High Stakes Testing And Accountability Education Essay

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In recent news reports, teachers seem to have an increased dissatisfaction with the evaluation process of students as it is tied to salaries and possible job retention. High stakes testing, increased class size, and cuts to programs and services have forced teachers to work longer hours on planning, grading, and gathering more data driven documentation. In some school districts, teacher morale is at an all time low. With more responsibilities being added to the daily tasks teachers, less time is available for family, friends, and recreational activities. With a heavier workload, teachers are experiencing higher levels of stress which lowers morale and even causes illness.

People always think about teachers having a happy disposition and being eager to help every child. Today, everyone expects the teacher to fill numerous roles such as those of a social worker, a family figure, a disciplinarian, a nurse, and finally an instructor.

Many things contribute to teacher morale. The first contributor would be the workload. Teachers have to interpret data to drive instruction, consistently monitor growth on all students in the classroom, and also get students prepared for the state standardized test. Teaching is not the problem; it is the paperwork for accountability. Currently, the updated standards are the "new" added pressure in Texas. Teachers are expected by the district to interrupt data, to teach at a higher level, and adapt to many different learning styles. Team building is another contributor to teacher morale. Team building has so many components that begins with the collaboration among same grade peers to plan and share responsibilities. Collaboration sometimes is the hardest task for teachers. A network of friendships from work that support each other outside of work is often difficult among colleagues. Respect is another issue that teachers face. Years ago educators were respected by parents and community members, and today, the teachers are usually in the wrong and the exploited by the media. How often has one turned on the news and watched a positive interview of a teacher, staff or school going above and beyond for the student success? Not likely, more often the media portrays the teacher as the bully or incompetent fool. When all these factors are in place it is no wonder the teachers' morale is low and so many are leaving the profession.

The Problem

Morale can be affected by many areas of daily life. An educator has to encourage the students to be successful and master the state standards. One of the main factors of teaching is the attitude of the teacher. Is the teacher attitude a direct reflection of the administration?

Miller (1981) states in his research, "Administrative behavior is a highly important factor in facilitating good staff morale. Administration can have a direct, positive impact on teacher morale" (p. 483). He goes on to suggest "developing realistic ways of handling priorities (students first, teachers second, parents third, paperwork fourth)" (p. 485).

Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this study is to determine if teachers are more likely to abandon the educational profession if they experience adverse relations with administrators.

Importance of the Study

Declining teacher morale is a problem that is infecting schools. If the study shows that administrator and teacher rapport affects teacher morale and their teaching methodology, the administrators will need to make adjustments to their priorities in order to boost morale.

Administrators will be interested in this study because they need insight into what is causing this decline and make appropriate adjustments in order to improve student achievement. This study is important to any administrator who wants to improve students standardized test scores and achieve state standards. This study will give administrators ideas for improvement.

Currently little research is being done on what is causing low teacher morale. Misconceptions are that low morale is being caused by other factors such as low salary, instructional time, and state expectations. However, this study will show that administrators directly affect teacher morale more than these other influences.

Objectives of the Study

The objectives in this study were: (1) to determine if teachers leave the profession because of detrimental relationships with the administration; (2) to evaluate whether teachers with positive relationships with administrators have increased job satisfaction; and (3) to review and analyze related literature on teacher morale in relation to administrator relationships.


For the purpose of this study, the following hypothesis was tested.


There will be a significant number of teachers who left the educational profession due to adverse relations with administrators.


Information for this study was accumulated from EBSCO host as well as from surveys conducted over the course of the study. The participants of the study included teachers employed in Region 17 area and administration. The time frame of the study was four school years. Data for this study were gathered through literature review from the Sul Ross State University Library, the Internet, and it also included interviews with professional educators.


The information available in comparing the number of professionals who have left the education occupation was limited due to time factor. The time constraint limited this researcher in reviewing literature. In addition, another factor would be the small number of participants in the study. Region 17 is made up of largely rural districts with little turnover, therefore, it was difficult to locate a large number of educators who left the profession.

Basic Assumptions

In this study a few assumptions had to be made. First, it is assumed that administrators and teachers will try to work cohesively together to achieve better student productivity. Second, the researcher has to assume that the teachers involved in the study would teach to the best of their ability and not let attitude or low morale affect their classroom teaching style and classroom management. Another assumption would be that teachers would answer the surveys honestly and not let other factors cloud their responses.


