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Fall 2023 Capstone Abstract Archive

Holly Adams

Based on KSA data, students at our school need to increase their stamina to complete literacy tasks. In an attempt to increase student test scores, the GRREC ED Candidate created tabbed assessments and an assessment hub for teachers for strategic use in classrooms across content areas, to build consistency. These tabbed assessments were given at intervals throughout the school year. Data was collected by the candidate specifically in Reading and On Demand Writing. After implementing tabbed assessments, KSA Scores increased by 19% in On-Demand Writing for the school. These results indicate that periodic practice assessments were beneficial for growing student stamina in completing rigorous multi-step assessments. The continued use of multi-tabbed assessments is needed to replicate results with another group of students.

Amber Allen

Based on the analysis of surveys given to students and teachers, and informal interviews with students and staff, a high school identified a need to strengthen student feelings of connectedness to the school. To attempt to increase student feelings of connectedness to the school, the GRREC ED candidate implemented research-based strategies such as, implementing opportunities for student engagement, enhancing the school’s peer tutoring program and CEC club, and encouraging extracurricular involvement for disabled students. Feedback from a School Climate Survey given to peer tutors indicate that the opportunities for student engagement and peer tutoring program had a positive impact on their feelings of connectedness to the high school. These results indicate that the high school should continue implementing the evidence-based strategies, and determine additional strategies that may increase feelings of student connectedness over the long term.

Jenna Birge

My capstone project focused on the instruction that was provided to the gifted and talented students in our school. The driving question for the project was: Are the teachers in my school district trained to meet the educational needs of the gifted population? Data was collected focusing on examining the level of training and perceptions that educators had about providing instruction to gifted students. Based on the data received, 71.5% of teachers had little to no training on how to provide adequate instruction to gifted students. This is important to address, as data shows that 61.9% of teachers have gifted learners in their classroom, but the majority of teachers do not know how to service the needs of those students. Research over this problem showed that many teachers are untrained on instructional strategies, identifying giftedness, available resources, and struggle to overcome myths about gifted learners. It was through the research that I created a website to address the problem of practice by providing teacher resources and training over giftedness, as well as, students access to gifted choice board opportunities to provide adequate instruction that aligns with their content standards. Data collected after the study showed that when provided opportunities for training and knowledge of expectations when teaching gifted students, 52.4% of teachers now feel comfortable that they are meeting the needs of the gifted students. The significance of this study proves that all teachers need training on how to provide instruction to gifted students, so they are able to meet their instructional needs.

Maggie Brooks

Based on FastBridge data and teacher survey data from a Needs Assessment data, there is a need to provide more math support within the ELL population at the school I work at. Students scored within the 0-20th percentile on the aMath assessment, which focuses on basic number skills mentioned in my data report. In turn, numbers and operations and algebraic thinking, prior knowledge, computation, and of course language were the most voted barriers in the teacher survey.

Lindsey Devore

This capstone addresses the problem of the practice of providing appropriate communication support, and literacy instruction, for students with complex communication needs. A teacher survey and needs assessment results indicate the need for research-based and accessible instructional resources and materials. Through research, investigations, and discussions on best practices for literacy instruction for students with CCN, a Comprehensive Literacy Planning Guide was developed as a way to plan for daily Comprehensive Literacy interventions, as well as a website to house resources and instructional materials for the literacy interventions of Self-Directed, Shared Reading, and Predictable Chart Writing. I focused on implementing the daily interventions of self-directed reading, shared reading, and predictable chart writing within my resource classroom.   

My collection and analysis of impact data show evidence that my research, work, and involvement in addressing literacy instruction for students with complex communication needs has positively impacted my problem of practice within my own classroom. Qualitative data indicates that I am moving my problem of practice, and should continue working towards implementing the literacy components of comprehensive literacy, and refining my lessons and materials to have high-quality resources to share on my resource website.

Some recommendations include using more data sources to understand student outcomes better. That could support my work in providing a data source for individualized educational planning, and demonstrating the impact of comprehensive literacy instructional strategies on learners with complex learning and communication needs. 

