Quantitative gender research Essay

Methodology

            This study on the academic performance of students as influenced by the gender of the school superintendent aims to demonstrate that there is a difference in the management and leadership of female superintendents from their male counterparts. However, this difference is yet to be examined if it translates into academic outcomes such as performance in state tests (Cudeiro, 2005). The present study will compare the achievement test scores of students from different schools and they will be grouped according to the gender of the school superintendent.

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            Feminist theory had always expounded that gender differences exists because of the social roles that women and men are expected to play (Laslitt, Joeres, Maynes, Higginbotham &  Barker-Nunn, 1997).

In addition, since, males and female differ in almost all aspects of social functioning, it is expected that they also have different leadership styles. Female leaders had been found to focus more on relationships and in promoting a sense of kinship and cooperation among her members. On the other hand, male leaders often put emphasis on performance, goals and processes (Laslitt, Joeres, Maynes, Higginbotham &  Barker-Nunn, 1997). This study would provide evidence of gender differences of schools superintendents as measured by student achievement.

            Learning theories on the other hand have recommended that learning is best facilitated in a nurturing and supportive environment, where students are encouraged to learn and mistakes are considered as a necessary component of learning. Moreover, reinforcing positive behaviors such as studying would also lead to better learning and probably to higher achievement and aptitude test scores (Cudeiro, 2005). However, males and females have the capacity to be both nurturing and provide positive learning environments for their students, because as teachers, they have the responsibility to teach regardless of gender. This study attempts to determine whether the gender of school superintendents influences student achievement.

            This chapter presents and discusses the research design, participants, data collection and analysis of the data. The discussion will provide a description of how, when and where the data for this study will be gathered. The chapter also discusses the threats to internal and external validity and the ethical considerations of the study.

Research Method

            This study on the influence of gender of school superintendents to student achievement will be adopting the quantitative approach. Quantitative methods are appropriate when the object of the study is to determine relationships, cause and effect, predictions and to test assumptions and theories (Hunter & Leahey, 2008). Since the present study is concerned with finding evidences of the possible influence of gender to student achievement, then the quantitative method is the most suitable approach. The quantitative tradition is in accordance with positivism where knowledge is gained from scientific, objective and measurable phenomena. Moreover, quantitative methods presuppose the use of quantifiable and measurable data that will be analyzed using statistical tools and reduce the research problem to a set of mathematical constructs and values (Mitchell & Jolley, 2004).

            This study will be using test scores of students across the state, which lends itself well to statistical analysis, measuring student achievement had been traditionally done by subjecting students to standardized achievement tests. Student achievement had been conceptualized as the performance of students in a task that measures their learning, knowledge and skills in a given subject (Shadish,  Cook & Campbell, 2002). The present study will assume that student achievement scores are indicative of the learning of students. Thus, finding out any difference in achievement scores across the gender of superintendents would indicate that gender is associated with an increase or a decrease in student achievement scores.

Research Design

            This quantitative study of the influence of gender to student achievement will be a comparative study since it aims to compare the student achievement scores of students by gender of superintendents. The comparative design is suitable for studies that aim to identify and compare differences of two or more groups (Cohen, 2007). Comparative designs are concerned with finding out the differences and similarities of the variables being studied in order to identify its causes (Faure, 1994). In the present study, comparing the student achievement scores of students according to superintendent’s gender will identify whether gender is the cause of the difference. In the event that no differences will be demonstrated, then gender of superintendents does not influence student achievement.

Research Questions

1. Was there a difference in student achievement for students in Georgia School districts led by female superintendents compared to districts led by male superintendents as measured by the mean 11th grade Math percent passing score of the 2008 Georgia High School Graduation Test?

2. Was there a difference in student achievement for students in Georgia School districts led by female superintendents compared to districts led by male superintendents as measured by the mean 11th grade Language Arts percent passing score of the 2008 Georgia High School Graduation Test?

3. Was there a difference in student achievement for students in Georgia School districts led by female superintendents compared to districts led by male superintendents as measured by the mean 2008 Scholastic Aptitude Test for all subjects tested?

Participants

            The participants of the study will be 11th grade students in the school districts of Georgia for school year 2008. No personally identifiable information from the students will be gathered. Only their Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and High School Graduation Test scores will be accessed from the Department of Education website of Georgia. The superintendents of all the school districts of Georgia will also be included as participants of the study. The superintendents’ assigned school district, gender and length of service in that particular district will also be gathered through the Department of Education.

