Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Neil Blumberg


The pressure to have students perform well on standardized tests can serve as a stressor to some teachers in their efforts to autonomously teach their students, particularly those of low socioeconomic status (SES). However, the relationship between teachers' sense of autonomy, teachers' attitudes and behaviors, SES, and student's academic success remains unclear. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between teachers' autonomy to make decisions about classroom teaching practices and specific science curricula, school-wide student achievement in science, and students' SES. Freire's empowerment theory served as the theoretical framework. The research questions investigated the extent that student SES background moderated the relationship between teacher autonomy, curricula, and school district science achievement. Data sources were student Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test science achievement scores and teacher autonomy data from 108 eighth grade science teachers in 16 school districts. Data were analyzed using hierarchical linear regression analysis. Results revealed no significant relationships between eighth-grade science teachers' perceptions of their autonomy, teaching practices, their science curriculum, and district eighth-grade science achievement scores (p > .001). Although the results were not significant, this study provides insights into 8th grade science education which may benefit students, teachers, and administration. Factors such as SES and teacher perception of autonomy can be advantegeously considered in science classes to increase student achievement. Such considerations can influence positive social change by increasing the science capacity of students at all SES levels.

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