Keywords: comprehensive literacy, complex communication needs, aided language Input

Katie Edge

The COVID epidemic left many school districts struggling to close achievement gaps in math for many students. Many schools invested in computer programs, applications, additional teachers, and after school support, to ensure that students could have access to learning materials that would help them “Catch back up.” We composed an activity guide to be used by intervention teachers during kindergarten math centers to help fill achievement gaps for incoming first grade students, so that the first grade teachers would be able to spend ample time on new learning rather than re-teaching kindergarten content. Our project showed that while one year of implementation was not enough to make massive gains in formal assessment data, the benefits of vertical collaboration between grade-level teachers and intervention teachers has greatly impacted our teaching and learning practices.

Jennifer Fritsch

This capstone has been developed over the past year by listening to teachers' needs, and understanding areas for student improvement. By the changing of district universal screener, implementation of a new district wide curriculum, along with reduced RTI staff, we saw a need to help teachers look at data intentionally to find student gaps. The other GRREC ED Candidates and I had a goal to help teachers understand and use data to drive student instruction, and appropriately provide RTI services within their classroom. This capstone shows the steps my team took to train teachers on utilizing Fastbridge, looking at data from screeners and progress monitoring, and then using resources within the classroom to teach those gaps. Resources and training materials were then placed into an MTSS handbook for teachers to access and use as needed. The development and merging of the practices within our building have come together to create an MTSS Handbook that will be used to help drive decisions based on student needs. This capstone shows my journey with providing reading interventions, links, resources, and information to the staff at our school. Through a collaborative effort, we have been able to provide teachers with what they need.

Jessica Greer

Based on needs assessment data and the professional conversations had in PLC, a high teacher identified a need to improve content specific professional development for world language teachers within the GRREC area. To attempt to provide content-specific professional development, the GRREC ED Candidate, in collaboration with her mentors, developed and hosted a six hour professional development for world language teachers that implemented research-based strategies and technology tools. After delivering the content-specific professional development, the candidate received a number of inquiries and desires to create a cohort for world language teachers to meet quarterly or bi-yearly, in person or via Zoom, to continue to have professional discussions regarding new teaching strategies, lesson plan implementations, collaboration, and more. Based on this feedback, the GRREC ED Candidate is looking into creating this cohort, and hosting more content-specific and relevant professional developments.

Timothy Gross

This capstone project was completed in the first semester of the 2023-2024 school year. I collaborated with a reading class and combined that with my physical education class. By offering brain breaks and extra PE time, students were to work together with reading class and physical education class to improve their academic success and improve on their positive behavior.

Whitney Hornbeck

Over the past several years this elementary school has not seen measurable improvement in math scores on test prep programs or actual state testing. For the past five years, we have implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) programs in our school. Currently the program only focuses on the students that are performing on the Novice level, and are several grade levels behind. Often we are able to move these students possibly one level, or refer them for an Individual Education Plan (IEP.) As an educator, I wanted to turn my focus as a classroom teacher specifically on students that were below grade level, but not behind enough to receive intervention services. My project targeted 6 specific students in my third grade classroom who scored right at or below the proficiency mark according to our fall benchmark scores on Mastery Connect. My goal was to use a variety of research strategies to move these students at least one benchmark level in math by the end of the 2022/2023 school year. Research: I spent time doing extensive research on my problem of practice. Many credible research articles concluded that “Individual and small group interventions in arithmetic, especially those that focus on areas in which a child has had difficulty can be highly effective” (Dowker, A. 2010). Also, “Research supports the idea that small group instruction guided by teachers can help identify and address deficiencies.” (Jacob, 2018). “The findings also support the potential benefits and continuous need to explore the benefits of the Guided math approach for closing gaps and increasing achievement in mathematics.” (Benders, Craft 2016). “Research also points out that students who fail to develop proficiency and automaticity in computational skills (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) as well as problem solving in the primary grades are more likely to experience difficulties in math curriculum later.”(Folk, B. 2021) This research indicated that my small, focused group driven by data was the best plan to address the needs of these students. Implementation/Results: I implemented several steps in order to address my problem of practice. Step 1 involved surveying the staff to see if they also thought this was a need. The results showed that the entire school staff who worked with math students grades 3-5 felt they needed assistance supporting these students. My next step was to select a focus group. I took the data from our benchmark 1 district test and pinpointed the students who fell under 68% and did not already receive services. Next, I met with this focus group and we set goals and group norms. I established a positive, safe relationship with students so they felt comfortable in the group. We met several times a week to practice specific skills tied to their individual needs. Next, I reviewed the 2nd benchmark to see their progress. Every student improved from their 1st to 2nd assessment. Next, we continued working in skills groups after reviewing the 2nd test data. By the end of spring, I was able to compare all 3 tests in which all 6 students showed significant improvement and scored 82% or higher on the final benchmark test. This translated to the state test in May, in which 5 of the 6 students scored proficient or distinguished, and only 1 student scored apprentice. Reflection: This project was such a success I will continue it next year, as it made me reflect on my effectiveness in the classroom, focus on students who are often overlooked, and learn strategies on how to improve on implementation of data driven instruction.


