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The Prevalence of Developmental Instruction in Public and Catholic Schools


by Sean P. Kelly - 2010

Background/Context: Prior research has investigated differences in course-taking patterns and achievement growth in public and Catholic schools, but the nature of instruction in Catholic schools is currently understudied. One important dimension of instruction that impacts student engagement is the prevalence of developmental or student-centered instruction.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The overall goal of the present study was to investigate whether student and teacher reports of developmental instruction differ in public and Catholic schools. In addition, is a teacher’s approach to instruction shaped by the social context of the school, as measured by the teacher’s perception of her students? Finally, can differences in the social context of schools explain reported differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools?

Population, Participants/Subjects: Data for this analysis came from the Chicago School Study, a large longitudinal study of public and Catholic schools in the Chicago area.

Research Design: The prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools was analyzed using three student-reported measures of developmental instruction and one teacher-reported measure. Multilevel regression models were used to investigate the relationship between four potential predictors of developmental instruction—teachers’ perceptions of challenging instruction, teachers’ expectations of students’ future educational attainment, teachers’ knowledge of their students’ cultural backgrounds, and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction—and teacher reports of developmental instruction.

Conclusions: Catholic school teachers and students were less likely to report the use of developmental instruction than public school teachers and students. This finding was particularly striking given Catholic school teachers’ high expectations for their students’ future educational attainments, a factor that was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting developmental methods in the classroom.

In Bryk, Lee, and Holland’s (1993) seminal book on schooling in public and Catholic high schools, they argued there were large sector differences on two important dimensions: (1) the amount of academic course taking (i.e., nonremedial courses in the core academic subjects as opposed to elective, vocational, or remedial courses, including, e.g., geometry and trigonometry) and (2) the prevalence of a shared commitment among faculty to promoting school community, a so-called commitment to “the common good” for everyone involved. However, when actual classroom instruction was observed by Bryk et al., the instructional approach taken in Catholic schools seemed rather ordinary, or traditional in “format, setting, use of materials, and pedagogy” (1993, p. 99).  For example, the authors found that Catholic school classroom work was “largely textbook driven” and that “lecturing was a common mode of delivery” (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993, p. 309). The nature of instruction in Catholic schools, or faith-based schools more generally, is currently understudied (Grace, 2003). Accordingly, the present research sought to contribute to this limited body of work by examining differences between Catholic and public schools in the prevalence of “developmental” (Metz, 1978) or student-centered instruction (Cuban, 1993), wherein students’ own ideas occupy a more prominent role in the classroom.


It is my position that educational researchers should be concerned with the social processes that lead teachers to adopt a developmental approach and with the consequences that approach has on students’ experiences in the classroom. As an innovation, developmental instruction is hypothesized to affect both the overall level of engagement within a classroom (Metz, 1978) as well as the distribution of student engagement (Kelly, 2007). Because of the link between student engagement and achievement growth, developmental instruction may have powerful effects on student achievement growth.  Research has documented the importance of particular expressions of developmental instruction, such as classroom discourse that values student ideas (Gamoran & Kelly, 2003; Gamoran & Nystrand, 1992; Nystrand, 1997) and interactive methods of instruction (Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, & Shernoff, 2003; Uekawa, Borman, & Lee, 2007).  


The goal of the present study was to investigate differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools and to begin to identify how the social context of schools affects the adoption of a developmental approach. Specifically, the study addressed the following questions: (1) How do student and teacher reports of developmental instruction differ across school sector? (2) How is a teacher’s approach to instruction shaped by the social context of the school, as measured by the teacher’s perception of her students? and (3) Can differences in the social context of schools explain reported differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction across school sector?


PRIOR RESEARCH ON CATHOLIC SCHOOLS


COURSE TAKING/ACADEMIC PRESS


Perhaps the most robust existing finding on the difference between public and Catholic schools concerns the high level of academic course taking in Catholic schools. Levels of academic course taking appear to vary from school to school, and this variance cannot be entirely explained by differences in the academic readiness of students (Hallinan, 1992). Schools with a high proportion of students enrolled in academic courses (college-preparatory courses in the core academic subjects of English, mathematics, science, and social studies) have an “inclusive” approach to course taking (Sorensen, 1970). Inclusive in this sense refers to the inclusion of students who might otherwise be enrolled in a low-track curriculum with little rigorous academic content. Inclusive course taking is one dimension of “academic press,” a school’s overall normative emphasis on academic excellence (Lee & Smith, 1999; McDill, Natriello, & Pallas, 1986). The amount of academic course taking in Catholic schools appears pronounced indeed. Bryk et al. (1993) reported that, in the High School and Beyond (HS&B) data from 1982, the average high school student took 3.19 academic math courses in Catholic schools, but only 2.07 in public schools, a difference of over a year of coursework.1 That gap is attributable both to the fact that more Catholic school students are in the “academic” rather than the “general” track (72% of students reported being in the academic track in Catholic schools vs. 38% for public schools in the HS&B data) and that general-track students in Catholic schools took more academic courses, especially in mathematics, than similar public school students. Subsequent research examining transcript files from HS&B and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) database has supported the findings on course taking differences across school sectors (Kelly, 2004; Lee, Chow-Hoy, Burkham, Geverdt, & Smerdon, 1998).


ACHIEVEMENT GROWTH


Early research on sector effects using cross-sectional data from the HS&B study found large disparities in achievement between public and Catholic schools (Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982). Moreover, disadvantaged students did relatively better in Catholic schools than in public schools, a finding labeled the “common school effect” to reflect the improved schooling outcomes of minority students (Greeley, 1982). Subsequent research using the longitudinal HS&B follow-up data to compare rates of achievement growth in public and Catholic schools found that Catholic school students do learn more, and disadvantaged students experience an even greater benefit from attending Catholic schools, but the effect size was not as large as previously thought (Alexander & Pallas, 1985; Jencks, 1985; Willms, 1985). Subsequent research confirmed a modest Catholic school achievement growth advantage in high school (Gamoran, 1996; Hoffer, 1998; Morgan, 2001; Sander, 1996), but the results are more equivocal in early elementary school (Carbonaro, 2006; Jepsen, 1999). The Catholic school advantage in achievement growth is generally small and inconsistent across subject matter and grade level (McEwan, 2000). The most robust achievement difference between public and Catholic schools is the Catholic school advantage in mathematics, especially among low-track students, which can be traced directly to the higher rates of advanced mathematics course taking in Catholic schools (Bryk et al., 1993; Gamoran, 1996). However, this advantage may have diminished in recent years, as course-taking requirements in public schools have increased (Hoffer, 1998).


SCHOOL ETHOS: “THE COMMITMENT TO THE COMMON GOOD”


In addition to high levels of achievement growth, a strong academic press and emphasis on inclusive course taking are indicative of the ethos of Catholic schools, the “enduring values and character of the school community” (Grant, 1988, p. 172). Inclusive course taking in any school may reflect the existence of a normative belief that all students benefit from rigorous instruction and that low- and regular-track students do not necessarily differ in their capabilities, but rather simply in their current level of knowledge and skills. Bryk et al. (1993) argued that, not only is such a normative belief common in Catholic schools, but that it is also part of a larger school ethos characterized by a commitment to the common good. Bryk et al. considered several dimensions as defining a commitment to the common good: the amount of consensus among faculty about a school’s purpose, beliefs about the ability of students to learn, the amount of collegial interaction among teachers, and teachers’ involvement in their students’ lives outside of formal class time.2 On survey measures of these constructs, Bryk et al. found very large differences among Catholic and public school teachers. Catholic schools scored almost two standard deviations higher than public schools on their composite measure of a commitment to the common good (Bryk et al., 1993, Table 11.4). Similarly, Bempechat, Boulay, Piergross, and Wenk (2008) found that Catholic school students reported high levels of teacher caring. In the school studied, this took the form of high levels of personal attention and rigorous academic expectations. The result may be that low-achieving students in Catholic schools develop an approach to learning that emphasizes positive motivational attributions of success and failure in school and fosters individual effort (Bempechat, Drago-Severson, & Boulay, 2002). Hallinan (2008) found relatively modest differences between public and Catholic schools on student reports of teacher caring and praise, with Catholic school students reporting slightly higher levels of teacher caring and slightly less teacher praise. In general, research on the ethos of Catholic schools and teacher–student interaction is consistent with survey findings on achievement growth among low-achieving students and inclusive course-taking patterns in Catholic schools.


