Instructional practices conducive to the high achievement of Hispanic limited English proficient students on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
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The goal of current education reform is to increase student achievement (Odden & Clune, 1995). Discrepancies, however, continue to exist in the achievement between the White majority and the minorities of color, including Hispanics as seen in the results of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Although 198 Texas elementary schools received an exemplary rating in 2005 for their TAKS performance, only a handful of those schools with a high percentage of Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and Limited English Proficient (LEP) student enrollment achieved this coveted academic rating (TEA, 2005). This study attempts to answer the research questions: 1) Which, if any, instructional practices are present in the exemplary-rated campuses with high numbers of Hispanic LEP students compared to acceptable-rated campuses with the same type of student populations? and 2) Are educators aware of and modifying their instructional practices to be more aligned with proven research-based practices? The Best Practice and Benchmark Concept provides the framework for the study. The design includes the use of a survey, interviews, an observation checklist, and an analysis of documents to compare the practices of two exemplary-rated campuses and two acceptable-rated campuses, all spanning grades PreK-5th grade, enrolling at least 500 students, and serving high percentages of Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and LEP students. Findings revealed differences in the consistent use of best practices, in the methods of instruction (structured and directive versus constructivist), in the positive attitude and commitment of teachers, in the type of research-based programs, and in the instructional settings of the bilingual/ESL students. The finding of mixing structured, directive instruction to promote student success before moving to a more constructivist method of teaching is a practice rarely encountered in literature. All other practices observed have been documented in literature. In addition, educators were indeed found to be modifying their practices to align with those proven in research. Other factors besides best practices which influence student achievement surfaced, indicating the difference in performance between the exemplary and the acceptable campuses could not be attributed solely to the use of best practices.