Benders, David and Craft, Tracy (2016) "The Effect of Flexible Small Groups on Math Achievement in First Grade," Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research: Vol. 18: Iss. 1. Dowker, A. (2010). Targeted interventions for children with arithmetical difficulties. British Journal of Educational Psychology Monograph Series, II(7), 65–81. Folk, Brittany, "Effects of Small Group Math Interventions for Math Achievement" (2021). Dissertations, Theses, and Projects. 620. Jacob, Robin and Jacob, Brian (2018) “New Evidence on the Benefits of Small Group Math Instruction for Young Children,” Evidence Speaks Reports, Vol 2, #55 June 7, 2018.

Lauren Houk

This curriculum development project aimed to address low student stamina and motivation at a middle school in Kentucky by creating, implementing, and evaluating a unified curriculum tool. Grounded in trans-disciplinary literacy, the GRREC ED candidate created a project focused on Multiple Tabbed Practice Assessments (MTPs), to foster engagement and proficiency across content areas. Collaborative efforts involved data analysis, brainstorming, and needs assessment to inform the curriculum's structure. Implementation included the development and discussion of MTPs, teacher surveys, and student self-efficacy assessments. The impact was measured through student work samples, pacing guides, and KSA results. The outcomes revealed positive trends, including increased student completion of assessments, improved pacing, and enhanced student confidence. Survey data indicated heightened student self-efficacy and perceived benefits from MTPs. Based on these results, the middle school should continue their ongoing efforts with tracking student progress and sharing the curriculum with new faculty, emphasizing continuous improvement.

Samantha Huffman

This Capstone Project was conducted a Kentucky High School during the January 2022 - December 2023 school years. My classroom is composed of fifteen and sixteen year old Biology, Honors Biology and AP Biology students. At the beginning of the school year, teachers were asked to identify characteristics that make up a great classroom. After the data was compiled, the “It’s a 10” document was formed by our school's instructional coach. I then surveyed teachers to find out which of the characteristics they were the least confident with. Based on the “It's a 10” Survey, teachers need to incorporate more student-led learning opportunities in order to foster increased student engagement. The goal of my Capstone Project is to create resources, and compile strategies that will help teachers incorporate the Student-Led characteristic into the classroom effectively. Through research, I have designed artifacts and implemented them within my classroom. By collecting data from my classroom, my goal is to improve student mastery of content, by incorporating Student-led activities into the lesson. Using the data as evidence, I will share the Student-led strategies with the High School's teachers at upcoming PLC's.

Kasie Lakarosky

The impact of returning back to school post pandemic has been a challenge for both students and staff academically, emotionally, and socially. Student behaviors are at an all time high, and the stress on teachers to teach all academic standards to ensure students are recouping from learning loss leaves less time for Social and Emotional learning in the classroom, and our students are suffering. As a school, our PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) is working to implement positive behavior incentives for our students weekly and monthly, but our teachers are struggling with daily implementation of behavior strategies when behaviors arise. According to the teacher survey sent out in August 2022, 94% of the teachers feel like they are able to successfully teach social and emotional lessons, but struggle to be able to implement the strategies when behavior arises in real time without involving administration.