THE NATURE OF INSTRUCTION IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS


In addition to their quantitative analyses of the HS&B data, Bryk et al. (1993) also collected data from seven “good” Catholic high schools in six U.S. cities.3 Over 10 to 12 days, they interviewed parents, students, and school staff; collected documentation; and observed classroom instruction in 57 classrooms. In contrast to the remarkable commitment to the common good, the instruction they observed seemed rather “ordinary” (Bryk et al., 1993, p. 99, 309). While students were generally on-task, the instruction was not very lively and focused more on passive transmission of information rather than active engagement. For example, student-led discussion and cooperative work among students in small groups were uncommon, and classroom discussions had a recitation quality (pp. 91-92). Unfortunately though, researchers have not followed up on Bryk et al.’s impressions of instruction in Catholic schools. In order to understand the effects of school sector on student outcomes, it is necessary to consider not only the social organization of schools (including course-taking patterns) and school ethos, but also the nature of instruction in Catholic schools. This analysis began such an inquiry, using Metz’s (1978) conceptual framework of “incorporative” versus “developmental” instruction.


DEVELOPMENTAL VERSUS INCORPORATIVE INSTRUCTION


For incorporative or teacher-centered teachers, the task of teaching entails transmitting an existing body of knowledge and skills to students. There are two important and interrelated dimensions to this perspective (Metz, 1978). First, the incorporative teacher believes the authority to make decisions on both what a student is to learn and how it is to be learned resides solely with the teacher. Second, in selecting a method and style of instruction, incorporative teachers emphasize classroom order as an important instrumental goal because an orderly classroom is a necessary prerequisite in achieving coverage of material. Incorporative instruction is often seen as “traditional,” evoking images of desks bolted to the floor. Indeed, in Cuban’s (1993) study of the history of teaching practices in the U.S., he often used classroom photos as evidence of the presence of teacher-centered instruction.


For teachers that adopt a developmental or student-centered perspective, fostering student engagement is seen as the fundamental challenge in a classroom. Rather than focusing on content coverage and maintaining order, developmental teachers direct their energies towards cultivating interest, concentration, and effort, under the assumption that students must be engaged in order for achievement growth to occur (Fredericks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Kelly, 2008; Newmann, 1992). Students are presumed to be eager to learn, but teachers have to compete for the attention of young children and adolescents, among whom engagement can never be taken as a given. The developmental teacher cedes some authority to students, allowing them to have input in what will be learned, tailoring material to students’ interests, in hopes that they will engage in the material (Metz, 1978). The developmental teacher sees learning as a self-directed process (Metz, 1978; Pace & Hemmings, 2007; Silberman, 1970) and the classroom as a place where student ideas are taken seriously (Gamoran & Nystrand, 1992). An orderly classroom is good, but not if it is achieved at the expense of engagement. Thus, the developmental teacher typically has fewer classroom rules, and rules might be based on general principals of action rather than specific behaviors to avoid (Metz, 1978). Of course, the distinction between developmental and incorporative teachers refers to ideal types, which are intended to articulate the essence of teachers’ varying perspectives on authority; individual teachers do not necessarily fall neatly into one category or the other (Metz, 1978, p. 35). Moreover, while the teachers’ approach to maintaining classroom order is an important part of Metz’s (1978) typology, the present study focused primarily on the incorporation of students’ interests and ideas into instruction as an indicator of developmental instruction.


POTENTIAL SOURCES OF VARIATION IN THE PREVALENCE OF DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION ACROSS SCHOOL SECTOR


Bryk et al.’s (1993) description of instruction in Catholic schools as “ordinary” may be indicative of the adoption of a predominantly incorporative approach to instruction by Catholic teachers. One potential source of a lower frequency of developmental instruction in Catholic schools may be a “conservative inertia” in the Catholic teaching workforce. However, there is also reason to believe that the high average achievement level of the student body in Catholic schools and the greater cultural congruence between Catholic teachers and their students may actually lead to higher levels of developmental instruction in Catholic schools.


A CONSERVATIVE INERTIA


Educational theorists have argued that teaching is inherently a conservative profession; teachers do what they know and have experienced, which often equates to an incorporative or teacher-centered approach (Cuban, 1993; Lortie, 1975). One reason for this conservative inertia may be that, in the absence of objective standards of professional success, teachers adopt a conservative approach to insulate themselves from outside criticism and from their own uncertainties about how to teach (Lortie, 1975). Teachers may also adopt a conservative approach in an attempt to conserve energy; innovation requires time resources that many teachers simply do not have (Cuban, 1993). The notion of teaching as a conservative profession suggests that teachers will be most likely to adopt a developmental approach if they are trained to do so, either in a school of education or by their colleagues and mentors (Grossman, 1990).


One source of differences between public and Catholic schools then might be traced to patterns of teacher recruitment. If student-centered teaching initiatives were more likely to be advanced in public schools and if Catholic school teachers are drawn from the ranks of Catholic school students, there is little reason to suspect that student-centered approaches to instruction would have developed in Catholic schools. In these data, the majority (62%) of Catholic school teachers attended Catholic schools for their own education. Moreover, Catholic school teachers as a group exhibit lower levels of professionalization than public school teachers; they are less likely to have full state certification, less likely to have graduated from a state-approved teacher education program, less likely to have a college major or minor in the field to be taught, and less likely to have passed national, state, or local teachers’ examinations (Schaub, 2000). Differences in recruitment and socialization, combined with a conservative inertia, seem like a plausible explanation for sector differences in the nature of instruction, although it was not possible to investigate these relationships empirically in this study.


INSTRUCTION AS A RESPONSE TO STUDENTS


In Classrooms and Corridors, an ethnographic study of two urban public junior high schools, Metz’s (1978) now classic investigation illustrated that a teacher’s approach to instruction is often tailored in response to her particular set of students (see Corno, 2008 for an updated perspective). Even among teachers who consider themselves developmental, Metz found a strong negative relationship between perceptions of students as low achieving and challenging to teach, and developmental instruction. Teachers may be reluctant to allow low-achieving students too much control over the flow of classroom instruction, if they think instruction is likely to veer off topic (Metz, 1978, p. 102). Teachers may also feel that developmental instruction is something that is best used with high-achieving students who have already mastered basic skills. Numerous studies of tracked learning environments support the hypothesis that teachers often adopt an incorporative approach when presented with the challenging instructional environment of low-track classrooms (Caughlan & Kelly, 2004; Metz, 1978; Nystrand & Gamoran, 1997; Oakes, 1985; Page, 1991).


The congruence between the cultural models held by students and teachers may also influence teachers’ ability to engage in developmental instruction. Cultural models are the images, metaphors, schemas, and storylines that define what counts as “normal” or “natural” for a given social or cultural group (Holland & Quinn, 1987; Shore, 1996). Cultural models are more than resources in individual cognition (Shore, 1996); in the classroom, they are important determinants of the enacted curriculum (Caughlan & Kelly, 2004). Specifically, the cultural models held by teachers, both of their own identity as a professional and what it means to teach, as well as of their students, may influence the provision of culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1994). For example, teachers who are able to provide culturally relevant instruction see their students as both knowledgeable and capable of academic success and themselves as comembers of their students’ learning community (Ladson-Billings, 2007). Cultural relevance is an important element of developmental instruction because it is allows for the successful integration of student ideas and concerns into classroom instruction. Stated another way, culturally relevant pedagogy produces coherence between curriculum elements and the concerns and experiences of students (Caughlan & Kelly, 2004).