            Although length of service will not be a variable in this study, it is collected to satisfy the assumption that it would take 3 to 5 years for a superintendent to institute changes in his or her district thereby ensuring that the superintendent have really contributed to the learning of the students in his or her district (Chliwniak, 1995). The 11th grade students are chosen as participants of the study since they have completed the required subjects and have benefited from 11 or more years of schooling.

            In order to match the number of male and female superintendents, all the school districts with female superintendents will be included in the study, while a random sampling of male supervised school districts to match the number of female superintendents will be done to come up with an even number of male and female superintendents (Shadish,  Cook & Campbell, 2002). In addition, the test scores of the students for the identified districts will also be inspected to make sure that it will not be too large or too small to cause anomalies in the statistical analysis (Cohen, 2007).

            Due to the specific grade level and administrator position of the participants of the study, the sample of participants will be determined through purposeful sampling (Cohen, 2007). Moreover, the samples of participants are already part of a department database, and then captive sampling will be used in the study.

Instruments/Measures

            The variables in this study are the gender of school superintendents and the test score of 11th grade students in the school districts of Georgia for school year 2008. Both variables will be taken from the Department of Education website of the state of Georgia. The website has a section that lists the names and contact information of superintendents of school districts of the state. The names could be used to identify the gender, however, for accuracy; the information will be verified through personal correspondence to the Department of Education.

            The student test scores are also available in the state’s website and can be accessed publicly as it is open to the public. Thus, there will be no need to identify the individual test scores. However, permission from the Department of Education will be obtained to use the published data and to acknowledge the validity and accuracy of the said data.

Georgia High School Graduation Test

            The Georgia High School Graduation Test was designed to measure the strengths and weaknesses of 11th grade and graduating students in high school. The tests assess the knowledge and skills of students in four different content areas to determine if the student is ready for graduation and has mastered the skills required for a high school diploma. The students take the test the first time during 11th grade and must pass all the subtests; English language arts, math, science and social studies. A student who does not pass the test may repeat the test after further instruction and review until all tests are passed before the graduation from high school.

Scholastic Aptitude Test

            The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is an admission test used to measure the verbal and mathematical skills of high school graduates. SAT scores are used by colleges and universities across the country to identify the strengths and weaknesses of incoming college freshmen. The SAT has a score of 200 to 800. The SAT is administered by the Educational Testing Services during the year and is compulsory for most states and high school graduating students.

Procedure

            This study on the comparison of student achievement according to gender of district superintendents will be using existing data from the Department of Education database, which is available to the public. Before the data gathering, the researcher will contact the administrator of the department of education website and inform them of the purpose and aim of the study and the use of their data (see Appendix A) (Mitchell & Jolley, 2004), also the same letter will be requesting the names and gender of the superintendents of all the school districts of the state of Georgia. The researcher will ask the department of education of Georgia a letter of endorsement indicating that permission has been given to use the data and that the department can vouch for the accuracy of the said data.

            The researcher will then access student test scores and will only collect the scores from the identified school district. The scores from the High School Graduation Test in math and language arts and the Scholastic Aptitude test of the state for school year 2008 will be collected together with the gender of the superintendents for each school district. The scores for the three tests will be categorized into two, male superintendents and female superintendents. Each of the scores on the tests for each group will be collated and entered into SPSS (v.17) for statistical analysis. The results of which will then be analyzed and discussed in the light of existing literature and studies.

Data Analysis

            The statistical program that will be used in the study is the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 17 (SPSS v.17).  All the test scores will be entered into the programs variable sheet and statistical operations will be run using the gathered test scores. Since this study will test the difference of two groups, the appropriate statistical tool is the independent t-test since the groups are independent from each other and there are no repeated measures. The independent t-test is used to compare and find the difference of two groups in order to establish cause and effect (Mitchell & Jolley, 2004). If the t-test would yield significant difference, then this difference can be attributed to the variable with which the groups are being compared to. In this study, gender of the superintendents will be the categorical variable and the test scores of students from schools with male superintendents and schools with female superintendents will be compared.

            Three t-tests will be carried out in this study, the first would be the t-test between the math scores in the Georgia High School Graduation test, and the second t-test would be for the language arts scores in the same test. The third t-test would be for the scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The results of which would indicate whether there is statistically significant differences among the test scores, and will also indicate the influence of gender on student achievement. All of the t-tests will be carried out at .05 level of significance (Cohen, 2007).

