Three Schools Before Thanksgiving

A qualitative study about quality education. That's what Anne F. Farrell and Melissa A. Collier's article is about. They wanted to know how a school system educated children whose parents were in the military. How do teachers deal with children who "...went to three schools before Thanksgiving one year"?

After conducting interviews with 15 educators who worked in a school near a military base, the researchers found the following overall themes from the interviews which contribute to a positive experience in such a school:

1. The importance of family-school communication (which they called FSC)

          Such communication was almost unanimously endorsed by the educators. Since military
          families might have special circumstances, like a head of household being deployed, it is
          important to the educators to be able to respond appropriately.

2. Impressions regarding type and format of FSC

         Teachers didn't care whether it was phone, email, newletter, or face-to-face conferences--they
         wanted contact with parents in some way. They agreed that it didn't matter if a student was
         having problems at home that could affect the student's school performance, as long as the
         parent brought the issue up to the teacher for discussion and accomodation.

3. School Climate

        Educators agreed that students needed to feel comfortable while at school, both by their main
        teachers and by other school staff.

4. Teacher Preparation

        None of the teachers had formal training for this situation, but many had lived on military bases
       when they were children as well. Having such a personal understanding of the students' situations
       made the educators more prepared to face challenges that arose.

5. Roles and Skills

       Communication skills and time management were some of the top roles and skills that educators
       felt were important to them. Another was overall "hard work" when it came to communitcation
       with families. It's important to teachers to partner with parents instead of being on separate

6. Contextual Issues Unique to Military Families

      Student turnover is enormous in schools close to military bases when compared to average
      schools. It's difficult for teachers to understand what a student has or hasn't learned before arrival.
     The important thing for them was that they made a student feel comfortable and successful in the
     classroom for as long as he or she was there.

"Themes" like these are typical of qualitative studies. A qualitative researcher usually tries to limit bias by sending out interviews and objectively analyzing the results before making a thesis statement. By saving the thesis for the end of the scholarly article, researchers are able to stop themselves from only reporting results that support the thesis. By considering a qualitative study, a researcher must consider turning the scientific method on its head to find unbiased results.

Parental Homework Help Leads to LOWER Academic Achievement

Are you setting your child up for failure when you help him with his homework?

A 2006 study by Jung-Sook Lee and Natasha K. Bowen showed that you are...if you're White, that is. The survey crunched the numbers on survey responses of over 400 elementary students to answer this question. "T tests, chi-square statistics, and hierarchical regressions" sound academic, right?

Here is what the researchers found:

... lower levels of homework help were associated with high achievement among European Americans and with low achievement among Hispanic/Latinos. Increased levels of homework help, therefore, were associated with better achievement among Hispanic/Latinos but not European Americans....the effects of homework help among African American children were similar to those among Hispanic/Latino children. More frequent homework help was associated with better academic performance in this group, while more frequent homework help was associated with lower academic achievement among European American children.
Unsettling, isn't it? But don't be scared. This a simple error of confusing correlation with causation. The thing is, these researchers chose "homework help" for their independent variable, and "academic achievement" for their dependent variable. In other words, they said that amount of homework help causes level of academic achievement. They didn't take into account the amount of influence that level of academic achievement could have on amount of homework help. If your child was failing her classes, wouldn't you spend a little more time with her on her assignments each night?
So, why would this error only apply to the White children? Earlier in the study, researchers claimed that minority parents generally spent more time managing their children's time while at home than White parents did. Perhaps minority parents were better able to get their children on track academically, and keep them on track, before grades suffered.

SO, when designing your own research study, pay close attention to your independent and dependent variables... or you too could find some strange results to be critiqued by a blogger.