Differences among students and, subsequently, how teachers perceive, respond to, and relate with these students are a potential source of differences in instruction between Catholic and public schools. Historically (pre-1960), Catholic schools served a largely White Catholic population and, in any given school, often a particular White ethnic group (e.g., Irish) (McGreevy, 1996; Sanders, 1977). Catholic schools have become increasingly diverse in recent decades, but significant differences remain. Riordon (2000) outlined demographic changes in the student body composition of public and Catholic schools from 1972 to 1992. Minority enrollments in Catholic schools increased from 5.9% in 1972 to 25% in 1992, nearly the same as in public schools (25.9%). While Catholic school students generally pay only a modest amount to attend school, the socioeconomic status (SES) of Catholic school students is generally higher than that of public school students (Bryk et al., 1993; Carbonaro, 2006; Riordon, 2000).4 In particular, Catholic schools have a much smaller percentage of students from the most socioeconomically disadvantaged families. In 1992, the percentage of public school students in the lowest quartile of SES was 22% compared with only 5.5% of Catholic students (Riordon, 2000). Catholic school students also have higher levels of achievement as measured by standardized tests when they enter school; for example, they have about a 0.4 standard deviation advantage over public school students at the start of kindergarten in reading, math, and general knowledge (Carbonaro, 2006).5 While private schools as a whole have smaller class sizes than public schools, Catholic schools have slightly larger class sizes at the elementary level and approximately the same class sizes as public schools in high school (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2002).


Given the differences between the composition of the student body in public and Catholic schools, it would not be surprising if public school teachers are more likely to perceive students as “at risk” and “challenging to teach.” Consequently, public school teachers should be less likely than Catholic school teachers to engage in developmental instruction. The same demographic differences across sector may also mean those Catholic school teachers’ and students’ cultural models are more similar than those of public school teachers and students. Middle-class home and community cultures generally present closer alignments with the culture of the school than do lower-class cultures (Connell, Ashenden, Kessler, & Dowsett, 1982; Delpit, 1995). Moreover, Catholic school teachers and students share a religious identity not overtly present in public schools. The proportion of non-Catholics schooled in Catholic schools represented only about one fifth of the study body in 1992 (Riordon, 2000). A greater cultural congruence between teachers and students in Catholic schools might also increase the likelihood of developmental instruction relative to public schools.


HYPOTHESES


This analysis suggests several hypotheses. First, consistent with the observations of Bryk et al. (1993), we would expect to find that public school teachers will engage in significantly more developmental instruction than Catholic school teachers. Second, consistent with Metz’s (1978) research on how teachers respond to low-achieving students, we would expect to find that teachers who perceive their students as challenging to teach and who hold low expectations for their students will report lower levels of developmental instruction. Third, consistent with research on cultural congruence between teachers and students, we would expect to find that teachers with a greater cultural awareness of their students will be more likely to engage in developmental instruction. Both of these effects should lead to more, not less, developmental instruction in Catholic schools. However, these effects could be offset by other factors, such as patterns of teacher recruitment and socialization not measured in this study. The goal of the present investigation then is to establish the prevalence of developmental instruction across school sectors and to isolate the sector effect from differences associated with the students that attend those schools.


METHOD


PARTICIPANTS


Data for this analysis came from the Chicago School Study (CSS), a large longitudinal study of public and Catholic schools in the Chicago area conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR). Chicago is served by a large public school district comprising about 490 elementary and middle schools and 90 high schools, as well as about 260 Catholic elementary and 43 Catholic high schools. The number of schools in both school sectors varied slightly by year. A little more than half of the Catholic schools in the study were in the city proper, while the remainder were in surrounding suburbs.


In 2001 and 2003, questionnaires were given to public school principals, teachers, and students in the sixth through tenth grades in the school district that serves the city. Similar questionnaires were given to Catholic school principals, teachers, and students in the sixth through tenth and twelfth grades in 2002 and the sixth through twelfth grades in 2004 in the archdiocese of the city, which includes Chicago and many surrounding suburbs. The survey questioned students about attitudes and behaviors related to their school experiences as well as about school and teacher characteristics, and school organization, practice, and policy. Because questionnaire items of interest were most similar for public and Catholic schools in 2001-02, this analysis relied on data for those years (public schools in 2001, Catholic in 2002).


For both public and Catholic schools, the school principal determined whether the school would participate in the survey. In public schools, about 75% of all principals participated each year, and in Catholic schools, approximately 85% of the principals participated. Since an effort was made to survey all students and teachers within the schools, the CSS sample contained a very large number of students and teachers. However, within participating schools, individual students and teachers could decline to participate, a potential source of response bias. In 2001 and 2002, 69.2% of public school students and 88.3% of Catholic school students completed questionnaires. In Catholic schools, 78.6% of teachers completed questionnaires, while 65.3% of public school teachers completed surveys. To assess possible response bias, the CCSR conducted analyses of participating and nonparticipating schools and students on measures of SES and achievement levels. The CCSR (2004, p. 13) concluded, “The sample of schools participating in the survey…[is] generally representative of Chicago Public Schools as a whole,” and, “In most schools, there were only small differences between survey participants and the total population” (CCSR, 2004, p. 18). After listwise deletion, the final causal models included 6,944 teachers in 500 schools.


Unlike most national databases, this database was well-suited to examining school-level effects on instruction. Because all teachers were asked to participate within schools, very reliable estimates of the school-average prevalence of developmental instruction were obtained (see Table 5). However, the sample is not nationally representative of public and Catholic Schools. Chicago schools were more highly segregated (Logan, Stowell, & Oakley, 2002), contained a much higher proportion of low-SES and minority students than the national average (Chicago Public Schools, 2008), and scored well below the average on nationally normed tests (CCSR, 2004).  


MEASURES


Developmental instruction


Measures of developmental instruction in the CSS data were taken from two sources, the teacher and student questionnaires. Identical questionnaire items concerning instructional approaches appeared on surveys of primary and secondary schools in each sector. All teachers received questionnaires, while only students in grade 6 and above received surveys.6 Individual teacher and student survey items were combined into four unstandardized scales of developmental instruction. Four items on the teacher survey were combined to produce a measure of teacher reports of developmental instruction (Dev A). Indicators of developmental instruction from the student survey came from three sections, questions about the students’ teachers in general and questions about instruction in English and language arts and mathematics. Four items were combined to measure student reports of developmental instruction among all teachers (Dev B), student reports of developmental instruction in their English and language arts classrooms (Dev C), and in mathematics (Dev D). Scale reliability coefficients at the individual level (Cronbach’s a) ranged from .65 on Dev B to .73 on Dev C. Descriptive statistics and scale items for the measures of developmental instruction are summarized in Table 1.


Table 1  

Scale Construction of Developmental Instruction Measures

  

Descriptives

Measures

n

Mean

SD

Alpha

Reliability

1. Teacher Reports of Developmental Instruction (Dev A)

6,944

3.58

.86

.67

[How Often do You]:

    

  Relate the subject matter to students’ experience and interests

    

  Have students brainstorm ideas for written work

    

  Have students discuss and debate ideas for more than half a period

    

  Give lessons having students explain how class topics

  relate to their personal experiences

    
     

2. Student Reports of Developmental Instruction, all Teachers (Dev B)

120,789

1.44

.84

.65

[How much do you agree with the following]:

    

  My teachers don’t care what I thinka

    

  My teachers will always listen to students’ ideas

    

  My teacher really listens to what I have to saya

    

  My teacher relates this subject to my personal interestsb

    
     

3. Student Reports of Developmental Instruction in English (Dev C)

53,637

2.53

.89

.73

[How often do you do the following]:

    

  Apply what you have learned in English to situations outside of school

    

  Explain your ideas to the teacher or other students

    

  Participate in a debate in your class

    

  Review or edit another student’s writing

    
     

4. Student Reports of Developmental Instruction in Math (Dev D)

48,321

2.69

.95

.71

[How often do you do the following]:

    

  Explain how you solved a problem to the class

    

  Write math problems for other students to solve

    

  Discuss possible solutions to problems with other students

    

  Discuss your ideas about math with the teacher or other students

    

Note. All measures used Likert-style response categories (e.g., a scale of 1-5, Never, …, almost every day). a Reverse coded. b Average of students’ responses in English and math class.


