Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Thompson, Carol C.

Committee Member 1

Milou, Eric

Committee Member 2

Perry, Jill


Catholic education, Elementary Education, Instruction, Low Achievement, Mathematics Achievement, Perceptions


Mathematics--Study and teaching; Academic achievement; Catholic elementary schools


Elementary Education | Science and Mathematics Education


This qualitative case study explored Catholic school teachers' perceptions of factors related to low mathematics achievement in second through fifth grade at three Catholic elementary schools in the Eastern United States. The three schools that participated in this study have varying degrees of ethnic diversity and vary in school enrollment. In 2015, all schools in the archdiocese produced standardized test results well above the national average in reading in second through fifth grades. In the same academic year, the gap between the national average and the district's second through fifth grade mathematics scores was significantly narrower. This study identifies the need to understand teachers' views of low achievement in mathematics in the attempt to reform policies to improve mathematics achievement.

Data was collected through school documents, semi-structured open-ended interviews, and observation of teachers in mathematics classrooms. In order to have a consistent focus observing classroom teachers, the researcher used Sawada et al.'s (2000) Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol to collect observational data consisting of a total of 450 minutes of mathematics instruction.

The results of this study identified teacher quality, curricular referencing, and cultural referencing as themes of low achievement. The first theme of teacher quality has a direct connection to the main research question of this study. The financial stability of a Catholic elementary school has a major link to the curriculum, instruction, and school climate being offered to the school community. Schools with decreased enrollment have been affected by limited operating expenses. Catholic schools with thriving enrollments are more successful in retaining quality teachers due to their prosperous operating budget. The findings of this study have established a connection between mathematics achievement and schools with successful operating budgets and teacher quality.

Curricular referencing arose as a theme based on comments about maintaining the fast pace of the curriculum, completion of math concepts, ineffective math textbooks, and lack of instructional time. The study found a connection between the overall positive student engagement in the classroom observations and the interview data collected from all the participants.

The third theme of cultural referencing emerged based on school demographics, diversity, English Language Learners, lack of home support, and lack of home resources. The study found a connection between the theme of cultural referencing and mathematics achievement in second through fifth grade Catholic elementary school students.