Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

Sub-Department

Education

First Advisor

Diane DeFord

Abstract

The continuing disparity of academic success, commonly referred to as the achievement gap, the gap between economically disadvantaged subgroups and their more economically advantaged peers, is the greatest problem we face in the United States today (Slavin & Madden, 2006). In this dissertation, I studied in-depth the complexity of a quality teacher and her program at the kindergarten level, I focused my study on three areas, realizing that each of these areas is very complex. Although they overlap, they also have their own unique subtopics within the larger topic. The three areas of study are: oral language development, teacher/child interactions, and teacher quality. This teacher's success in closing or narrowing the achievement gap was a phenomenon worth studying.

For one year, I studied a kindergarten teacher and seven of her students who exhibited the lowest language and literacy repertoires in her class. She taught in a school with a 99% poverty index. In the analysis of the data, there appears to be a thread that ran or perhaps intertwined throughout the day in Mrs. Lucas' kindergarten class. It emerged as a critical tool in this teacher's ability to scaffold even the lowest performing students. The thread that intertwined throughout the day was the prevalence of talk used to foster language development and the prevalence of opportunities Mrs. Lucas set up for her kindergarten students to engage in talk. When a student's oral language is not yet where it should be, instruction needs to occur so the students' foundation will be sturdy. The results of this study will be beneficial to Head Start programs, Preschool programs and kindergarten teachers in public school settings and private school settings.

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