Angela McColpin

Based on middle school I-Ready data, K-PREP scores, and a classroom science vocabulary survey, we (middle school teachers) need to increase our focus on vocabulary instruction to improve reading comprehension. In an attempt to increase reading comprehension, the GRREC ED Candidate implemented research-based strategies such as, teaching Latin and Greek prefixes, root words, and suffixes. Additional research-based strategies used included using Frayer Models and One-pagers to make vocabulary more engaging and meaningful to each student. After 32 weeks of implementation, substantial growth was shown in reading comprehension as measured by i-Ready scores. Feedback from a teacher survey indicated that student reading comprehension had improved in content classrooms. Also, student survey data indicated that the students enjoyed creating graphic organizers, rather than writing definitions, and felt more confident in their reading abilities. The results indicated that middle school should continue teaching vocabulary as part of their reading program and content classes.

Amy Mooneyhan

The purpose of this field experience was to find ways to increase reading comprehension in Kentucky middle school students. In order to do this, my colleagues and I had to discover why student comprehension had decreased over recent years. My goal was to identify why students' reading comprehension is declining, and then design a plan to implement throughout our middle school to address this problem. My problem of practice, based on the analysis of the KSA data and I-Ready Data, is to strengthen student's vocabulary skills in order to improve comprehension, and increase proficiency in reading. The plan included adding a 30 minutes reading period to the beginning of each school day, where students received independent reading time and direct vocabulary instruction. In addition to this, I focused on increasing engaging vocabulary instruction into my general education and RTI classes. The results, after implementing this plan for 30 weeks, showed insignificant growth.

Elizabeth Myatt

Based on survey and IEP progress monitoring data, I need to become more knowledgeable about communication strategies, in order to increase communication skills for students' with complex communication needs. In an attempt to increase my student’s communication skills, the two main research based strategies I implemented in my classroom were Aided Language Modeling and Core Vocabulary Words. After implementing the strategies into my classroom routine, one of my students started interacting with his device 22.2% of the time. Another one of my students grew from 0% in April to 57% in November on his communication goal. These results indicate that I should continue to implement the communication strategies in my classroom, and continue to make communication opportunities available for all my students.

Crystal Richards

At a data team meeting in the spring of 2022, the kindergarten teachers at an Elementary School looked at multiple data points that showed a few gaps in student achievement in certain academic areas of students who are leaving the grade level. Their final MAP assessment of the year highlighted these gaps in the area of mathematics. Because of the achievement gaps, we decided to further investigate by collecting more data on incoming kindergarten and first grade students. We then collaborated with first grade teachers and our math interventionist to create math tubs with hands on activities and manipulatives that would help to close the gaps seen in our former students. We used our research from our artifacts to come up with activities that actually work. We then implemented these new activities during a 10 week period during our math center time. We then analyzed current data to determine the difference it made for our students.

Teresa Robertson

Based on interrupted teaching and learning because of COVID, student data from STEM-CS data for middle school, and assessment data, I believe the Problem of Practice is the ability for students to communicate. Due to the lack of student experience in the past few years, making connections and being able to explain those connections makes the students feel vulnerable and not confident in the area of Science. To attempt to increase middle school student confidence and ability to communicate, I implemented research- based strategies such as blended learning, project based instruction, hexagonal thinking, and ALM strategies to help students become more comfortable with making connections, vocabulary, and communicating their findings. Through the course of the school year, the middle school students have become more confident while conversing with each other, and with me. There has been an average of 24% score increase per unit over the course of the school year. These results indicate that the middle school should continue implementing the evidence based strategies, and determine any additional strategies that may further increase student productivity and confidence.

Stephanie Roemer

The following Capstone project has a problem of practice based on MAP and school report card data, showing a need for new instructional approaches to increase student engagement in productive struggle, to power through challenging mathematical problems. Research was conducted on productive struggle in the math classroom from a variety of sources including books, educational articles, and educational websites. Implantation is described from the perspective of how a teacher can incorporate resources at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. Strategies and resources are suggested at each stage. An analysis of data from multiple sources including teacher and student surveys, assessment data including KSA and MAP scores. Examples of artifacts used throughout my GRREC ED journey with student samples. And lastly, included is a professional reflection on my journey.

