Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Judy Shoemaker


The problem of low achievement and failure of 8th-grade students to attain state proficiency level in science in a local school district was addressed in this case study. Data from 2012-2016 revealed that 93% of 8th-grade students in 2 suburban middle schools in the targeted state failed to meet science proficiency standards on the science Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the state's Milestone Assessments. The purpose of conducting this qualitative case study was to develop an understanding of teachers' perceptions regarding high failure rate of 8th-grade students to meet state mandated standards in science. Piaget's constructs of developmental and operational learning were used as the conceptual framework. Guiding questions were used to explore teacher perceptions of the challenges middle school students experience in learning science, as well as developmental and operational learning characteristics affecting science achievement. Data were collected from interviews with 12 middle school science teachers at the two schools. Data were analyzed using open coding and thematic analysis and were checked for accuracy through member checking. Common themes were behavioral issues, lack of concept application, lack of intellectual development, the need for relatable instructional strategies, and the need for teachers' professional development. A professional development program for teachers was constructed as a project to address each of these themes. The study may affect positive social change by providing teachers and stakeholders with a deeper understanding of student needs in science learning and improved instructional strategies for teachers to enhance students' science achievement.