Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Enhancing Achievement in Rural Schools: A Reply to Eppley

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Enhancing Achievement in Rural Schools: A Reply to Eppley

Article excerpt

I appreciate the opportunity to reply to Professor Eppley's comment on my paper that was recently published in the Journal of Research in Rural Education (Stockard, 2011b). Her paper contains numerous statements that misrepresent both the content of my original paper and the social science literature as well as a number of provocative philosophical comments. In the pages that follow I address each of these areas

Misrepresentations of Stockard, 2011

Readers of this exchange are urged to read my original manuscript rather than Eppley's summary of it, for her characterizations bear almost no resemblance to the actual content of the paper. The article is a quantitative analysis of data from over 800 students in three different districts in one rural state. All of the schools had proportionally more students at risk (measured as receipt of free or reduced lunch or minority status) than in the state as a whole. A cohort control group design (Cook & Campbell, 1979) and linear growth models were used to examine variations in growth in reading skills, comparing students with full exposure to Reading Mastery (RM) (defined as having had the curriculum from the beginning of kindergarten) and those with less exposure (beginning in later grades). Results indicated that students with full exposure had significantly higher reading skills, that these differences persisted through the primary grades, and that significant differences also appeared on state reading assessments given in the fourth grade.

First, Eppley contends that the intent and purpose of my study was "pedagogical development" (Eppley, p. 1). In fact, as clearly stated in the abstract as well as in the introduction (Stockard, 2011b, p. 1-2) and repeated in the summary and conclusion (p. 14), the purpose of the study was "to examine changes in reading skills through the primary grades of students in three rural, Midwestern districts that occurred after the implementation of a highly structured and explicit reading curriculum (Reading Mastery) with implementation-associated support and guidance" (p. 1). The mention of pedagogical skills reflects my citation of Arnold and associates' suggestion that identifying ways to help rural schools improve teachers' "pedagogical skills in ways that have the greatest impact on student achievement" should be a priority area of research in rural education (Stockard, 2011b, p. 1, citing Arnold, Newman, Gaddy, & Dean, 2005, p. 18). Thus, those interested in pedagogical development could use the findings, but this was not the stated purpose of the study.

Second, Eppley claims that I recommend teachers and school leaders' "purchase of a commercially produced 'curriculum'" (2011, p. 1). As noted above, my study found that students had significantly higher reading skills when they had full exposure to the Reading Mastery curriculum. While this result, coupled with that of many other studies of the curriculum, could prompt reasonable people to believe that the program could benefit children and should be used, there is no place within the paper where I make such explicit recommendations. She also claims that my "recommendation is that teachers intentionally avoid making connections between a child's life, background knowledge, and interests during the teaching of reading" (2011, p. 3). She gives no quotation from the paper to support this claim, and I have searched the article in vain for such a "recommendation." Her statements appear to be fabrications and included only to help support her polemics and cast aspersions.

Third, Eppley states that I "paint rural schools as places of lack," implying that I had low regard for the capabilities and skills of the rural teachers (2011, p. 2). Again, however, she provides no evidence from the paper to support this conclusion. In contrast, the concluding statement of my article describes the strengths of these schools and their efforts to help young people.

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