combination classes. For example, the lower elementary grades consist of three classrooms: K-1, 1-2, 2-3. The middle grades have a combination class of 5th and 6th graders. There is one 7th grade classroom and one 8th grade classroom that also include three 6th graders.

Typically, students begin arriving at 7:30 AM to eat breakfast. The school day is from 8:00 AM to 3:05 PM and consists of block scheduling with students going to a homeroom first. There are three class blocks ranging from 85 to 120 minutes. In the morning, after a 30-minute homeroom period, students rotate to their first period.

Throughout the day, students rotate two more times.

Students in grades 4th to 8th, rotate between three teachers throughout the day. The first period begins at 8:00 AM with homeroom and lasts for 30 minutes. Students transition to their next teacher at 8:30 AM and remain in that class for 110 minutes. At 10:20 AM, there is a five minute rotation period and students begin their second class block at 10:25 AM to 12:25 PM. Lunch begins promptly at 12:25 PM and is combined with recess which is from 12:45 PM to 1:05 PM. The third rotation is 115 minutes and is from 1:10 PM to 3:05 PM. The school day ends at 3:05 PM.

The curriculum at the school includes writing and language arts; mathematics, science and health; and reading/phonics. Teachers are assigned a homeroom where attendance is taken and announcements are shared. In addition to the core curriculum, teachers are also responsible for teaching additional subjects such as social studies, art, character education and physical education.

The duty day for the teachers begins at 7:30 AM and ends at 4:00 PM. Teachers are also responsible to supervise students during lunch and recess. At the end of the school day, teachers are responsible for walking students to the bus or to the designated parent/guardian pick up area. When necessary, students either wait outside with staff or in the administrative building for late pickups.

Site Access Before beginning this study, I obtained approval (Appendix E) from the ASU Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) to conduct my study at IDA. Once permission was received, I contacted Dr. Dianne Micala, school administrator of IDA to confirm when my study may commence. Because this study was developed from a previous pilot study, I requested an IRB study modification from the pilot protocol previously approved after the present dissertation study was approved by the dissertation committee.





I learned of IDA’s existence, when I received a call on September 9, 2011 from Dr. Dianne Micala. She called to ask if I was available to interview for a short-term substitute teaching position at the school. As a result, I began volunteering at the school on September 14 and worked four days as a substitute teacher from September 20th-30th,

2011. While spending time at the school, I began to think of the possibility to conduct my study at the school. I observed a well-managed school, but at time students would refuse to follow teacher directions, argue with one another, litter the school grounds, and on occasion graffiti the bathroom walls. Overall, the students and staff were very nice toward one another and generally addressed behavioral disruptions by sending students to the office or calling home to a parent/guardian. From previous conversations, Dr. Micala knew I was in search of a school site and suggested I consider IDA.

After receiving permission to begin the study, the next step was to obtain consents and assents from each potential participant including permission from parent(s)/guardian(s). Since I audio and video recorded interactions, I also needed to obtain the permission of every student in the class and their respective parent(s)/guardian(s) consenting to the audio and video recording.

Participants Recruitment of teachers and students. Upon receiving initial permission from the school administration to conduct research at IDA, I sought to obtain agreement from teachers to participate in this study.

While working at IDA as a substitute teacher and volunteer, through informal conversations with teachers and Dr. Micala, I learned that students in 5th through 8th grades engaged in the most disruptive behaviors. In addition, the literature on discipline inequities suggests those are also the grades in which the greatest inequities have been documented. Specifically, previous research shows that the majority of expulsions occurred between 6th and 8th grade (Dunbar & Villarruel, 2002). Once I received approval from the IRB, I conducted interviews with the teachers, school administrator, and two school employees (i.e., nutrition aide, and special education specialist) to identify potential student participants. Staff and teachers also completed a behavioral nominations form to identify male students thought to exhibit strong behaviors.

Students in a 4th through 6th grades were included in the sample as a way to examine grade levels not typically included in this research.

Nominations forms contained 10 behavioral descriptors. Students with the highest nominations were identified as potential participants. School records are informal and infrequently maintained; and were not available to use. Teacher nominations have been used in previous research and there is also evidence to the fact that teachers can be good judges of students’ performance levels (see Good & Brophy, 1972; Lane et al., 2009; Ramsey et al., 2010).