How well do the four developmental instruction measures align with the underlying construct of developmental instruction? Metz’s conception of developmental instruction primarily emphasizes teacher perspectives on authority relations in the classroom. While all of the measures are related to developmental instruction, they differ somewhat in their content. Three of the measures emphasize the practical expression of developmental instruction in the classroom rather than teachers’ underlying perspective on authority. For example, the teacher measure, Dev A, contains items that likely reflect a relinquishing of authority to students in classroom instruction; discussions and debates entail inherently less teacher control than scripted question-and-answer sessions. Likewise, Dev C and Dev D draw on student reports of instances of self-directed, interactive classroom instruction. Dev B, by contrast, is perhaps a more highly abstracted measure of teachers’ underlying perspective on authority, emphasizing teachers’ general responsiveness to student ideas. Yet, Dev B may also be measuring other dimensions of instruction as well, such as teacher caring, which is perhaps reflected in its lower internal consistency (a = .65 in Table 1).  


Table 2 reports the correlation matrix for the four measures of developmental instruction. In interpreting these coefficients, it is important to remember that these are not comparisons of measures across individuals, but student and teacher reports aggregated to the level of the school, which will tend to be an attenuated estimate due to unreliability in the school means (Snijders & Bosker, 1999). The teacher and student reports of developmental instruction were modestly correlated at the school level. Likewise, students’ overall, abstracted reports of developmental instruction correlated only moderately with reports of specific instructional practices in English and mathematics. At the school level, students’ reports of developmental instruction in different subjects (Dev C and Dev D) were relatively highly correlated at .60. Alternative scales were produced using the median value of teacher and student responses, but not used in the final analysis because the distribution of developmental instruction within schools was relatively symmetrical (the correlation between the mean and median values at a school were between .88 and .93).


Table 2

Correlation Matrix of Developmental Instruction Scales at the School Level

Variable

Dev A

Dev B

Dev C

Dev D

Dev A

1.00

   

Dev B

 .23

1.00

  

Dev C

 .32

 .23

1.00

 

Dev D

 .22

 .18

 .60

1.00

Note. n = 631. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients.


Independent variables


Items from the teacher and principal surveys were combined to create scales of teachers’ perceptions of a challenging instructional environment (T. Perceptions), teachers’ expectations of their students’ future educational attainment (T. Expectations), teachers’ knowledge of their students’ cultural background (Cultural Knowledge), and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction (P. Endorsement). The T. Perceptions scale combined measures of two kinds of challenges, behavioral and academic. The Cultural Knowledge scale combined items about teachers’ perceptions of their colleagues, so it was only used at the school level in the analysis. The P. Endorsement scale combined four items taken from a larger battery of questions about the principals’ instructional beliefs, covering a variety of topics including standardized testing at the school, beliefs about students’ natural abilities, and so forth. Consistent with the idea that developmental instruction is widely endorsed, principals as a whole were clustered at the upper end of this scale, and the variance in P. Endorsement was restricted (SD of .38 in Table 3). Unfortunately, the low variance of the P. Endorsement measure may mean that it did not differentiate between principals who endorsed developmental instruction but were rather passive as instructional leaders and those that actively promoted developmental instruction in the classroom. Descriptive statistics and scale items for these measures are summarized in Table 3.


Table 3  

Scale Construction of Key Independent Variables

  

Descriptives

Measures

n

Mean

SD

Alpha

Reliability

1. Teacher Perceptions of Challenging Instruction (T. Perceptions)

6,944

2.55

.92

.77

[How much do you agree with the following]:

    

  The level of student misbehavior interferes with my teaching

    

[About what proportion of your]:

    

  Students have reading difficulties

    

  Students lack academic knowledge and skills to learn

    

  Students create serious behavior problems in your class

    

[On a typical day, how many times is your]:

    

  Classroom disrupted by student misbehavior

    
     

2. Teacher Expectations of Std.’s  Educ. Attainment (T. Expectations)

6,944

3.32

.80

.80

[What proportion of your students]:

    

  Do you expect to graduate from high school   

    

  Do you expect to go to college

    
     

3.  T.’s Know. of Std.’s  Cultural Background (Cultural Knowledge)

500

3.47

.45

.84

 [How many teachers at this school]:

    

  Are knowledgeable of issues and concerns in the school’s community

    

   Talk with students about their lives at home

    

   Talk with students about their cultures

    

  Read books, watch documentaries, or attend workshops that provide

  information about the cultural backgrounds of their students

    
     

4. Principals’ Endorsement of Dev. Instruction (P. Endorsement)

500

3.52

.38

.61

[To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following]:

    

  Thinking creatively is important to student learning.

    

  Students learn best when they are actively involved in exploring things,

  inventing, and trying out their own ways of doing things.

    

  In order to learn complex material, students need the information

  presented to them in several different ways.

    

  It is important to encourage students’ interests into lessons.

    


Differences associated with the composition of the teaching workforce may also explain sector differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction. Data on several relevant control variables were available for inclusion in the analysis: number of years teaching experience, tenure at current school, teachers’ highest level of educational attainment, subject matter taught, subject matter-specific college coursework, certification in primary subject taught, any certification, gender, and race/ethnicity. Teaching experience and tenure were measured on a scale of 1-6 (less than 1 year, …, more than 15 years). Highest level of educational attainment was measured with dummy variables for completion of a master’s degree, graduate coursework beyond a master’s but not PhD, and attainment of a PhD. Those variables were coded with reference to the next lowest category (e.g., the coefficient for PhD refers to the effect of a PhD beyond that of some coursework toward a PhD). Subject matter-specific college coursework was captured by two variables that measured the amount of coursework completed in the subject a teacher teaches most. The first variable reported coursework on a scale of 1-5 (less than 15, …, 46+) in semester-credit hours, the second variable in quarter system-credit hours. Respondents typically answered one or the other. To keep these variables orthogonal for those cases, mean values on the missing subject matter coursework variable were entered. Dummy variables distinguished between the subject matter areas of teachers’ current primary teaching position. The “English” category included English, language arts, reading, and writing teachers/certification. The “social studies” category included social studies, history, and government teachers/certification. Finally, dummy variables coded for gender and race/ethnicity.  


To control for the socioeconomic status of the student body, a school-level SES scale was created. The SES variable combined a 10-item home-resources scale measured at the student level and aggregated to the school level together with the school proportion of students receiving free or reduced price lunch. The home-resources scale measured whether students have the following items in the home: a quiet place to study, a daily newspaper, a magazine subscription, an encyclopedia, an atlas, a dictionary, a computer, more than 50 books, Internet access, and the student’s own room. The SES scale has an alpha reliability of .94 at the school level. Table 4 provides descriptive statistics for the control variables by sector.


Table 4

Means and Standard Deviations of Control Variables

 

Descriptives

 

Public

Catholic

 

Meana

SDb

Mean

SD

  School SES

-.63

.62

.82

.71

  Experience

4.53

1.62

4.62

1.67

  Tenure

3.45

1.70

3.56

1.78

  MA

.57

 

.38

 

  MA+

.36

 

.16

 

  PhD

.01

 

.01

 

  Sub.-Matter Proficiency I

3.45

1.30

3.33

1.32

  Sub.-Matter Proficiency II

3.38

.64

3.32

.64

  Elective Teacher

.29

 

.16

 

  English T.

.11

 

.21

 

  Math T.

.06

 

.07

 

  Science T.

.07

 

.05

 

  Social Studies

.07

 

.08

 

  Female

.79

 

.80

 

  Black

.28

 

.04

 

  Hispanic

.11

 

.02

 

  Asian-A

.03

 

.01

 

  Native-A

.01

 

.01

 

  Biracial

.02

 

.01

 

  Other

.03

 

.01

 

Note. n = 6,944 teachers in 500 schools. a Means less than .01 rounded up. b Standard deviations of dummy variables (e.g., ‘MA’) are strict functions of the mean.


PROCEDURE


The analysis consisted of four parts: (1) an analysis of school-to-school differences in developmental instruction and differences across school level; (2) a comparison of unadjusted differences in developmental instruction across school sector; (3) a comparison of teacher and principal factors thought to influence the likelihood of developmental instruction; and (4) a regression analysis using multilevel models to predict teacher- and school-level variation in the prevalence of developmental instruction in a quasi-experimental design.


