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Student Research Abstracts


Andersen, Lindsey. Do Mentoring Programs Really Help New Teachers?

Education is an interesting and exciting world to be a part of.  New teachers enter the profession and the school year with great enthusiasm, energy, zest and excitement.  However, for these new teachers life can become quite overwhelming very quickly by the curriculum, lesson planning, classroom management, individual student needs and their own anticipated evaluations.  Early successes or failures can often determine the likelihood of a successful career as an educator.  Research shows that between 40%-50% of new teachers leave teaching within five years of entering the profession (Ingersoll, 2012).  This may be due to an inadequate college experience, high pressure demands they face early on and/or the limited amount of support they receive.  Within the Northport-East Northport School District, beginning teachers are all assigned a mentor and participate in the district mentoring program as mandated by New York State’s Commissioner’s Regulations.  Is the mentoring program effective? Is it improving teacher effectiveness, quality of instruction and enhancing student growth? I speculate that in and of itself, the answer would be no. 

It is important to remember that the craft, art and practice of teaching is a life-long process.  Hence, every new teacher should have the opportunity to be supported and mentored throughout the transition from being a student to an educator/employee. This can be done through the use of a beginning teacher induction program which is a component of a district’s professional development plan.  Mentoring is only a component of the induction program.  Induction is a system wide coherent comprehensive training and support process that continues for two to three years and then seamlessly becomes part of the lifelong professional development program of the district.  The goal is to keep new teachers teaching and improve their effectiveness.  According to an article written by Harry K. Wong, research studies that have used value-added student growth data have found that student achievement is influenced more by the teacher than classroom dynamics or the student-teacher ratio (Wong, 2004).  In addition, a research study conducted in Texas by Eric Hanushek, John Kain and Steven Rivkin showed the importance of having an effective teacher instead of an average teacher for 4 or 5 consecutive years could help close the gap in mathematical achievement amongst students from both low-income and high-income households (Wong, 2004).  It is crucial for school districts to help beginning teachers succeed early on and provide them with the necessary support to increase and improve their effectiveness. 

Mentoring programs are only effective if they are a component of an induction program and crafted in such a way that the mentors selected are of high quality; demonstrate a sincere willingness and dedication to the role of a mentor and to the success of the mentee.  An extensive training program to sensitize the mentor to some of the psycho-social needs of the mentee in addition to the obvious skills and techniques required as professional communication, classroom management and best practice is imperative.  Mentors must be assigned to mentees on their grade level and within their specified content area.  Time must be allocated each day for the mentor and the beginning teacher to meet.  Common planning time is imperative.  Mentors should be full time mentors and not full time teachers with a mentoring responsibility. Most importantly, mentoring should be part of the 2 or 3 year induction program  that all beginning teachers are required to participate in to enable them to become supported and effective early on in their career which will impact greatly on student growth and achievement.  


Bally, Debbie. The Purpose and Power of a Professional Learning Community

What role do Professional Learning Communities play in both teacher development and student learning?  Research shows a direct correlation between creating Professional Learning Communities and increased student achievement and meaningful teacher development. Professional Learning Communities move the focus from teaching to learning, which has profound implications for schools.  According to Richard DuFour, a Professional Learning Community is a simple paradigm shift.  A Professional Learning Community consists of a group of educators that focus on ensuring that all students learn the required curriculum and hold themselves accountable for the results.  Professional Learning Communities work diligently to create common assessments and common grading. They use data to drive instruction, ultimately improving student achievement.  They review and clarify learning goals and use formative assessments to monitor student progress.  They also discuss intervention plans for struggling students.

The following questions drive a Professional Learning Community:

  • What school practices have been most successful in helping all students achieve high levels?
  • What commitments would have to be made?
  • How would progress be monitored?
  • What do we want students to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has learned it?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
  • How will we respond when a student already knows it?

The findings show that when the students’ achievement improves, so does the collaborative culture.  They also show that Professional Learning Communities provide an ideal organizational structure.  Successful Professional Learning Communities consist of hard work and dedication.  The staff needs to hold themselves accountable and work collaboratively instead of in isolation.  Professional Learning Communities are a powerful form of professional development.  They allow the teachers to build on one another’s strengths by sharing methods, ideas and materials.  The findings clearly emphasize the importance of Professional Learning Communities in education today.  It is imperative that educators realize and understand the power and purpose of Professional Learning Communities as they relate to 21st century learning.


