Revealing Academic Optimism in a High Achieving Middle School: A Case Study
AuthorPikero, Lynn Ellen
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This research investigated how one high achieving middle school staff demonstrated Academic Optimism as measured by the School Academic Optimism Scale (SAOS) and the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (Revised) for middle schools. Twenty-seven teachers from a chosen middle school participated in the study. Additionally, qualitative data and artifacts were collected and analyzed to provide an in-depth examination and understanding. The findings uncovered a misalignment among the data sources. While the qualitative data suggested a higher than average level of Academic Optimism, student achievement data steadily declined during the three years under investigation, as did the school STAR rating. Additionally, survey results revealed that teachers perceived a lower than average level of Academic Optimism. In a high achieving school, it would be supposed that all data are in alignment, a high degree of Academic Optimism should be reflected on the surveys and the qualitative data, which is related to an increase in student achievement scores. This misalignment could be attributed to one overriding factor, the adoption of the Common Core Standards in Year Two of the study. Upon further examination, the adoption of the Common Cores Standards by the state, conflicting messages as perceived by the staff concerning academic achievement, and various school policies and programs which did not appear to reflect the aggressive stance of the school improvement plan or mission statement regarding student achievement, may have contributed to the discord in the data. A mixed methodological examination of both qualitative and quantitative data provided a comprehensive understanding of what was occurring at the school.