Ethical Considerations

            This study of the influence of gender of superintendents to student achievement will be using secondary data that has been published in accordance with accountability measures. However, in keeping with ethical standards in the conduct of research with human participants, and respect for copyright of the published data (Mitchell & Jolley, 2004), permission to use the test scores of the 11th grade students in Georgia will be sought from the department of education. The gender of the school superintendents will also be sourced from the department of education and although the superintendents will have no direct participation in this study, their identity will be known and their assignments in the district will be accessed as part of the study. Therefore, appropriate permission from the state department of education. The information gathered will be kept in strict confidence and will be destroyed after 3 years.

            Only the gender of the superintendents will be figured into the analysis of this study, however, the comparison of male and female superintendents in terms of student achievement may have ethical issues since any differences would indicate a limitation of the leadership and management of the schools. In addition, would therefore create an unwarranted competition between male and female superintendents, which this study does not aim to accomplish but rather to demonstrate that gender may be an influencing factor in the performance of students.

Validity

            Quantitative studies lend itself well to generalizations since the results can be applicable to the larger population. However, there are internal and external threats to validity, which should be given attention to strengthen the results of the study. Internal threats to validity refer to the manner in which the study has been conducted and whether the measured effects are caused by the variable (Schneider, Carnoy, Kilpatrick, Schmidt,& Shavelson, 2007). The study will be using test scores, which may have been affected by maturation, testing, and selection of subjects. In order to address such threats, the sample of test scores will be large in that all school districts that have robust available data will be included in the study while districts, which have large gaps in the data in the three tests, will not be included. Also, the number of male and female superintendents will be matched in order to have an equal number for each group thereby controlling for the possible effects of unequal groups. The larger the sample size, the more it is representative of the true population (Shadish,  Cook & Campbell, 2002). Another consideration is that the effect of gender may not solely account for the difference in the comparison of test scores, which is why three test scores will be used in the study, for better consistency and validity.

            The external threats to validity refer to the ability of the findings of the present study to generalize to the wider population. Threats to external validity include interaction effect and treatment effects (Cohen, 2007). This study will be using the test scores of 11th grade students of the school districts of Georgia. Since there is a large proportion of students in the state and are composed of different socioeconomic status, race and family background, then it could be said that the sample is quite robust and representative of the 11th grade population in the state and even in the country. However, the number of male and female superintendents is quite smaller compared to the students, and this study has not benchmarked on the population of school superintendents in the country, thus generalizations in this aspect should be done with caution. Moreover, there will be no treatment effect since the study does not subject the participants to any laboratory or experimental conditions. However, the act of subjecting the data to statistical analysis may be construed as a treatment effect, but the chances of this occurring is very small (Schneider, Carnoy, Kilpatrick, Schmidt,& Shavelson, 2007).

Summary

            This study of the influence of gender of the school superintendents to student achievement will be a comparative quantitative study. The variables of the study will be gender of the school superintendents and student achievement as measured by the Georgia High School Graduation test and the Scholastic Aptitude tests of Grade 11 students during school year 2008. The data will be collected from the department of education website while appropriate permissions and ethical standards will be observed. Confidentiality of the data will be protected and personal information will not be used in the analysis of the study. In order to compare the two groups; schools with male superintendents and schools with female superintendents, the independent t-test will be used to determine the difference between two groups. The study will be using three test scores in order to check for consistency of the differences to strengthen the possibility that gender is the cause of such differences.

References

Chliwniak, L. (1995). Higher education leadership: Analyzing the gender gap. ASHE- ERIC Higher Education Report, 25(4). Washington, DC: George Washington University.

Cohen, L. (2007). Research methods in education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 55, 9.

Cudeiro, A. (2005). Leading student achievement: a study finds superintendents affecting instructional gains through their strong relationships with principals. School Administrator, 62(11), 19.

Faure, A. (1994).  Some methodological problems in comparative politics. Journal of Theoretical Politics,  6(3), 307-322.

Hunter, L. & Leahey., E. (2008). Collaborative research in sociology: Trends and contributing factors.  American Sociologist, 39, 290–306.

Laslitt, B., Joeres, R., Maynes, M.J., Higginbotham, E.B., &  Barker-Nunn, T. (1997). History and theory: Feminist research, debates, contestations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mitchell, M. L. & Jolley, J. M. (2004). Research design explained 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Schneider, B., Carnoy, M., Kilpatrick, J. Schmidt, W. H., & Shavelson, R. J. (2007). Estimating causal effects using experimental and observational designs: A think tank white paper. Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association.

Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

 

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