DePrima, David. How can Creating a Successful Life Skills Program on the Secondary Level Benefit a School District and the Students Involved?

When parents of children who have Autism, Downs Syndrome and other moderate to severe disabilities first hear their child’s diagnosis, many thoughts begin racing through their heads. What will my child do once we are gone?  How will they fend for themselves if I am not around? And, how do I insure they receive the right services so they can achieve their highest potential? That is a just a couple of the questions that parents of these children think about every minute of every day.  For many students with special needs, having practical life skills is essential to have a productive life.  As these students enter their middle and high school years, parents and teachers begin to plan for adult living, making sure that what these children learn will help them in the adult phase of life.  The need for an effective and successful life skills program is a topic that school districts across the country are paying close attention to.

I learned through my research the importance of teaching practical life skills to students with moderate to severe special needs.  These are essential in order for them to have a productive life once their time in school comes to an end.  When students begin their middle and high school years, the transition plan for life after school must be strategically planned and crafted by all of the stakeholders involved. The creation of an effective transition plan will alleviate some of the anxiety that sometimes is associated with this life phase change. The research showcases how different life skills/vocational programs on the secondary level across the country helps students to obtain functional job placement.  My findings also stress that keeping students with moderate to severe disabilities in district, instead of sending them to an out of district placement (i.e. BOCES), can only occur if the district is willing to properly train the staff, and provide a program the resources it needs to be successful.

The results that I obtained from my research will be presented to the Special Education Committee that has been created to design a life skills program on the secondary level to accommodate the individualized needs of students in the Deer Park community with moderate to severe disabilities These results showcase examples of how this type of program can enhance and maintain the quality education for students with specialized needs. My hope is that the school district integrates some of recommendations that I have outlined and continues to enhance the program.


Geis, James. Evaluating the Effects of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support
Despite research which established the ineffectiveness of using of aversive and exclusionary consequences in schools as a means of managing student behavior, these remain two common methods of discipline in schools. Furthermore, such consequences have been shown to be practiced discriminately on the basis of students’ race and special needs. School-wide positive behavior supports (SWPBS) is an alternate form of student behavior management that does not rely on aversive and exclusionary consequences. SWPBS has grown in popularity and described by the United Sates Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) as an “Idea that Works.” This paper addressed whether SWPBS are effective at managing student behavior.
In addressing the overall effectiveness of SWPBS, the paper assesses the effectiveness across grade levels and in dealing with students of various abilities. Several studies are examined in each grade level. Targeted interventions, Response to Intervention (RTI) initiatives, and other programs designed for students with special needs are also considered. Data reviews included out of school suspensions, office disciplinary reports, grade point averages, and parent, teacher, and student survey responses.
SWPBS demonstrated significant success at managing student behavior at every grade level, except pre-Kindergarten. SWPBS also proved to be effective with and inclusive of students with disabilities. Data did not establish strong links between SWPBS and improved student academic achievement. As SWPBS is such a wide spread range of interventions and subject to the needs of individual schools, identifying clear best practice proved difficult. However, target group interventions of specific locations, which were outside the classrooms, proved to be the most effective use of SWPBS.  Other commonly identified essential practices were teaching and enforcing positive behavior and using data to shape planning.


Hayes, Robert. Chronic Student Absenteeism; Causes and Intervention Strategies

Chronic absenteeism, commonly defined as missing 10% or more of school, is a problem faced by many public schools across the nation. Chronic absenteeism among public school students is a cause for concern and seems to be on the rise. Although once commonly thought of as a secondary school problem, chronic absenteeism of often first manifests in the elementary grades and can often go unnoticed. Frequently poor attendance patterns that are established in the primary grades will follow a student throughout their school career and even into adulthood. The increase in attendance problems has been associated with poor scores on achievement tests, particularly in math and English, as well as affecting high school dropout rates. Understanding the cause(s) of chronic absenteeism is necessary in order to develop strategies to correct it.
This study examines the complex issue of chronic absenteeism by first identifying the various causes of this problem and then examining several strategies that have be shown to help correct this behavior. Students who exhibit chronic absence problems are often referred to as “school-refusers”. School refusal behavior is complex and may be caused by a variety of factors such as: poverty, family factors, personality traits and poor social skills.  The “School Refusal Assessment Score” (SRAS) has shown promise in identifying the underlying reasons for student absenteeism. Once the cause(s) for chronic absenteeism have been identified, an intervention plan can be developed to remediate the problem. Several intervention strategies such as: family/school partnerships and contact with child welfare services have shown promise in correcting student attendance problems.