Angela Sales-Dye

Students with MMD struggle to learn to use decoding skills and phonics to become readers. The purpose of this project is to find one strategy that can be implemented every day, for a short period of time. I used multiple resources to research different types of strategies and the science that shows the way people learn to read. During research, one strategy was prevalent. Orthographic mapping was key to people becoming fluent and efficient readers. After finding this link between resources, I determined a plan of action to explicitly teach students how to map words. Daily practice showed that students grew in their ability to read familiar and unfamiliar words. The 3rd grade MMD students went from being unable to decode cvc words, to being able to either read the words fluently, or use the strategies taught to decode and read. This shows that by completing this strategy daily for 5 to 15 minutes, students will have growth in the area of basic reading.

Jason Shores

Based on previous and current Edgenuity curriculum data, an alternative school identified a need to improve school-wide academic and social progress. To attempt to increase academic and social progress, the GRREC ED Candidate implemented research-based strategies such as a structured reward system for students, training on motivation and success strategies, and school-wide life readiness days once a month. After nine weeks of implementation, academic and social progress increased by 50%. Feedback from a student survey indicated they "really enjoyed" the reward system for academic and behavioral progress. Based on the results, the alternative school should continue implementing the research-based strategies and determine additional strategies that may further increase academic and social progress consistently over the long term.

Madeline Simms

This capstone was set into motion by listening to teachers at a Kentucky Elementary School. My team was able to understand teachers’ needs, in order to develop a resource that could be an assistant during instruction and while planning. It has been created over the 2022-2023 school year, by collaborating with teachers and understanding their needs to drive instruction in the classrooms. It will continue to be an ever growing resource for the staff at this Elementary School. My GRREC ED teammates and I developed a plan in order to implement the MTSS platform, to help teachers make a shift in data based decision making and give resources to address students who needed more support. This capstone shows the steps my team took to make an impactful platform, that provided guidelines and expectations for a PLC meeting. Other sections include various resources to use within the classroom for intervention. Resources and expectations were then added to the MTSS handbook for teachers to utilize during grade level PLC meetings. The development and merging of the practices within our building have come together to create an MTSS Handbook that will be used to make data based decisions to drive instruction. This capstone shows my journey with providing PLC expectations, links, resources, and information to the staff at this Elementary School. Through a collaborative effort, we have been able to provide teachers with resources that address their needs.

Jessica Simpson

Based on the loss of character education skills at a Kentucky Elementary School during Covid, teachers needed to work towards improving our Character Education Program with strong lessons to address the needs of the child, in and out of the classroom. In attempts to help this, I took the opportunity to focus on creating a strong curriculum to use for our Character Education Program. With implementing this curriculum, students will be engaged in the character education skills that were lost during the Covid pandemic, and teachers will be provided the support they need to successfully carry out the weekly lessons. After implementing, teachers were able to see differences in students, and 85% of teachers witnessed students using the skills and info that was taught in their Character Education class. 100% of teachers agreed that the lessons and topics were beneficial, and 85% of the elementary school staff agreed that the Character Education Program was very effective. From these results, I think it would be a great decision for my elementary school to continue the program, and for teachers to come together to be able to share their ideas to continually add rich resources to address the needs of students each year.

Nicole Terry

Teachers at an elementary school discovered detrimental learning gaps that they attributed to quarantine mandates, contact tracing, and high instances of absenteeism resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. First grade students, in particular, were achieving below grade level in reading. Specifically, these students had weaknesses in phonics and word attack skills. In attempts to strengthen students’ acquisition of specific skills, a series of research based practices using Phonics First, an Orton-Gillingham based program, was implemented with a group of first graders in an RTI (Response to Intervention) setting. In all instances, students’ collective mastery was improved. These results suggest that the elementary school should continue implementing the evidence based strategies, and design further strategies to strengthen other areas of weaknesses that still exist.

Terra Yates

Preschool students at a Kentucky Preschool were struggling with using appropriate social skills and positive behaviors, after the return to in person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the lack of social skills, teacher and parent toolkits were developed and shared to involve other staff members and parents in collaborating to increase social skills across all settings: school, home, and community. After creating and sharing social emotional resources with parents and preschool staff members, students showed an increase in positive behaviors and social skills over a two year period. Teaching SEL daily to students, and collaborating with families in the home, led to positive outcomes socially for preschool students at this Preschool.

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