“I just do what’s right by my students” : a qualitative multiple case study of early elementary teacher’s literacy best practices despite policy changes.


There is a significant lack of students in Tennessee who are reading at a proficient level. According to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment data, nationally only 37% of fourth grade students are reading at a proficient level. Specifically, in the state of Tennessee, only 35% of fourth graders scored in the proficient level of reading (Nation’s Report Card, 2019). In response to these data, Tennessee implemented the Read to be Ready initiative that envisions by the year 2025, 75% of fourth graders will read proficiently (Tennessee Department of Education, 2018b). Implementation of this new initiative has begun, but no study currently shows how teachers make sense of and implement it daily in the literacy block. With this multiple case study, I aimed to discover if and how teachers at Montgomery Elementary School implemented research-based literacy practices as well as to investigate teacher responses to changing policy relating to literacy. Interviews, observation, and student artifacts emphasize teacher literacy practices implemented in the literacy block with the five pillars of reading. The five pillars of reading include phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. The results of this study indicated three key findings. The first finding is teachers implement research-based practices in the literacy block daily in classrooms. The second finding proved in addition to implementing research-based practices they also implement their own personal best practices. Finally, the study results indicated teacher agency and decision making occur despite policy changes. Results of this study also indicated three implications. First, there is a need for high quality and meaningful professional development opportunities. Second, there is a need for the creation of a mentorship program between veteran teachers and novice teachers. Finally, state policy makers need to look closer at newly proposed policies and how to involve educators in creating these policies.



Tennessee. Literacy. Read to be Ready.