State mandated tests, state standards, and instructional choice
Fentress, Michelle Diane
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The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the impact of state mandated testing on 8th-12th grade social studies teachers, using the Thornton’s principle of gatekeeping as a theoretical framework. The focus of this study is to explore two research questions: 1. How do state mandated tests influence social studies teachers' curricular, instructional, and assessment choices? 2. What is the relationship between standardization and social studies teachers' gatekeeping role? The research is grounded in a variety of different research fields including the general impact of high stakes testing, assessment, policy, and teacher decision-making literature. A mixed methods approach is used, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methods. Questionnaires were given to all 8th-12th-grade teachers in one small Georgia County. Interviews were then conducted to create a bounded case study. Participants were selected to represent different subject matters, locations, and levels of teaching experience all possible factors that could affect how state mandated tests influence social studies teachers. Major findings of the study reveal the test is creating a hierarchy of content at the high school level, that content is being narrowed given the amount of standards and time given to teach the required material, assessment practices are being altered as formative assessment is becoming less important in informing instruction, instructional practices limit student involvement and tend to be more teacher driven and teachers are unable to be true gatekeepers. The conclusions derived from this study are teachers are making decisions that they would not otherwise make if there were no test and gatekeeping cannot truly be realized given the demands of the test. Additionally the study illuminates a need to further investigate the roles teachers are taking given the state mandate tests, the decision that are being made and how teachers can guard their decision making power. Finally, the study provides suggestions for teacher educators on how to prepare future teachers to meet the demands of state mandated testing.