After seven years of working on her dissertation, Principal Laverne Mattocks received her Doctorate in Leadership Perspectives on June 21, 2016. Due to this, Carrboro High School students have referred to her as “Dr. Mattocks” since the start of the school year.
The process involved choosing a topic, researching it and then writing a paper. Dr. Mattocks did all of this work while maintaining her position as the principal of Carrboro High School, causing the process to take longer than it does for most.
“It mixes educational psychology with the laws behind what we call IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” said Mattocks. “So, I wanted to look at the disproportionate placement of African American males in the disability categories.”
When she researched this issue of disproportionality, Mattocks found that the success of these schools came from the leaders of the schools believing they could make a difference and then acting on it. Mattocks believes that even acknowledging the problem of disproportionality can help to mitigate the problem in schools.
Mattocks found that the strong leaders, who believed they could change their school and had strong relationships with faculty and staff, were more successful in addressing the problem.
Although Dr. Mattocks worked on her dissertation while she serving as principal, she was sure that the writing process never distracted her from making CHS the best it can be.
“Other things did take a second seat because I wanted to do a really good job my first couple of years here, so I couldn’t work on it very much, I was always focused on Carrboro,” said Mattocks.
While she did not allow herself to work on her dissertation at CHS, Mattocks found that as long as she allotted her time properly, it was easy to avoid working on it at school.
“I wasn’t ever able to write here, because I couldn’t get in that frame of mind. Often I would go home, or on the weekends, as I said, to reflect on just the job, I often found inspiration to start writing” she said.
While Dr. Mattocks took a long time to complete her dissertation, she feels it has been worth it. Why? Because she believes there will always be students who need her and other teachers to push them to higher levels of learning.
On January 24, Assistant Principal Spencer Hawkins successfully defended his dissertation on equity in school scheduling, earning him a Doctorate of Education this academic year. Receiving the degree involved a year’s worth of research, culminating in a presentation to a committee of academics and education professionals.
Hawkins’ research investigates which classes three high schools in North Carolina assign their highest quality teachers. He determined teacher ability by combining elements like years of experience and number of advanced degrees.
Although many factors affect educational outcomes, previous research indicates that the quantifiable measures he uses in his metric still have a clear impact on outcomes in schools. Further, this methodology makes his process replicable, possibly across larger districts.
Hawkins chose to study equity in scheduling because of the lack of scholarly research he found on the topic.
“I wanted to fill a hole, fill a gap,” Hawkins said. “I feel like I’ve done that.”
Moreover, the fact that no one, to Hawkin’s knowledge, has attempted research like this before means he could later turn his 278 page dissertation into a book.
Ultimately, Hawkins found that in certain departments of all three schools, higher-quality teachers disproportionately teach higher-level classes, like honors and advanced placement. White and financially advantaged students are overwhelmingly more likely to take these classes. Therefore, he argues, assigning teachers classes is an issue of racial and economic equity.
As the creator of Carrboro’s master schedule, Hawkins hopes to learn from his research. He is interested in gathering data on Carrboro teachers for the metrics determining teacher quality discussed in his dissertation. He also plans to share his dissertation with the schools he studied.
As the first college graduate in his family, Hawkins is proud of what he has accomplished.