With increased class size, variety of roles for the teacher and the higher standards for the state standardized test has added extra responsibilities to the teacher; which in turn has caused elevated stress levels. Teacher morale has many contributing elements that seem to be affected. Many teachers are suffering from low teacher morale, not as a result of teacher burn-out, but as a result of their relationship with their administration and the demands put on them by these administrators. Often the administrators do not model expectations they wish to see in their staff. They do not visit classrooms often enough, show interest in students, or have a personal relationship with their staff. Administrators are often not visible enough to their teachers, students or parents because they themselves have responsibilities which confine them to their office. In addition, morale can be affected if administrators do not allow their faculty to participate in the decision-making process; administration does not value the expert opinion of the faculty leading to distrust and a decrease in communication.

Organization of the Study

The remainder of this project includes a chapter dedicated to the review of related literature, Chapter 2, and another chapter that will clarify the research methods using the study, Chapter 3. Chapter 4 provides the results of the study. In conclusion, Chapter 5 reveals a summary of the study with conclusions and recommendations.


Review of Literature

According to studies and articles found, there is a general consensus regarding the effectiveness of the principal's leadership role in the retention of teachers. There is an emphasis on cognition and the formative role that that the environment plays, not only in the development of school community, but also in terms of real-time, goal-directed interactions The review of the literature presents specific focus on Motivation and Affect, High-Stakes Testing and Accountability and Consideration of Salient Factors Relevant to Creating a Viable School Community.

Motivation and Affect

Motivation is the psychological feature that sustains certain goal directed behaviors. Behaviorist distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic reinforcement, motivational theorists distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation exists when the source of motivation lies within the individual and the task. Extrinsic motivation can promote behavioral change but it has its drawbacks. Basically, the individual made the minimal behavioral change and may stop as soon as the reinforce or incentive ceases. Ormrod (2008) notes that intrinsic motivation has numerous advantages over extrinsic motivation. She lists the advantages as follows:

Be cognitively engaged in the task

Pursue the task on the own initiative without having to be prodded or cajoled

Undertake more challenging aspects of the task

Undergo conceptual change when such change is warranted.

Show creativity in performance.

Persist in the face of failure.

Experience pleasure, sometimes even exhilaration in what they are doing

Regularly evaluate their own progress, often using their own criteria.

Seek out additional opportunities to pursue the task

Achieve at high levels (p. 454).

Csikszentmihaly (1996) has used the term "flow" to describe an intense form of intrinsic motivation, characterizing it as a state of complete absorption, focus, and concentration in a challenging activity to the point that the individual loses track of time and space. This is a wonderful description of what constitutes a motivated teacher as a viable member of the educational community.

Even the most motivated teachers have needs. Maslow (1987) proposed that people have five different needs: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Love and belongingness needs, Esteem needs and a Need for self-actualization. The human mind and brain are complex and have parallel processes running at the same time, so many different motivations from different levels of Maslow's pyramid usually occur at the same time. Maslow was clear about speaking of these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as "relative" and "general" and "primarily", and says that the human organism is "dominated" by a certain need ] rather than saying that the individual is "only" focused on a certain need at any given time. So Maslow acknowledges that many different levels of motivation are likely to be going on in a human all at once. His focus in discussing the hierarchy was to identify the basic types of motivations, and the order that they generally progress as lower needs are reasonably well met.

How does this all apply to the teacher in the classroom? Maslow provides the answer: "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself" (Maslow, n.d.). To apply this quote to this study it would be appropriate to note that to be ultimately at peace teachers must teach. In the teaching process basic needs must be addressed.

Lieb (1991) provide another perspective relative to adult motivation. He emphasized the following sources of motivation for adults:

Social relationships: to make new friends, to meet a need for associations and friendships.

External expectations: to comply with instructions from someone else; to fulfill the expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority.

Social welfare: to improve ability to serve mankind, prepare for service to the community, and improve ability to participate in community work.

Personal advancement: to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors.

Escape/Stimulation: to relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine of home or work, and provide a contrast to other exacting details of life.

Cognitive interest: to learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and to satisfy an inquiring mind (p. 2).

The sources that seem most pertinent to this study would be: social relationships, external expectations, social welfare, pesonal advancement and cognitive interest.

High Stakes Testing and Accountability

A Blueprint for Reform:The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act states that, "A great teacher can make the difference between a student who achieves at high levels and a student who slips through the cracks, and a great principal can help teachers succeed as part of a strong, well-supported instructional team. Research shows that top-performing teachers can make a dramatic difference in the achievement of their students, and suggests that the impact of being assigned to top-performing teachers year after year is enough to significantly narrow achievement gaps" (p. 5). Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education seems to support an educational community as a key component of a "well-supported instructional team".

