Comparing Teachers Conceptions of Mathematics Education and Student Diversity at Highly Effective and Typical Elementary Schools

Richard S. Kitchen, Francine Cabral Roy, Okhee Lee, Walter G. Secada


In this study, the authors examined what distinguished highly effective from typical elementary schools in mathematics by examining the conceptions of fourth-grade teachers with regards to mathematics education (curriculum, instruction, and assessment) and student diversity (ability, culture, language, and socioeconomic status). The study was conducted in two large urban areas with high proportions of racially/ethnically and linguistically diverse student groups. Interviews were conducted with 32 fourth-grade teachers from 16 elementary schools, including 10 highly effective and 6 typical schools in the two areas. Compelling evidence was found that teachers at highly effective schools had better developed and better articulated conceptions of mathematics education and student diversity. While similar findings were found across the two areas (e.g., teachers beliefs about the influence of high-stakes assessment and the academic ability of low-achieving students), differences were also found across the two areas (e.g., teachers beliefs about the importance of implementing multiple instructional strategies and expectations for college attendance).


Teacher conceptions; Student diversity; Urban schools

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Illuminating Urban Excellence