The comparison of the raw (unadjusted) differences in developmental instruction across school sector began with a decomposition of variance in developmental instruction between and within schools. This establishes the extent to which teachers’ instruction tends to vary across schools or within schools and thus the extent to which sector (a school-level variable) might explain differences in developmental instruction among teachers. Next, differences in developmental instruction across school level (from primary to secondary) were examined, a difference that might confound reported sector differences if different proportions of primary and secondary schools were included in the Catholic and public schools samples. Differences across school level are also of interest in themselves, perhaps shedding light on how developmental instruction changes as students progress through school.


Then, the reported sector differences in developmental instruction on each measure of developmental instruction were investigated, with t tests to determine if these differences were statistically significant. Table 7 establishes the basic, unadjusted differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction across school sector. However, since the estimates in this section did not adjust for teacher characteristics likely to influence the instructional approach taken in the classroom, they may over- or understate the sector effect on developmental instruction.


Next, sector differences in four potential predictors of developmental instruction were considered: teachers’ perceptions of challenging instruction (T. Perceptions), teachers’ expectations of students’ future educational attainment (T. Expectations), teachers’ knowledge of their students’ cultural backgrounds (Cultural Knowledge), and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction (P. Endorsement). T tests were conducted for each comparison. Preliminary analyses showed that differences between public and Catholic schools were similar across level, so only overall sector differences are reported for this comparison.


Finally, a regression was used to examine differences in teacher reports of developmental instruction (Dev A) as a function of teacher- and school-level variables in a quasi-experimental design. The teacher scale was selected for two reasons. First, it was the most conservative scale that indicated a difference in the prevalence of developmental instruction across school sectors. Second, the student questionnaire data could not be linked with data on individual teachers.


Multilevel models (HLM 6.06) were used to partition the variance in the dependent variable into between- and within-school components. At the within-school (teacher) level, the estimated coefficients indicate differences in developmental instruction associated with teacher variables such as subject matter taught, experience, and so forth. Differences across schools in average levels of developmental instruction are captured by the school-level intercept, and the average difference between Catholic and public schools are captured by a dummy variable for Catholic schools. All models use uncentered level-one coefficients such that the school-level coefficients are adjusted for aggregate differences in teachers (Raudenbush & Bryk, 1992/2002, p. 122). The residual parameter variance for all teacher-level coefficients was set to zero; only slope intercepts (G10, G20, etc.) were estimated.


Model A is a means-as-outcomes model that presents coefficients for sector and level differences without adjusting for teacher-level variables. Model B simplifies the school-level model by ignoring the trivial differences between elementary and high schools and presents an estimate of sector differences adjusting for teacher-level variables and school SES. Model C adds the two hypothesized predictors of developmental instruction at the teacher level, T. Perceptions and T. Expectations.  Model D is the final model estimating the sector differences in developmental instruction controlling for teacher- and school-level predictors of developmental instruction, including P. Endorsement and Cultural Knowledge. Summary of Model D in equation format:


Level-1 (teacher-level) model


Y = B0 + B1*(Tenure) + B2*(Experience) +… Bj*(Xj) + R


Level-2 (school-level) model


B0 = G00 + G01*(Catholic School) + G02*(High School) +… G0j*(Wj) + U0

B1 = G10

B2 = G20

.

.

.

Bj = Gj


RESULTS


SCHOOL-TO-SCHOOL VARIATION IN DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION AND DIFFERENCES ACROSS SCHOOL LEVEL


Before considering sector differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction, it is useful to consider the extent to which developmental instruction varies within and between schools. Just as the school-to-school variance in achievement sets an upper limit on sector differences in achievement; if schools tend to differ little in average levels of developmental instruction, sector differences are unlikely to be highly salient. Table 5 presents results from a decomposition of variance between and within schools. Approximately 5% to 10% of the variance in developmental instruction lay between schools, somewhat less than the typical variance in student achievement (Scheerens & Bosker, 1997). Thus, any sector differences in developmental instruction occur within the context of much larger teacher-to-teacher differences within schools.


Table 5

Decomposition of Variance in Developmental Instruction Scales Between and Within Schools

Variable

Mean # of Cases per School

% of Variance Between Schools

Estimated Reliability of School Meana

Teacher Ques.

   

  Dev. A

17

4.8%

.46

Student Ques.

   

  Dev. B

168

10.0%

.95

  Dev. C (English)

78

4.8%

.79

  Dev. D (math)

70

6.2%

.82

a Reliabilities are calculated using STATA’s “loneway” command. The reliability of a group-averaged score, or the Spearman-Brown prediction formula, is an estimate of the amount of signal in the school mean of each measure and is closely related to the intraclass correlation coefficient (StataCorp, 2007).


Table 6 presents descriptive statistics for developmental instruction at the primary and secondary levels among all schools. As a whole, teachers reported infrequent use of developmental instruction. The mean value of Dev A (3.41, 3.68) reflects that the average teacher engaged in such practices as “having students discuss and debate ideas for more than half a period,” one of the scale items, somewhere between once or twice a month and once a week. Student reports of developmental instruction were no more frequent or positive. About an equal number of students agreed that his or her teacher “doesn’t care what I think” as disagreed (which is included in Dev B), and students reported engaging in student-centered instructional activities like reviewing or editing another student’s writing in English class and explaining how she or he solved a math problem to the class somewhere between once in a while and once a week (items in Dev C and Dev D).


Does the prevalence of developmental instruction as reported by teachers and the variability of developmental instruction differ across school level? Several significant differences in developmental instruction across school levels are reported in Table 6. Secondary schools scored lower on teacher reports of developmental instruction (Dev A) and student reports of the overall instruction in the school (Dev B), but about the same on student reports in English (Dev C) and math (Dev D).7 The variation in student reports of developmental instruction in English (Dev C) and math (Dev D) were also greater in primary schools than in secondary schools.8


Table 6

Means and Standard Deviations of Multiple Measures of Developmental Instruction in Primary and Secondary Schools

 

Primary Schools

Secondary Schools

Variable

na

Mean

SD

n

Mean

SD

Dev A

553

3.68

.30

96

3.41

.26

Dev B

540

1.60

.20

100

1.16

.22

Dev C

540

2.54

.28

100

2.51

.20

Dev D

540

2.72

.30

99

2.70

.23

a Some schools had data from teachers and not students, and vice-versa because principals occasionally chose to participate on one survey but not both. One school was missing data on the math section of the student survey for an unknown reason.


COMPARISON OF UNADJUSTED SECTOR DIFFERENCES IN DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION


Catholic schools exhibited less evidence of developmental instruction on three of the four measures in Table 7. T tests for the differences in the public and Catholic school means on teacher reports of developmental instruction (Dev A) and student reports of developmental instruction in English (Dev C) and math (Dev D) confirmed that the lower levels of developmental instruction reported in Catholic schools were statistically significant. The difference between Catholic and public schools, which was between .2 and .25 points, was equivalent to about a standard deviation change in reports of developmental instruction at the school level (Table 6). At the school level, sector accounted for between 11% and 20% of the variance in the prevalence of reported developmental instruction.9 By any metric, the differences across sector reported in Table 7 are substantial. Supplementary analyses investigated the within-school standard deviation in developmental instruction (the variation across teachers or student reports of teachers, equivalent to the variation in school mean-centered variables). Public schools had somewhat greater variation in teacher and student reports of developmental instruction within schools. For example, on student reports of developmental instruction in English, the within-school SD in the Chicago public schools was about 10% larger than in the Catholic schools. The null findings for Dev B are interpreted in the discussion section.


Table 7

T Tests for Sector Differences in the Prevalence of Developmental Instruction

  

Teacher Reports of Developmental Instruction (Dev A)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

410

3.72

.27

  Catholic

243

3.51

.32

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .215 (.023), t = 9.24, p > |t| = .0000

    

Student Reports of Developmental Instruction among all Teachers (Dev B)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

398

1.53

.26

  Catholic

246

1.52

.25

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .019 (.023), t = .92, p > |t| = .3593

  

Student Reports of Developmental Instruction in English and Language Arts (Dev C)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

398

2.63

.24

  Catholic

246

2.39

.25

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .25 (.020), t = 12.55, p > |t| = .0000

    

Student Reports of Developmental Instruction in Mathematics (Dev D)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

398

2.81

.28

  Catholic

245

2.58

.26

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .23 (.022), t = 10.36, p > |t| = .0000

a School-level analysis.  


