Teachers' perspectives of how high-stakes testing influences instructional decisions and professionalism
Schulz, Brenda Croom
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Given the political and public demands for accountability, the purpose of this study wasto discover the perspectives of six elementary school National Board Certified teachers as to howhigh-stakes testing influenced their instructional decisions and sense of professionalism. Thisqualitative case study sought to draw from teachers’ experiences and interactions with others tolearn how high-stakes testing had influenced instructional decisions and professionalism. Aninterpretive approach was used to discover how teachers developed their perspectives and whythey believed as they did. Through the lens of symbolic interactionism, grounded theorymethods were used for inductively analyzing data from interviews, fieldnotes, and other artifacts.The constant comparison method aided in uncovering the themes grounded in the data.Five themes emerged revealing the positive and negative consequences of high-stakestesting. Two themes related specifically to professionalism identified gaps in the reflections ofthe teacher, signifying high-stakes testing had more of an impact on professionalism thanteachers were able to articulate or understand. Cumulatively, the themes indicated high-stakestesting placed teachers in the unfortunate position of defending their instructional effectivenessto the public based on one test. Additionally, results from high-stakes tests did not alwaysaccurately reflect the student learning or the instruction that had occurred. Results indicatedhigh-stakes testing had limited positive influence on instructional decisions and professionalism.More significantly, findings indicated high-stakes testing had a more negative influence on theseareas.Findings have implications for further research, particularly in the area ofprofessionalism. Interestingly, professionalism was found to have not developed beyond thesurface characteristics of appearance and confidentiality in communication and work related tocompleting tasks. While these are all important characteristics often used to defineprofessionalism, for the teaching profession to thrive, a deeper, more meaningful persona ofprofessionalism must be achieved.