Jannotte , KerriAnn. Helping Students Start Over: Best Practices in Alternative Education.

When examining alternative education, many programs lack guidance and direction.  Roslyn Hilltop Academy opened its doors in September of 2008 with 12 students ranging in age from 13 to 18.  They established this program in order to provide their at-risk students with the opportunity to be successful without sending them to out of district placements. Although their program has had success, there is always room for improvement.  And while there is excellent guidance on the national level, very little support exists on the local or state level.  This means that programs are mostly left to their own devices.  Programs across the country are having success and all educators need to improve their understanding of how they are accomplishing that feat.  Teachers need to know what practices have demonstrated success with students enrolled in alternative programs. Access to data about successful methods would be a helpful resource to even the most experienced alternative educators.  The purpose of this study is to find out what alternative education practices successfully impact student achievement.  Questions that this paper will answer include the following: What intervention strategies have proven successful in alternative education programs? What practices are utilized successfully in alternative education?  Studies have shown that alternative education has a positive effect on at-risk students.  There are practices that educators have used successfully.  How that information is shared in order to provide the best educational experience possible without wasting time on strategies that don’t work is extremely important.  This study is an examination of articles and information regarding successful practices in alternative education.  The expected findings for this study will provide a better understanding of alternative education as well as a list of common characteristics of successful alternative programs, best practices, techniques and strategies that have shown to have success with at-risk students.  The research shows that there are many shared characteristics of successful alternative programs including small size, structured environments, effective teachers and high expectations.  Most of these strategies can be implemented easily in a variety of different alternative settings.


Matzen, Margaret. Does The Classroom and School Building Environment Affect Student Performance and Achievement?

School districts across our country, as well as my own district, are under pressure to improve student achievement.  In order to accomplish this my school district is analyzing data gathered from NYS assessments, matching curriculum with the new Common Core Standards, and monitoring results of intervention services.  Two questions arise from these things: Is studying data and changing curriculum the only way to improve student performance and achievement? And, are there other things that impact students that have nothing to do with assessments and curriculum?  These two questions spurred me to look into how the classroom and school building environment impacts students.  The focus of this paper is to do just that.
To assess whether classroom and school building environment has any impact on how a student performs and achieves,  I had to first find out what elements make up a building and classroom environment.  As I learned, there are many factors that need to be considered when assessing the classroom and school building environment.  The ones I chose to research are: overall age and physical condition of a school building, color of the building and classroom, temperature, lighting, and school culture. 

The results of my research show that all aspects that comprise a classroom and school building have an effect on how students will perform and achieve.  The studies indicate that changing the color a classroom is painted can help reduce glare and increase student’s ability to focus.  When the lighting is changed to full-spectrum bulbs improvement in attendance,  productivity, and an increase in test scores were noted.  Being able to control the temperature in a classroom to optimal levels of between 68 and 70 degrees helps students learn and be more productive.  Increasing the temperature to just 75 degrees reduces productivity by 15%.
The results of my writing project will be presented to a task force that is looking into ways for my district to boost student performance and achievement.  The outcomes of the studies speak for themselves, and it is my hope that making some of the recommended changes will occur.


McGinn, Michael. Structuring a Parental Involvement Program

This study was an examination of the problem of parental involvement at a northeast suburban middle school, in a diverse community with a high ELL and immigrant population and low socioeconomic population.  Middle schools often strive to increase parent involvement.  The school has been attempting to increase the levels of parent involvement for over ten years.  While some strategies have proven successful at increasing involvement, the school has hit a plateau and has not yet achieved the levels they would like. This paper examines factors that have been identified in current literature and that have been proven to act as barriers to the successful implementation of parental involvement programs.  The paper then seeks to find strategies that have proven effective in other schools, so the school can examine their effectiveness and modify them to meet the needs of the local community.

