Identifying Principal and Teacher Descriptions of the Continuation High School Teacher's "Special Fitness to Perform"
ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION
Identifying Principal and Teacher Descriptions of
the Continuation High School Teacher's
"Special Fitness to Perform"
Nestor Albert Vargas
Doctor of Education
University of California, Los Angeles, 2013
Professor Christina Christie, Co-chair
Professor Linda Rose, Co-chair
The objective of this study was to generate principal and teacher descriptions of what constitutes a teacher's "special fitness to perform" in a public urban continuation high school with a concentration of at-risk students. The sample included 6 continuation principals and 15 continuation teachers from a large urban school district in California. This study built upon previous research, providing greater specificity on three key areas of continuation teacher competencies: faculty training appropriate to the student population, faculty background characteristics that support teacher excellence, and faculty support of appropriate social and academic behaviors. The qualitative research design applied document collection and extreme case sampling to generate data related to these key areas. The findings suggest that continuation teacher "special fitness" is a flexible blending of academic and social, emotional, and behavioral management skills. This blending reflects a teacher's academic and personal experiences, and his/her own learnings from these experiences, transmitted through instruction and authentic, personal interaction. For the continuation teachers and principals that were interviewed, "special fitness to perform" implies a unique combination of skills, distinct from those attributable to their comprehensive school colleagues. It denotes more than a specific skill set, and it also includes the personal desire to teach in an environment unique from the comprehensive school. While continuation schools may reflect similar academic and behavioral issues faced by teachers at urban high schools, the difference is in the high concentration of these issues and number of put at-risk students attending continuation schools. Principals and teachers both spoke of a dedication needed to teach and support classrooms of put at-risk students; throughout the study's interviews, participants referred to this quality as "heart." While "heart" may not be a "special fitness" attribute that can be easily taught, trained, or quantified, it is a common identifier of the committed continuation schoolteacher.