However, this Blueprint for Reform quickly follows with a dictum of accountability that sharpens the focus on high-stake testing. The dictum states:

Measuring Success. We will require transparency around the key indicators of whether students and schools have effective teachers and principals and whether teachers have the professional supports they need. Both states and districts must publish report cards at least every two years that provide information on key indicators, such as teacher qualifications and teacher and principal designations of effectiveness; teachers and principals hired from high-performing pathways; teacher survey data on levels of support and working conditions in schools; the novice status of teachers and principals; teacher and principal attendance; and retention rates of teachers by performance level. States will also be required to report on the performance of teacher and principal preparation programs by their graduates' impact on student growth and other measures, job placement, and retention (A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, p. 5)

When the outcome of a standardized test is used as the sole determining factor for making a major decision, it is known as high-stakes testing. When high-stakes testing is used to evaluate instructors, test results from students are measured with test results from other parts of the state or country. This practice is especially common under NCLB, which demands base test scores from every school in the nation, forcing many talented teachers to "teach to the test" in order for their schools to avoid sanctions.

Cohen (2000) succinctly identifies the veiled problematic danger in high-stakes testing when he notes that the term "high-stakes testing" has been inclusively used to refer to a variety of assessments that have control, content, and consequences imposed on students and teachers from forces external to the school. When teachers do not control the timing, content, format, or reporting of the tests, the tests are controlled and mandated by policymakers outside the school, as opposed to internally controlled assessments that teacher design, administer and interpret. In a real sense Cohen recognized that externally imposed factors have impacted on the mission of the school and placed external pressure on both teachers and administrators.

This pressure is augmented by the reality that test data is used for comparisons. Implicitly, this comparison is a measure of performance in light of performance of other children in the school, the community, the state and the nation. When administrators and policy-makers examine test data, they often want to compare score to make judgments about the effectiveness of teachers, principals, curricula, the school and the school district. Nicholls (1989) that without control of extraneous factors, such as random assignment of students to schools, such comparisons are scientifically unsound and professionally unethical. Researchers should endeavor to prevent such comparisons. In a real sense the propensity to be seduced by high-stakes testing is ingrained in the public's desire to compare students' achievements. It is ingrained in the American cultural ideals of competition and meritocracy and the notion that hard work pays off, the cream rises to the top, and the spoils go to the victor.

Anderson (2005) provides a different perspective that includes financial considerations. She writes:

The use of assessments to inform decisions about students, schools, and personnel has been accelerated by the rise of results-based accountability systems. Aligned with the content standards, assessments are used to make decisions about student eligibility for and progress to the next level of school; for administrator and teacher employment and rewards; and for resource allocation. When these assessments are used in this way, they are referred to as "high stake" assessments. These "high stakes" decisions generate demands that information from assessments can be used to improve the teaching-learning process. Because they are designed for administration to large numbers of students, however, accountability assessments generally do not offer sufficient diagnostic information for teacher planning and in-class work with individual students. Some assessment programs release items and/or parallel assessments so that teachers are comfortable with both the content to be tested and the manner in which each standard is assessed.

Results-based accountability systems utilize public reporting to a greater degree than do the compliance or professional norms systems. In the latter two systems information about student performance is held within the profession. Results-based systems rely upon widespread communication of results to parents and the general public. Many results-based systems generate school report cards or school profiles for distribution to general audiences. These reports include summaries of the performance of students or subgroups of students as well as information about resources (for example, per student

expenditures), programs (for example, participation in accelerated courses), and behavior (for example, student attendance.) …

Finally, in most results-based accountability systems performance is publicly acknowledged and rewards, sometimes financial, are provided to those schools or individuals exhibiting high and/or improving performance (pp. 7-9).

Consideration of Salient Factors Relevant to Creating a Viable School Community

Ormrod (2008) presents the characteristics of a classroom community. These characteristics emphasize participation, collaboration, diversity of interests, and contribution (p. 446). Creating and effective school community means that all members of that community focus on complex problems that need solving utilizing the basic skills of persuasion and argumentation. Perhaps most importantly all professional staff must be committed to working with all members of the school community.

