Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Rollen Fowler


This case study examined the problem of below-grade-level reading scores among kindergarten students despite the use of literacy centers in a large Title 1 public elementary school in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether application of the literacy center model might be connected to student performance. Specifically, the research question concerned whether implementation of literacy centers was consistent with principles of mastery learning based on differentiation by ability. This study was guided by Bloom's theory of mastery learning, which suggests that higher levels of learning may be achieved if each child is allowed to work at his or her own pace and academic level. The study documented literacy center activities over a 5-month period. Data sources included classroom observations within 11 kindergarten classrooms, interviews with 11 kindergarten teachers, and reviews of student assessments. Descriptive coding, category construction, and the constant comparison method were used to analyze the data. The findings revealed that although many components of mastery learning were evident, the frequent dependence upon subjective assessments and inappropriate task assignment for low-achieving students were not aligned. To improve classroom practices and achieve greater alignment, an in-service professional development project based on a training model by Sparks and Loucks-Horsley was developed, with attention to incorporating research-based classroom activities for low-achieving kindergarten students into the literacy center organization. Combating reading difficulties in the early school years offers educational and social advantages, such as later reading achievement, improved school completion rates, lower incarceration rates, and less dependence upon low-paying jobs.