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«THE IMPACT OF C.R.E.A.T.E. ON URBAN STUDENT SUCCESS IN MATHEMATICS Kadhir V. Rajagopal B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2003 M.A., ...»

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Kadhir V. Rajagopal

B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2003

M.A., University of San Francisco, San Francisco, 2005


Submitted in partial fulfillment of

the requirements for the degree of






SPRING Copyright © 2010 Kadhir V. Rajagopal All rights reserved ii THE IMPACT OF C.R.E.A.T.E. ON URBAN STUDENT SUCCESS IN


A Dissertation by Kadhir V. Rajagopal

Approved by Dissertation Committee:


Robert Pritchard, Ph.D., Chair _________________________________

Geni Cowan, Ph.D.


Jose Chavez, Ed.D.



Student: Kadhir V. Rajagopal I certify that this student has met their requirements for format contained in the University format manual, and that this dissertation is suitable for shelving in the library and credit is to be awarded for the dissertation.

___________________________, Graduate Coordinator _________________

Carlos Nevarez, Ph.D. Date iv


Education B.A. in American Studies, December, 2002 UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, Cumulative G.P.A. 3.51 Teacher Credential/BCLAD Single Subject in Math and History, Dec. 2005 USF, San Francisco, CA, Cumulative G.P.A. 3.45 Masters in Education, December 2005 USF, San Francisco, CA Special Education Mild/Mod Credential, Dec. 2006 San Francisco State, SFSU, CA Administrative Services Credential, June 2007 Sacramento State University, Sacramento, CA Ed.D. Doctorate in Education, August 2007- Present Sacramento State University, Sacramento, CA v Professional Employment Math Teacher at Grant Union High School, Sacramento, CA Sept. 2006- present I am currently a Math teacher and Instructional Coach for teachers working with at risk populations including the Special Day Classes consisting of students who have both learning disabilities and behavioral problems. My students have outperformed the entire Grant district of thousands on every district-wide exam by far. Their success and the instructional strategies I have used to help excel them have been the subject of a documentary and numerous state and national conferences related to addressing the achievement gap.

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7th Grade Social Science Teacher at Madison Middle School, Oakland, CA Sept. 2004-June 2005 As a 7th grade History teacher, I was able to get my students to learn the content based on the state standards. On every test taken from the district assessment book, at least 70% of my students scored an A. I was able to engage a majority of my students using various educational activities that involved music, sports, and games.

vi Student Teacher at Skyline High School, Oakland, CA Sept. 2003-June 2004 As an 11th grade English teacher in an East Oakland high school, I was able to improve the academic performance of the most marginalized students. Many kids produced their best work such as persuasive essays, letters, and research papers in my English class. The curriculum I designed integrated English skills with social justice or an active awareness of social problems that affect their inner city black and Latino communities. Also, I organized several social empowerment projects that related English to social problems, responsibility and action.

Caretaker for Students with Disabilities, UC Berkeley, CA Sept. 1999-present I have been a caretaker and good friend to five different students at UC Berkeley with disabilities. These students have paralysis, slight retardation or cerebral palsy. My responsibilities include cleaning, showering, feeding and helping with homework both at 6:30 A.M. and at 10 P.M. everyday. I have learned a great deal about patience and the importance of looking beyond a disability. Many of these people I take care of have inspired me with their motivation to succeed and have taught me that they are no different from other human beings since they too have feelings and the ability to love others.

Tennis Instructor and Youth Mentor at after school program, North Oakland, CA Sept. 2000-Dec.2002 I was a youth mentor and tennis coach for middle school youth at Bushrod Academy in North Oakland. I was responsible for helping kids with their homework and then teaching tennis to 30 kids from 3pm to 6pm everyday. I used my position as a coach to design games that promoted teamwork, leadership, and hard work.

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Failure in algebra is the #1 trigger of dropouts in high school according to a former superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) (Helfand, 2007). Too many urban students of color are failing or performing below basic in foundational mathematics. The author, a teacher at West High School, has been able to achieve different results with low income urban students in algebra. The author has used specific strategies that have helped the majority of his once low-performing students to consistently succeed in algebra and outperform their peers throughout the entire Grand District and state of California. The strategies used by the author have been integrated into an instructional model called C.R.E.A.T.E. This project focused on documenting the impact C.R.E.A.T.E. could have on the results other math teachers experienced with their students in foundational math classrooms, specifically, algebra and geometry. Furthermore, the study revolved around the issue of replicating the success the author has had with C.R.E.A.T.E. in other classrooms. The purpose of

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classrooms at West High School resulted in a majority of low income and underperforming students succeeding on district and statewide math assessments in algebra I and geometry. The documentation of strategies and results from the implementation of C.R.E.A.T.E. may provide evidence for administrators at the district and state level to determine if the C.R.E.A.T.E. model should be implemented as a way to address the pressing crisis of failure in math for diverse urban populations.

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Curriculum Vitae

List of Tables

List of Figures



Statement of the Problem

Background of the Study

Purpose of the Study

Research Questions

Definition of Terms



Organization of the Study


I. The Existing Algebra Curriculum and Intended Mode of Algebra Instruction at West High School – An Urban California Public High School

II. Significance of Increasing Urban Student Success in Mathematics......... 25 III. Why Are Urban Students Performing Poorly?