SECTOR DIFFERENCES IN FOUR POTENTIAL PREDICTORS OF DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION


Perceptions of challenging students and teacher expectations  


The first two panels of Table 8 summarize differences across school sector in teachers’ perceptions of challenging instruction and expectations of students’ future educational attainment. Public school teachers reported that their students pose much greater behavioral and academic challenges than those of Catholic school teachers. At the same time, public school teachers had much lower expectations for their students’ future educational attainments. In both cases, the differences were well over a standard deviation in magnitude. How big were these differences in practical terms? It may be easier to think in terms of differences at the level of individual teachers rather than of schools. Supplementary analysis revealed that 59.13% of teachers in the public sector reported that their target class was typically disrupted three or more times per day by student misbehavior. In the Catholic private sector, only 43.12% of teachers reported that was the case.


Table 8

T Tests for Sector Differences in Predictors of Developmental Instruction

  

Teachers’ Perceptions of Challenging Instruction (T. Perceptions)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

433

2.87

.44

  Catholic

253

2.15

.30

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .72 (.03), t = 23.29, p > |t| = .0000

    

Teachers’ Expectations of their Students’ Educ. Attainment (T. Expectations)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

430

2.96

.43

  Catholic

253

3.74

24

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = -.78 (.03), t = -26.31, p > |t| = .0000

  

Teachers’ Knowledge of Students’ Cultural Background (Cultural Knowledge)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

410

3.39

.41

  Catholic

242

3.57

.47

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = -.173 (.035), t = -4.94, p > |t| = .0000

    

Principals’ Endorsement of Developmental Instruction (P. Endorsement)

 

Descriptives

Sector

na

Mean

SD

  Public

283

3.57

.36

  Catholic

223

3.47

.41

Two-sample t test of public vs. Catholic means:

Diff (Public-Catholic) = .097 (.03), t = 2.86, p > |t| = .0044

a School-level analysis. Combined primary and secondary schools

 included in total row.


The differences across sector in teacher expectations of their students’ educational attainments were even greater. On the individual T. Expectations scale items, in the public sector, only 55.8% of teachers reported that more than half of their students will go to college. Among Catholic school teachers, 94.8% of teachers expected half or more of their students to go to college. The differences in expected dropout rates across sector were equally large. Among Chicago’s public school teachers, only 53.1% expected greater than 3 in 4 students to graduate from high school. By contrast, 94.9% of Catholic school teachers expected more than three fourths of their students to graduate from high school. Clearly, teachers in the public sector felt that the futures of their students were highly uncertain. Many of their students, they believed, were unlikely to even graduate from high school. Catholic school teachers, by contrast, saw educational trajectories for their students not unlike their own, including enrollment at a college or university.  


Teachers’ knowledge of students’ cultural background and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction


The third and fourth panels of Table 8 provides information on two additional variables that may impact the likelihood of developmental instruction: teachers’ knowledge of students’ cultural background and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction. Catholic school principals were less likely to endorse developmental instruction than were public school teachers (p > .0044). For example, 92% of public school principals strongly agreed that students learn best when they are actively involved in exploring things, inventing, and trying out their own ways of doing things, one of the P. Endorsement scale items. By contrast, only 55% of Catholic school principals strongly agreed with that statement. On the other hand, Catholic school teachers reported a greater understanding of their students’ family and neighborhood cultural context than did teachers in public schools (p > .0000). Catholic schools were almost half a standard deviation higher than public schools on the Cultural Knowledge scale.


MULTILEVEL MODELS PREDICTING TEACHER- AND SCHOOL-LEVEL VARIATION IN THE PREVALENCE OF DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION


Table 9 presents the multivariate analysis of developmental instruction across school sectors using the teacher scale of developmental instruction (Dev A). First, the unadjusted differences were estimated in a regression framework (Model A), and then teacher- and school-level explanatory variables were added in subsequent models. The unadjusted differences in the prevalence of reported developmental instruction between public and Catholic schools in Chicago were captured by two dummy variable parameters from the means-as-outcomes HLM regression (Model A), one for elementary (-.21) and one for high schools (-.20). As in Table 7, the prevalence of developmental instruction reported by teachers was significantly lower in both Catholic elementary and high schools in Chicago. Model A also reveals the lower incidence of developmental instruction reported in high schools relative to elementary schools.


Table 9

HLM Regression Results for Teacher Reports of Developmental Instruction (DEV A) Across School Sector

Model:

A

B

C

D

 Fixed Effects (coefficients and standard errors)

  
     

Model for school means

   

Intercept (B0)

3.73(.017)***

3.48 (.070)***

2.94 (.10)***

2.58 (.18)***

 Catholic Elem

-.21 (.027)***

   

 Catholic High

-.20 (.051)***

   

 Catholic School

 

-.15 (.038)***

-.17 (.039)***

-.17 (.039)***

 High School

-.25 (.040)***

-.17 (.028)***

-.19 (.032)***

-.16 (.035)***

 SES

 

-.008 (.018)

-.049 (.020)*

-.049 (.020)*

 P. Endorsement

   

.046 (.030)

 Cultural Knowledge

  

.058 (.031)

     

Model for teacher level slopesa

   

  T. Perceptions

  

.038 (.013)**

.040 (.013)**

  T. Expectations

  

.14 (.016)***

.14 (.016)***

     

  Experience

 

-.007 (.009)

-.006 (.009)

-.006 (.009)

  Tenure

 

-.014 (.009)

-.014 (.008)

-.014 (.008)

  MA

 

.000 (.027)

.000 (.026)

-.001 (.026)

  MA+

 

.046 (.030)

.049 (.030)

.049 (.030)

  PhD

 

-.12 (.10)

-.12 (.10)

-.12 (.10)

  Sub.-Matter Proficiency I

.044 (.008)***

.041 (.008)***

.041 (.008)***

  Sub.-Matter Proficiency II

.009 (.016)

.007 (.016)

.006 (.016)

  Elective Teacher

 

-.25 (.036)***

-.23 (.028)***

-.23 (.028)***

  English T.b

 

-.054 (.036)

-.043 (.033)

-.044 (.033)

  Math T.

 

-.35 (.046)***

-.34 (.043)***

-.34 (.043)***

  Science T.

 

-.11 (.044)*

-.10 (.046)*

-.097 (.046)*

  Social Studies

 

.069 (.037)

.086 (.042)*

.084 (.042)*

  Female

 

.18 (.027)***

.18 (.027)***

.18 (.027)***

  Black

 

.11 (.031)***

.11 (.029)***

.11 (.029)***

  Hispanic

 

.20 (.038)***

.19 (.041)***

.18 (.041)***

  Asian-A

 

.20 (.078)*

.19 (.074)*

.19 (.074)*

  Native-A

 

.12 (.16)

.16 (.15)

.15 (.15)

  Biracial

 

.18 (.083)*

.17 (.084)*

.17 (.084)*

  Other

 

.23 (.072)**

.22 (.068)**

.22 (.068)**

     

Random Effects (variance component and p value)

  

Intercept    U0

.013 (.000)

.011 (.001)

.011 (.001)

.010 (.002)

Teacher-L  R

.838

.675

.669

.669

     

Auxiliary Statistics

  

Deviance

17380.8

17173.3

17114.8

17118.8

# of Parameters

2

2

2

2

Reliability of B0

.185

.169

.170

.160

Note. n = 6,668 teachers in 500 schools. Analyses conducted using HLM 6.06

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001 a The residual parameter variance for all teacher level coefficients has been set to zero. Only slope intercepts (G10, G20, etc.) are estimated. b The reference category for the subject-matter dummy variables is self-contained elementary classroom.