Buljac-Samardzic,, Wijngaarden, J., Wijk, and Exel (2010) present a list of factors that may be couterproductive to the establishment of a viable school community. These variable have direct implications for motivation and teacher burnout. The factors are as follows:

Individual team member autonomy

Participation in important decisions about team issues

Participation in important decisions about budget issues

Clarity and division of tasks ⁄ responsibilities within the team

Judgment of team members about the importance of their work

Interdependence among team members in their activities

Associating and adjusting to appointments of team members

Relationship between judgment and team performance

Relationship between judgment and individual performance

Availability of information for team members to accomplish activities

Quality of information for team members to accomplish activities

Having a sufficient number of team members

Quality and appropriateness of the training offered by the organization

Support and appreciation from supervisors

The degree to which the team has a positive self image

Social support within the team

Emotional workload

Overall workload

Communication and cooperation within the team

The ability of the team to independently manage conflict

Leadership by supervisors (

Managerial leadership

Team focus on the client (pp. 309-310)

Sergiovanni (1967) triachic paradigm emphasizing achievement, recognition and responsibility presents a model that encapsulates the factors presented by Buljac-Samardzic et al (2010). Both the factors of Buljac-Samardzic and Sergiovanni' triachic paradigm spotlights the discrepancy and variance within the school that contributes to lack of motivation, poor morale and professional burnout.

Elias (2012) maintains that teacher burnout is most often an organizational problem and it is insidious because it can remove deducted teachers for the field of education. He maintains that the often in creating a positive, supportive school culture and climate in which teachers are treated as professionals and given the opportunity to collaborate, problem solve, and get reasonable support in timely ways. Further, Elias notes that, "When the conditions of teaching are bad, the conditions of learning tend to be worse, and children suffer in lasting was. That's why the collateral damage of burn-out teachers is burned up children" (Elias, 2012).

Pursuant to his advocacy of a supportive school culture, Elias lists 11 warning signs of professional burnout. The signs are:

Do you feel run down and drained of physical or emotional energy?

Do you find that you are prone to negative thinking about your job?

Do you find that you are harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve?

Do you find yourself getting easily irritated by small problems, or by your co-workers and team?

Do you feel misunderstood or unappreciated by your co-workers?

Do you feel that you have no one to talk to?

Do you feel under an unpleasant level of pressure to succeed?

Do you feel that you are not getting what you want out of your job?

Do you feel that you are in the wrong organization or the wrong profession?

Are you becoming frustrated with parts of your job?

Do you feel that organizational politics or bureaucracy frustrate your ability to do a good job? (Elias, 2012)


The theories posed in the literature support the need to examine motivation and teacher burnout. Segiovanni's paradigm has been validated by the preponderance of the literature reviewed. The school is more than a formal institution; it is a community of professionals and students committed to a mission. Conflicts in perceptions, expectations and responsibility are part of the interactions within a school community. The literature supports the need to investigate inconsistency of perceptions among members of the school community relative to motivation, acknowledge of achievement, recognition and professional responsibility relevant to the mission of the school and in context with the demands of accountability.

Chapter I presented the purpose of this dissertation and the specific research questions. Additionally, chapter I placed the purpose and research questions in context with the background and rationale for this study. Chapter II provided a review of the related literature. Chapter III will discuss the method employed in this investigation.


A Blueprint for Reform:The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2012, from Ed. Gov. U. S. Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/publication_pg5.html#part5

Anderson, J. A. (2005). Accountability in Education. Paris: UNESCO.

Buljac-Samardzic, M., Wijngaarden, J., and Wijk, K and Exel, N (2010). Perceptions of team workers in youth care of what makes teamwork effective. Health & Social Care in the Community , 307-316.

Cohen, A.S. (2000). High-stakes testing in grades K-12: Comments on Paris et al. Issues in Education: Contributions from Educational Psychology, 6(1,2), 133-138.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discover and invention. New York: Harper Collins.

Elias, M. (2012, May 12). Teacher burnout: What are the warning signs? Retrieved October 17, 2012, from Edtopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-burnout-warning-signs- maurice-elias

James, J. (n.d.). Ethical leadership: A key to effective leadership and effective schools. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from Effective Leadership: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:3b3u6zvYH60J:pirate.shu.edu/~jamesjan/ portfolioDocs/EffectiveLeadership.doc+Ethical+Leadership:+A+Key+to+Effective+Lead ership+and+Effective+Schools&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh5W4uNfdYKB u8XSE73Vp7SDF2tlmq9_td

Lieb, S. (1991). Principles of Adult Learning. Retrieved October 2, 2010, from Vision: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/adults- 2.htm

Miller, W. C. (1981). Staff Morale, School Climate, and Educational Productivity. Educational Leadership, 38(6), 483-486

New Jersey No Child Left Behind. (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2012, from State of New Jersey Department of Education: http://www.nj.gov/education/grants/nclb/

Nicholls, J.G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ormrod, J. E. (2008). Human Learning 5th edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Sergiovanni, T. J. (1994). Building Community in Schools. 1994: Jossey-Bass,.

Sergiovanni, T. J. (1967). Factors Which Affect Satisfaction and Dissatifaction of Teachers. Journal of Education Administration , 66-82.