IV. The Importance of the Teacher

V. The Other Side: Teacher Quality is Not the Major Factor in Urban Student Success

VI. C.R.E.A.T.E.: A Model for Urban Student Engagement and Achievement

x VII. Professional Development for Teachers





Population and Sample

Research Design

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Research Questions


Overview of Study




Recommendations and Implications for Educational Community.............. 160 Implications

Recommendations for Further Study


Observation Protocol ……………………………………………………... 173 REFERENCES

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1. Algebra I (% Students Scoring Basic or Above)

2. Geometry (% Students Scoring Basic or Above)

3. Grade Point Average (G.P.A.) for Students by Teacher

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1. Below Basic in Algebra

2. Grade Distribution in Math Classes, 2008-2009

3. Math CST 2009 Scores

4. Average Scores on Grand District Algebra Final Exam, Fall 2007

5. Average Scores on Grand District Algebra Final Exam, Spring 2008

6. CST Algebra I 2009: Percent Basic and Proficient

7. CST Algebra I by Ethnicity, 2009: Percent Basic and Proficient

8. CST Algebra I by Income, 2009: Percent Basic and Proficient

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According to the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest district in the U.S., failure in algebra is the number one trigger of dropouts in high school (Helfand, 2007). The California Dropout Research Project reveals that 70% of students who do not pass algebra by the ninth grade drop out of high school compared to 30% for those students who do pass it (California Dropout Research Project, 2008). Failure in the three foundational math classes, algebra, geometry, and algebra 2, can also be perceived as a major roadblock because, as many influential policy makers including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have declared, math is the “gateway” to college and higher-paying careers (Tucker, 2008). Research by the U.S. Department of Education explains how of all the high school courses, the highest level of mathematics taken is the most important for college success (Adelman, 1999).

Unfortunately, failure or poor performance in foundational math classes such as algebra is a national epidemic facing urban secondary education and adversely impacting students of color. The National Assessment of Educational Progress states that the “overwhelming number of low-achieving students in algebra are black and Hispanic and attend big urban, high-poverty schools where they are more likely to fall through the cracks” (Loveless, 2008).Moreover, African American and Hispanic students are about twice as likely as whites and three times as likely as Asians to cease their math career at the lower level of algebra (Adelman, 1999).

Failure or poor performance in foundational math classes can be defined as a lack of a basic understanding of algebra, geometry, or algebra II which can be seen through either failing grades in math classes or performing below basic on standardized state math exams. The failure in foundational math classes for urban students of color is seen in the fact that only between 8% and 10% of African American and Latino students in California were proficient in algebra based on the 2008 California Standardized Test of Algebra (Education Trust-West, 2008). Overall, 65% of African American students and 60% of Latino students who took algebra scored below the basic level on the California Standards Test in Algebra. By contrast, 65% of white students and 80% of Asian students who took algebra score at the basic level or above.

While the epidemic of poor performance for urban youth in the “gateway” course exists statewide, it is especially exacerbated in urban districts like LAUSD where the student population is 73% Latino and 11% African American. In 2006, 29,000 out of 48,000 kids who took algebra failed it in Los Angeles. For those kids who repeated algebra, 75% of them failed it again. Research by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that the single greatest predictor of college preparedness and successful college completion is the taking of high level mathematics courses during high school (Adelman, 1999). Furthermore, the work of Robert Moses with the Algebra Project has demonstrated that if students do not successfully complete algebra, they are unlikely to succeed in institutions of postsecondary education and as a result may be denied many future educational and employment opportunities (Cobb & Moses, 2001). Therefore, failure in foundational math classes for urban students of color is a statewide crisis that needs to be urgently addressed because it adversely impacts the opportunities youth have in attaining higher education and higher wage careers.

Figure 1. Below Basic in Algebra.

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Too many urban students of color are failing or performing below basic in foundational mathematics. This statewide epidemic of urban math failure also adversely affects students at West Union High School in Sacramento, CA, where this study takes place. West’s student population is 60% African American and Latino and the students come from the urban community known as Crown Park in Sacramento (Ed-Data, 2008). In the 2008-2009 school year, there were a disproportionate number of students who received D’s and F’s. In algebra I, 51% of all students enrolled in algebra I received either a D or F as their final grade. Excluding the students in the author’s class, 80% of the students in algebra classes received a D or F.

Figure 2. Grade Distribution in Math Classes, 2008-2009.

This pattern of failure in foundational math classes is also seen in the student achievement data from 2007. That year, almost 90% of the students failed the district wide algebra final exam; 400 students out 450 students who took algebra failed the final exam at West. In geometry classes, 50% received either a D or an F. Finally, in algebra II, 74% received a D or an F. Altogether, roughly 60% of all students in foundational math classes at West received either a D or F. Even more mind boggling is that there were more F grades given out than any other grade for students taking a math class. That implies that after 36 weeks of the school, 402 students out of 1,184 students who too math did not receive their credits and had a 0.0 grade points average from math.

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