Several teacher characteristics and the school SES measure were added to Model B. Differences in the composition of the teaching workforce across school sector may account for the unadjusted differences in developmental instruction in Model A. Recall from Table 4 that Catholic schools had about the same proportion of female teachers as public schools, but much fewer non-White teachers, somewhat lower levels of subject matter proficiency, and number of teachers in elective subjects (art/drama/music, vocational education/business, home economics, or other elective). The most pronounced differences were in the race/ethnic composition of the teaching workforce across school sectors. Approximately 92% of the Catholic school teachers in the sample were White, while only about half of the public school teachers in Chicago were White (53%). The results in Model B show that female teachers and non-White teachers were more likely to engage in developmental instruction, as were teachers with more subject matter proficiency and teachers in social studies (the omitted category), English, and science, relative to math or elective teachers. The unadjusted differences in instruction in Catholic and public schools (about -.20 in Model A) were partially accounted for by the composition of the teaching workforce in each sector, with the Catholic school effect falling to -.15 in Model B. Teacher race/ethnicity and subject-matter proficiency accounted for 25% of the difference between public and Catholic schools in the prevalence of developmental instruction. Yet, beyond effects associated with the characteristics of the teaching workforce in each sector, there was still a large residual difference in the prevalence of developmental instruction reported among public and Catholic schools.10


In Model C, teachers’ perceptions of how challenging their students are to instruct and expectations of their students’ educational attainments were added to the model. Both coefficients were statistically significant and positively related to developmental instruction, even though perceptions of challenge and expectations of success were negatively correlated (teachers that report academic and behavioral challenges tend to report lower expectations of student success). However, with a coefficient of .038, a teacher’s perception of how challenging their students are was only weakly related to practicing developmental instruction, whereas expectations, with a coefficient of .14, were quite strongly related. Both variables had approximately the same mean and standard deviation, so the coefficients are almost directly comparable. Thus, the most important factor affecting the prevalence of developmental instruction was teacher expectations, and in a school with low average expectations, developmental instruction was much less frequently reported.11 At the same time, school SES exerted a small but statistically significant negative effect on reported developmental instruction.12 However, this finding only emerged after controlling for teacher perceptions and expectations, and the effect was modest (-.008). The net effect of the additional variables in Model C was to increase the sector difference in developmental instruction. When teacher expectations of student success were taken into account, Catholic teachers were found to have reported less use of development instruction than expected.


Model D considers two additional hypothesized predictors of developmental instruction, principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction and teachers’ knowledge of students’ cultural background. Neither of these variables had a statistically significant effect on teachers’ reported use of developmental instruction. Thus, the estimate of the Catholic school effect on developmental instruction remained unchanged.


DISCUSSION


The present study examined differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction as reported by teachers and students in public and Catholic schools. Consistent with Bryk et al.’s (1993) observational data, I found large sector differences in the prevalence of reported developmental instruction. Then again, developmental instruction appeared not to be the norm in either sector; it seemed to occur on a somewhat infrequent basis. Moreover, differences within schools from teacher to teacher were much more salient than differences across schools. That being said, if instructional practices such as engaging in a debate or actually getting to discuss your idea about a math problem or text make an important difference in how a student feels about school, than the sector differences reported here may be an important element of the educational experience in both public and Catholic schools. Advocates of developmental instruction should find the results of this analysis disconcerting, particularly if they are also members of the Catholic education community. Research on student engagement routinely finds students spend the majority of their school day experiencing the least engaging forms of instruction (Nystrand, 1997; Shernoff et al., 2003). This appears to be especially true in Catholic schools, as reported by teachers and students in the present study.


In interpreting the large difference in the prevalence of developmental instruction reported by teachers and students across school sectors, it is important to keep in mind, though, that public and Catholic school students might respond differently to different forms of instruction. Perhaps the prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools, while different, is optimal for the students attending those schools. Importantly, the net result of the social organization and instructional approach of Catholic schools are levels of achievement growth equal to or greater than public schools, at least among high schools (Carbonaro, 2006). Moreover, these findings should be interpreted in light of research that finds Catholic school teachers are considered caring and supportive by their students (Bempechat et al., 2008). The one scale of developmental instruction that showed little difference across school sector was Dev B.  That scale is comprised of items that may measure caring in addition to a developmental approach, which might explain why sector differences did not emerge on that scale.


SOURCES OF DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION AT THE TEACHER LEVEL


When the social context of Catholic and public schools was included in the analysis, as measured by teachers’ perceptions and expectations of their students, Catholic school teachers, who have high achieving students whom they expect will succeed, appeared to be even more teacher centered. I will return to the question of why Catholic school teachers appeared so incorporative in these data. First, however, I would like to discuss in more detail the basic relationship between the social context of a school or classroom and developmental instruction.


Conceptually, the purposes of developmental instruction are twofold: (1) to foster student engagement by turning over a bit of the “what” and “how” of learning to students and (2) to cultivate individual initiative among learners. Generally speaking, these goals are focused on addressing educational problems among two different sets of students. For at-risk students who are frequently disengaged in school, the developmental approach may foster interest and a sense of value in school, which can then lead to engagement. At least idealistically, developmental instruction offers the possibility of breaking the cycle of disengagement and reduced achievement growth. For high-achieving students, who generally like and already value school, developmental instruction may be employed in hopes of fostering intellectual initiative and creativity. Some educational theorists have advanced the thesis that pervasive teacher-centered instruction and a preoccupation with order and routine in American schools has created a population of docile learners (Page, 1991; Silberman 1970). At the level of thought processes, the concern is that students are taught to abandon “thinking” in favor of simply “remembering” (Nystrand, 1997).


Consistent with findings on teachers’ response to low-track students (Oakes, 1985; Page, 1991), the empirical results of this study suggest that developmental instruction is primarily targeted on high-achieving students. Teachers adopt a developmental approach in response to students who they perceive as mostly successful, when they have high expectations of success for their students, in order to cultivate students’ sense of personal responsibility as learners and intellectual initiative. The perhaps more basic function of developmental instruction, to improve student engagement, is used infrequently, especially in the schools and classrooms with the least engaged students who might benefit the most. These interpretations are necessarily speculative; teachers’ motives and levels of engagement among students were not measured directly in this study. Future research is needed on how developmental instruction is used by teachers, in which classrooms, and to what effect on students.


NULL FINDINGS


In addition to the basic findings on differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction across sector and the relationship between developmental instruction and the social context of the school, several null or contradictory relationships were found. Secondary schools scored lower than elementary schools on two of the four measures of developmental instruction (Dev A & Dev B) but approximately the same on the other two (Dev C & Dev D). The measures of developmental instruction included in this study were relatively abstract in nature, tapping into student and teachers’ overall sense of the incorporation of student ideas into classroom instruction. It is possible that the specific expression developmental instruction takes in the classroom differs across grade level, but that is not reflected in these data. The differences across school level in Dev B might reflect the caring dimension of that scale. Taken as a whole, the relationship between reported developmental instruction and school level was null or inconsistent in these data.


Another contradictory finding was the positive relationship between teacher perceptions of challenging instruction and their reports of developmental instruction. This finding runs counter to the more important relationship between teacher expectations and developmental instruction. Due to the large numbers of teachers included in the study, weak relationships among variables were sometimes statistically significant. Thus, conclusions about the sources of instruction at the teacher level are based on the much stronger relationship between teacher expectations and their reports of developmental instruction.


No relationship was found between teachers’ knowledge of students’ cultural background and their reports of developmental instruction. However, this analysis does not provide a strong test of that potential relationship because the Cultural Knowledge measure was not a teacher-level measure. Teachers were asked to report about their colleagues’ cultural knowledge, so this variable could only be used at the school level. Moreover, while this measure contained several items related to knowledge of students’ home and community lives, it did not measure beliefs about student competence or the other dimensions of culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 2007). The teacher expectations scale may be capturing beliefs and perceptions of students related to the provision of culturally relevant instruction, however, in part.


At the school level, socioeconomic status had a negative relationship with reports of developmental instruction, which again might seem to run counter to the underlying relationships between teacher expectations, sector, and their reports of developmental instruction. However, this effect was relatively weak. School-level factors are generally much weaker predictors of developmental instruction than teacher or class level factors (see Table 5). Moreover, that effect emerged only in models that included teachers’ perceptions of and expectations for their students.    