The research points to many subtle factors that are often missed by school committees seeking to improve the rate of parental involvement.  Schools often fail to take into account the perceptions of all stakeholders and often plans are initiated by a group of teachers and administrator without considering the actual culture and needs of other stakeholders.  Parents, students, and school staff members often have varying perceptions regarding students and the role of parental involvement.  Planning committees need to include these stakeholders in the development of the program, after researching the specific needs of the school community.  Parents are generally more concerned about the social and emotional wellbeing of their children than the academics. Parents are more concerned with the individual than with the class or school. Discrepancies in parent and teacher perceptions decrease parents’ willingness to be involved. Students perceive most teacher behavior as monitoring, even when it is more akin to parental support.  Once these areas are addressed a school should look to the research to identify strategies that would be effective. 

An examination of research points to several strategies that would be appropriate for our school:

  • Parent focus groups to help identify the unique needs of the parents
  • Professional development that increased awareness of cultural attitudes about parent involvement
  • Providing meaningful roles for parents within the school
  • Scheduling activities in a flexible manner and providing child care services
  • Social support services for families, parental workshops

Other schools should be careful to not simply adopt a list of strategies.  The research points out many nuanced factors that will vary greatly, even among schools within a district.  Each school needs to identify strategies that will be effective for them, using information gleaned from research into all stakeholder groups.


Murphy, Bradley. Do K-12 School Facilities Affect Student Achievement?

With most schools in the United States approaching their golden anniversary, many school buildings are beginning to deteriorate and are not able to facilitate learning in an effective manner congruent with national standards. School districts all over the country spend many hours on professional development for the teachers, the same care and attention provided for these teachers should be provided for the building facility. Through the use of research questions a determination whether school facilities impact learning will be discovered.

  • What factors make a school facility better for learning?
  • Do better facilities affect student achievement in the K-12 environment?

In reviewing all of the sources in my paper, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that the research agrees with my hypothesis that better facilities do in fact facilitate learning in a more effective way. The research was framed in such a way to examine the questions above from multiple perspectives. Sources are examined from the perspective of teachers, administrators, students, and various other stakeholders within a school. One of the most significant sources that was used in this paper and that I found the most interesting to read was Earthman's prioritization of 31 criteria for school building adequacy. This paper broke down each individual element of a school building and placed it into an order of priority. Using Earthman's criteria as a guide, secondary sources as well as primary sources were used to identify and explore specified criteria, and their effect on student achievement. Acousticians, HVAC manufacturers, school designers, architects, school administration, and students are represented in the research as well as other stakeholders in a community.


Presti, Patrick. Teacher Effectiveness and the use of Technology to Improve Student Learning Outcomes

“Engineering” activities play an important role in early technology education. In the Northport-East Northport UFSD, there are several teachers in the middle school that teach intensively using various computer applications whereas there are several teachers that use no computer applications at all during their instruction.  One particular unit of focus is the 7th grade Tower/Bridge Unit.  The tower unit goes into great detail about the purpose and different designs incorporated with towers and bridges.  With most technology education units, there is usually a theory section as well as a hands-on project section.  Within the theory section, students will learn of the forces and loads that bridges/towers encounter, materials used for the construction, different types of towers/bridges, and what purposes towers/bridges serve.  My research questions were: Does technology used in the classroom for a 7th grade Tower Construction unit significantly improve a students’ learning outcome and improve teacher effectiveness?  Do Microsoft PowerPoint presentations increase the students’ learning outcome of the course material presented to them?
After completing this area of research, the findings indicated the instructional technologies used in this study did not significantly improve the students’ learning outcome of the information presented to them. Instructing the students with state of the art instructional technology and educational resources did boost the students’ learning experience but did not significantly alter how the students learn the instructional content being taught to them during a bridge/tower unit.