I also conducted interviews with the school administrator, special education specialist, and nutrition aide. The special education specialist and nutrition aide had contact with the entire school population and were a reliable source to obtain information regarding potential student participants. Teachers included a 5th/6th grade combination class, a 7th grade classroom, and a 7th/8th grade combination class. During each interview, school personnel was asked to identify up to three students that had longstanding histories of classroom misbehaviors that occurred during the previous school year. Since this study was conducted at the beginning of a new school year, information about students from the previous school year was the most recent available.

Students who received the highest nominations across the three different data sources (school administrators, teachers, and school staff) were identified as potential participants and a pool of 6-8 potential student participants were identified. I tried to select two students from the 5th/6th grade classroom and two students from the 7th/8th grade classroom. The former was targeted because there was a dearth of research with that age group on discipline inequities and the latter was included because they represented the age group that is overrepresented in discipline inequities. The top four students identified and their respective teachers were approached and asked to participate in this study. I strove to get a balance of racial representation of minority students within the student sample of participants. A full schedule detailing the timeline for this study is contained in Appendix F.

Participant profiles. Five students in 4th through 6th grade and two of their respective teachers were included in this research study. Student participants included Jonathan, a 4th grade African American male student, Byron, a 5th grade African American male student, B.G. and Lil P, 6th grade African American male students, and Cookie, a 6th grade student who identified himself as Hispanic. Each participant chose their name to use in the study. The students’ respective teachers included in this study were Mr. Abrahm and Ms. Esther. Both teachers self-identified as African American.

Interviews with teachers generally took place in their classroom when no students were present. Interviews with students took place in a spare classroom, outside on a bench, in the teacher’s lounge (no staff would enter), or in a small room located immediately across the front desk in the administration building. Some of the initial interviews were held in this room, and while conducting these interviews, although the door was closed, other conversations could be heard from within the room. I share this information about interviews here because in the following, I provide more detailed descriptions of each participant that also includes how their mannerisms and forms of expression changed within contexts.

B.G. B.G. is 12 years old, in the 6th grade and says that he likes to break dance and play football. He described himself as, “being cool, attractive, talented, and having swag.” He was born in the Midwest and attended IDA since 3rd grade. B.G. shares a room with one of his sisters and lives with his grandmother, two aunties and three sisters in a four bedroom apartment. He spoke of two brothers who lived elsewhere and did not speak of his mother and father during interviews or while at school during the duration of his participation in the study.

B.G. had consistent and regular attendance at school. He earned average to above average grades in school. He said, “I enjoy school and learn something every day. I also like to be g’d up and having swag.” He indicated that swag and being g’d up was really more than clothes and hats and was really about having style, and “looking good with it!” He said, “it’s not how you talk, but how you walk.” B.G.’s ways of being at school, his

manner of cultural expressions, in his words entailed:

–  –  –

B.G.’s expressions and mannerisms were different in class than during our interviews. In class, he could be heard telling students to be quiet, be seen sitting straight up or slouching in his chair, raising his hand waiting to answer questions or calling out his responses. He moved around the classroom with confidence and appeared comfortable telling his peers what they should be doing. While class was not in session and during after school, there were several occasions staff reported B.G. bullying other students his age and at times much younger female students. At times during the initial interview, he covered his mouth while speaking and shared that he was nervous. During our remaining interviews, he was vocal, spoke with expression, engaged, and was highly attentive. Eventually, his nerves dissipated and he spoke with ease. B.G. was only interviewed while he attended IDA.

Three months into this study, B.G. moved and began living with one of his aunties. Reported by his grandmother, within a few weeks of this move, B.G. again moved and began living with his mother. After his withdrawal from IDA, B.G.

consistently attended one local area public school. His performance at that school is unknown.

Byron. Byron is 10 years old, in the 5th grade and reports he likes to play wide receiver. Byron described himself as, “talented and liking to dance.” Byron was born in the Southwest and primarily lived with his father until death near the end of Byron’s fourth grade year. Byron did not speak of his father during the duration of his participation in this study, but Byron’s mother and school staff indicated after the unexpected passing of Byron’s father, he began living with his mother full time.

Presently, Byron lives with his mother, and three sisters in a three bedroom attached bungalow. He sometimes spends weekends with his grandmother.



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