Finally, no relationship was found between principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction and teachers’ reported use of developmental instruction. This finding is consistent with a loose-coupling model of schooling (Weick, 1976). Teacher training and socialization have a stronger relationship to teaching practice than school-level factors (Gamoran, Secada, & Marrett, 2002). In addition, in these data, there was relatively little variation in principal endorsement to begin with, which statistically reduces the likelihood of finding a significant relationship.


WHY ARE CATHOLIC TEACHERS SO TEACHER-CENTERED?


Catholic school students have higher socioeconomic status and achievement levels, and their teachers tend to perceive them as more likely to succeed than do teachers of public school students with different background profiles. Given these findings alone, we expect Catholic school teachers to be more likely to engage in developmental instruction than public school teachers. Yet, this analysis found, as did observations from prior research (Bryk et al., 1993), that developmental instruction is less frequently reported in Catholic schools. Why do Catholic teachers describe their instruction as more teacher-centered? If developmental instruction is seen as an innovation (Cuban, 1993), then the question could be restated as follows: How does the diffusion of innovation differ across sectors? Further, one could ask: Where does instructional innovation come from in the Catholic sector?


Compared to public school teachers, Catholic school teachers exhibit lower levels of professionalization (Schaub, 2000). If conceptions of the teaching profession as highly conservative are correct (Lortie, 1975), then, in order for teachers to fully adopt or even experiment with a developmental approach, they must be exposed to and trained in developmental perspectives and practices. The decreased prevalence of developmental instruction among the Catholic school faculty may be explained by their weaker exposure to innovative teacher education programs. Alternatively, instructional practices may be influenced by teachers’ own experiences as students (Lortie, 1975). The majority of the Catholic school teachers in these data attended Catholic schools themselves as students.  Exposure to incorporative instruction as students may also have imbued Catholic school teachers with traditional norms of authority in the classroom.     


LIMITATIONS


This study has at least two major limitations, the sample and survey (self-report) measures themselves and the narrow substantive focus on developmental instruction. Clearly, the emphasis on a single urban area restricts the generalizability of the results. The use of survey measures of instruction, as opposed to observational measures of instruction, means little can be said about how the abstract differences reported here might translate into specific classroom practices, such as choice of instructional activity or nuanced use of any combination of either of the two approaches described.  Thus, while the differences in reports of developmental instruction across school sector are large in these data, the findings need to be investigated with further study. Greater confidence in the results could also be gained if a study of teacher recruitment and socialization documented the sources of teachers’ instructional approach in Catholic schools.


Moreover, while conceptions of developmental instruction emphasize its positive effects on engagement and intellectual initiative, most research has found high levels of achievement growth in Catholic schools. Instruction in Catholic schools, even if infrequently developmental, may have other desirable qualities that promote achievement. Future studies of instruction in Catholic schools should include other dimensions of instruction, such as standards of intellectual quality (Newmann, Marks, & Gamoran, 1996; Simmons et al., 1999). Such research might build on Newmann, Marks, and Gamoran’s (1996) conception of “disciplined inquiry,” which has three features: using a prior knowledge base from one or more fields, striving for in-depth understanding rather than superficial awareness, and expressing conclusions through elaborated communication. Nor should we necessarily infer that lower levels of developmental instruction reported by teachers and students in this sample result in lower levels of engagement in Catholic schools. High levels of teacher caring or a sense of school membership among students may be more important determinants of engagement in the Catholic school setting.


CONCLUSION


Prior research on the effects of school sector on student outcomes has neglected a close examination of the nature of instruction in public and Catholic schools, or other private schools. This analysis began that investigation by applying Metz’s (1978) classic typology of teacher perspectives on authority to a large database of public and Catholic schools in the Chicago area. Results showed that public school teachers and students were more likely to say they, or their teachers, engaged in developmental instruction than Catholic school teachers and students. This finding was particularly striking given Catholic school teachers’ high expectations for their students’ future educational attainments, which was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting developmental methods in the classroom. Future research on instructional differences across school sector should seek to confirm this basic finding of sector differences in developmental instruction by examining actual instances of developmental instructions in classrooms and by exploring possible explanations for this finding in greater detail. In addition, research should explore the intellectual quality of instruction and the diverse sources of student engagement in public and Catholic school classrooms.


Notes


1. Bryk et al. (1993) reported several different estimates of course taking in public and Catholic schools in the HS&B data. Figure 2.1 (p. 76) shows unadjusted differences in student reported overall track location (e.g., academic, general, vocational). Table 4.1 (p. 103) and Table 4.2 (p. 104) show the unadjusted differences in the number of courses taken in several subjects and the number of years of coursework taken, controlling for students’ overall track location, respectively. Figure 4.7 (p. 123) shows math course taking differences adjusted for student background and math achievement, and separate estimates are also provided by overall student reported track (Table 4.4, p. 123) and from a model comparing public school students who attended Catholic elementary schools in an effort to control better for selection bias. Bryk et al.’s (1993) treatment of this topic is very thorough. Course-taking differences appear in structural equation and multilevel models as well (Chapter 10).

2. The construction of Byrk et al.’s (1993) “community index” is described in Table 11.2 (p. 280-281) and in notes 18 and 11 (pp. 371-374). The average interitem correlation on the 23-indicator scale was .45, and the coefficient of generalizability, a measure of reliability, was .81.

3. The superintendent in each diocese was asked to nominate “good schools” using a deliberately broad set of criteria including high student achievement, a range of academic and extracurricular activities, harmonious social relations among a diverse racial and socioeconomic mix of students, emphasis on values and personal development, high student and teacher morale, and a strong religious character (Bryk et al., 1993, p. 63).

4. For example, tuition for a Catholic secondary school student averaged about $3,241 in 1994 (Harris, 2000).

5. ECLSK math, reading, and general knowledge scores, calculated from Table 1 (Carbonaro, 2006). Catholic school students ranged from .42 standard deviations higher in reading to .466 in general knowledge.

6. Due to the length and complexity of the surveys, some respondents appeared to have marked all questions at either the minimum or maximum values, responses that were highly unlikely given the types of items included. These cases were omitted from the scale construction at the teacher (37 cases) and student level (270, 1138, and 1144 for Dev B, Dev C, and Dev D, respectively).

7. Two-sample t test for difference in Dev A: Diff (primary-secondary) = .27 (.03), t = 8.32, p > |t| = .0000.  Two-sample t test for difference in Dev B: Diff (primary-secondary) = .43 (.02), t = 20.00, p > |t| = .0000.  

8. Variance ratio test for difference in Dev C: ratio = sd(primary) / sd(secondary), f = 1.9448, 2*Pr(F > f) = 0.0001. Variance ratio test for difference in Dev D: ratio = sd(primary) / sd(secondary), f = 1.7467, 2*Pr(F > f) = 0.0009.  

9. Except, of course, on Dev B, where there are no differences across sector. Proportion of variance explained (R2) from school-level OLS regressions.

10. In supplementary analyses, I investigated the relationship between whether the Catholic school teachers identified personally as Catholic and whether they had attended Catholic schools and developmental instruction. Those variables were available only for the Catholic teachers. Approximately 88% of the Catholic school teachers were Catholic, with 58% being Catholic high school graduates. Within the Catholic school sample, these were not strong predictors of developmental instruction. I also examined the sector effect separately for suburban and urban Catholic schools in Chicago, thinking that perhaps suburban Catholic schools would offer an education more similar to public schools, but that was not very salient.

11. There was no interaction effect between sector and teacher expectations—that relationship was the same in both sectors.

12. There was no interaction effect between sector and school SES.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 9, 2010, p. 2405-2440
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15951, Date Accessed: 1/23/2022 6:54:16 PM

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About the Author
  • Sean Kelly
    University of Notre Dame
    E-mail Author
    SEAN KELLY is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame and the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity. His research on student engagement received an Exemplary Dissertation Award from the Spencer Foundation and has appeared in Social Psychology of Education, Social Science Research, and Sociology of Education. He teaches coursework in the sociology of education and statistics for social scientists.
 
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