Seebach, Christine. Guided Reading Best Practices in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

What are Guided Reading best practices in Teaching English to speakers of other languages? This research paper synthesizes sources of Guided Reading (GR) best practices in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The literature on GR in TESOL is limited. It is possible that teachers of English as a Second Language do not have a background in teaching reading. While researching the topic one can see that TESOL, or Second Language Acquisition (SLA techniques must be interwoven with GR methods. In reading articles on GR and TESOL, and related instructional practices we gather GR can be quiet effective in the instruction of Limited English Proficient (LEP)/ English Language Learners (ELLs) when it is modified to suit an ELL’s English proficiency level, and more specifically his or her reading level. Research shows best practices under the GR subtopics of: Teacher Preparation, Choosing Materials, Learning Environment, Pre Guided Reading, During Guided Reading, and Post Guided Reading. The learning environment a teacher creates for GR must be a structured, comfortable community that encourages dialogue about texts. Making students believe they are academically able are common motifs in research on GR with ELLs. Literature on Pre-reading in TESOL stresses building on students’ background knowledge, and introducing new vocabulary and language structures. The main focus is on comprehension strategies during reading. Using images to connect meaning and make connections to the text is a valuable practice as well. (Bouchereau Bauer & Arazi, 2011)Post-reading best practices for ELLs involve retelling, Cloze activities, and open-ended comprehension questions. Explicit instruction is crucial in modified GR for ELLs. Modified Guided Reading (MGR) practices in TESOL enhance the SLA process and manifest all four traditional modes of language; speaking, listening, reading, and writing. (Avalos, Plasencia, Chavez, & Rascon, 2007)We are told that teachers must demonstrate meaningful reading habits such as immediate feedback, and explicitly highlighting content-area vocabulary and text style. Through modified GR for ELLs, teachers’ best practices will easily align with the newer New York State Teaching Standards. Several studies and professional observations have been examined to gain insight in creating a menu of GR best practices for TESOL. SLA studies site Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Literature on GR best practices gives mention of Vygotsky’s ZPD as well. Those in the SLA field have made parallel connections to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (i+1) and Vygotsky’s ZPD both describe a learner will acquire language/ information when they are exposed to input a level above their current skills set. ZPD and i+1 connect to the idea of scaffolding during TESOL lessons. (Shabani, Khatib, & Ebadi, 2010) Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is another effective instructional best practice that overlaps in GR and SLA findings. (Echevarria, Short, & Powers, School Reform and Standars-Based Education: A Model for English Language Learners, 2006) I have organized a menu of Guided Reading Instructional Best Practices in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages.


Weil, Hallie. The Benefits and Drawbacks of Middle School Advisory Programs

Middle School R is a suburban middle school, located in Suffolk County, Long Island, which houses approximately 750 students in grades 6-8. In recent years, Middle School R has experienced heightened suspension rates, particularly among male students in grades 7 and 8. Middle School R needs to develop a program, such as advisory, that will reach at risk students and improve their overall connection to school, thereby decreasing the frequency of disciplinary referrals and subsequent suspensions. Research Questions: What is an advisory program and what purpose does it serve? What are the social, emotional, and academic benefits of advisory, and what are the drawbacks of attempting to implement such a program? What are some possible models for advisory?

Findings:  Advisory programs are targeted towards easing the transition from elementary school to middle school by providing each student with a trained adult in the building who will act as their advocate, and facilitate regularly scheduled meetings amongst the members of their advisory group.  Advisory personalizes the middle school experience and helps to ensure that students do not slip through the cracks.  They often provide opportunities for character education and allow students to voice their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about middle school life.  There are numerous social, emotional, and academic benefits to middle school advisory programs.  Socially, advisory encourages communication and relationship building, both between students and amongst students and staff.  Emotionally, advisory helps students to build self-confidence, and provides them with a sense of safety and acceptance that they may not feel at home.  Academically, advisory has been shown to improve grades, reduce dropout rates, improve teacher-parent communication, and improve discipline.  There are quite a few drawbacks to advisory as well, including teacher resistance due to increased workload and insufficient inclusion in the planning process, as well as poor planning and development, which can confuse both advisors and advisees.  For an advisory program to be effective, it must be implemented over time with a great deal of input from the teachers who will be involved.  There are many different models when it comes to advisory, and variations in frequency and duration of meetings, group size, meeting time, and grouping of students.  Middle School R could greatly reduce suspension rates and improve the overall culture of their school through the implementation of an advisory program.



Contact Information

For program information contact: 
Dr. Robert Moraghan
205 Harriman Hall
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3779
Telephone: 631.632.7702
Fax: 631.632.9487

For application procedure questions contact:
EDL Admissions
N-241 Social & Behavioral Sciences
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4310
Telephone: 631.632.7078
Fax: 631.632.2590

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