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A Complexity Context to North Carolina Charter School Classroom Interactions and Climate: Achievement Gap Impacts Open Access

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This multimethod, multiphase study was designed to determine the impact of charter school reform on achievement in North Carolina. The study was designed to be an analysis of the relationship between classroom climate, interactions, and student achievement, through a complexity systems context. This methodology allowed for combined qualitative, quantitative, network analysis, and agent-based modeling to capture the simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic interactions in classrooms. The data for the study were drawn from eighth-grade mathematics teachers and students at four charter schools in a North Carolina urban area (n = 300). Through the analysis of data, a more detailed and nuanced picture of the relationship between classroom climate, interactions, and charter school achievement emerged. The findings suggest that teacher control and second-semester math grades are statistically significant; the higher the level of control teachers exercise, the higher students score on common core achievement. According to the findings of this study, North Carolina charter schools have served as a successful reform strategy to address the achievement gap problem in North Carolina, with school-specific strategies including high teacher support, students’ teaching students, IAP/tutoring/online supplemental program, and small classrooms. All schools, on average, scored 30.9% to 56.8% higher on grade-level proficiency (GLP) than the North Carolina 2014-2015 average. The network analysis showed how classrooms can be more or less complex in different ways with instructional, emotional support, and behavior management interactions that fit into network structures of teacher to one-student, teacher to whole class, whole class to teacher, and student to student or students. The predictive ABM, based on achievement scores over time, school achievement strategy, classroom climate, high teacher control, and second-semester math grades, demonstrated accuracy. The ABM captured macroclassroom and microstudent outcomes, along with climate changes based on interactions that either increased or reduced positive climate. This is important because a teacher has limited resources and must deal with uncontrollable influences from outside the classroom. Teachers have the power to create a positive or negative climate by their verbal and nonverbal interactions. Teachers’ interactions have consequences that impact students’ achievement and students’ lives. Consequently, every interaction matters.

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