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This is also a timely issue in southern Florida since one of its school district's gained national attention recently because parents used a social computer network forum to develop the group TINT (Testing is Not Teaching). This grassroots organization was started by parents who felt that their children were being excessively tested in the public school system. The parents were joined by teachers and students and used the social network to organize protests and rallies. Two of the groups aims were to have the CAO (Chief Academic Officer) removed from his position, along with the Superintendent who hired him. The group felt that the CAO was handing out a "scripted program", especially in reading, that all teachers were mandated to follow. This program was designed to increase test scores on the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test), given to all students in grades 3 through 10. In the end both the CAO and Superintendent resigned and TINT is now closely watching local and national developments in education.
In this era of high stakes testing, districts, schools and teachers depend on the success of their students' success on standardized tests. These tests are correlated with national and state standards and are further broken down by benchmarks. These benchmarks provide the guidelines for the content teachers cover during the school year. Research has shown that effective teachers participate in the planning and implementing of the curricula but the mandates from the Federal, state, and local governments take the ownership of teaching away and replace it with a curriculum that is out of their control. This case study will look at the effects of the high-stakes testing movement on individual teachers and examine the roles and responsibilities these teachers believe they have in preparing their students for the high-stakes testing.
This case study was designed to examine the relationship between the implementation of increased high stakes testing and teacher efficacy and to answer the question do teacher believe they have a role or any responsibility in shaping instructional strategies in preparing their students for taking high stakes tests? The focus was on examining what educational practices are working to increase teacher efficacy with state mandated standardized testing and looking at schools which have implemented successful programs to assist teachers. Three teachers will be interviewed to ascertain their perspective in shaping instructional strategies within their school that prepare their students for the state mandated tests.
This qualitative research designed case study will interview three teachers in public schools in a district in South Florida. The interview questions will be predetermined and the subjects will have the opportunity to read these questions before being interviewed. There will be four questions for each one to answer. These questions will be developed by the interviewer and focus on the teacher's role regarding high stakes testing and if it has changed their teaching practices. They will also be asked what role they have in their particular school in shaping instructional strategies for their students to succeed on these tests. The interviewer will both transcribe and tape all the interviews and after the transcription is complete it will be given to the teachers for their review.
History of testing:
The concept of aptitude testing was introduced during World War II as a method of finding the best and most intelligent soldiers for the United States military, (Schmidt 2008). In the years after the war these tests became incorporated into the American society as a way to find individuals with superior scholarly capabilities. The SAT was adapted from Yerkes' tests for the military and was used by colleges and universities as one factor in determining admissions to their facilities. By the 1960's SAT scores began to decline, raising political and public concerns about the quality of the country's educational system. Before this decline, many Americans held a positive view of public education in the United States. American education was thought to both solve society's problems and also endeavor to include students from diverse backgrounds, (West & Peterson, 2003, p. 4, as cited in Schmidt, 2008). After publication of the decline in test scores, many Americans became concerned with the state of the American educational system.
The standardized testing movement is the result of the a series of law' passed by the nation's Presidents, culminating in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), by then president George W. Bush. The mandates of NCLB have proved to be controversial although basic goal was "â€¦to create an incentive for educators to ensure that no one student, or group of students, is left behind in their reading, language, and mathematics abilities". NCLB had numerous requirements that states and school districts had to follow in order to receive federal funding. The foundation of the NCLB law is that states must reach AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) each year. The law specified that every state "â€¦must develop, and integrate into their curriculum, a standards-based accountability program that demonstrates student proficiency levels in the core subject areas of reading, language arts, and mathematics" (Schmidt, 2008). These proficiency levels are measured by standardized tests given to all students once a year and these tests had to be approved by the Department of Education prior to being given (Abernathy, 2007, p.5; Sunderman et. al., 2005, p. 5). By conducting annual testing, districts can closely monitor the progress, or lack thereof, of students.
No Child Left Behind was the latest replication of President Lyndon Johnson's reform of educational reorganization known as the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965). Both measures stressed the idea that public education "â€¦requires a federal presence to ensure academic progress and academic equality for all students". Schmidt (2008) Since the ESEA was passed there have been changes made to its base, with the latest being No Child Left Behind (NCLB) The federal government has played an important role in changing public education in the United States, the motivation for these changes in public schools were motivated because of concerns for America's declining test scores. The two main impetuses for change were declining test scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the publication of A Nation At Risk by Terrance Bell.
Three important causes were named in the passing of the ESEA legislation. The first was the declining performance of students on the SAT exam. The second was surveys conducted during this time that repeatedly placed the United States in the lowest percentile of overall academic achievement when compared with foreign educational systems, (West & Peterson, 2003, pp. 4-5; Nichols & Berliner, 2007, p. 4). The third factor was the persistent achievement gap that separated minorities and low-income students' scores from children who came from a more wealthy background. (Nichols & Berliner, 2007; p.4. & Kantor, 1991, p. 51).
A Nation at Risk was published eighteen years after the passage of the ESEA and was written by then Secretary of Education, Terrence Bell " Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform in America (West & Peterson, 2003 p. 5; Berry, 1993, p. 215). This report focused on the United States' low academic achievement in spite of the federal government's focus on improving student performance in public schools when the ESEA was passed. The report stated that, "â€¦the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people" (Bell, 1983). Furthermore, the United States achieved a low academic rank when compared to other countries and the writers of the report believed that America's educational system was in need of a drastic reform.
The publication spoke of a series of reforms that the authors believed would "â€¦reverse the downward spiral of an inadequate educational system, (Schmidt, 2008). The reforms included parental and community involvement at local schools, hiring teachers with advanced degrees who were more motivated to teach, and a higher level of involvement from all levels of government. Although this publication did not stimulate any changes on the federal level, it still remained an important factor in American public education. In 1994, then President Clinton passed a reauthorization of the ESEA called Goals 2000. This federal reform program was ambitious in nature since it provided monetary incentives for public schools that implemented yearly testing to show student progress towards proficiency, (West & Peterson, 2003, p.7). This program provided Title 1 schools with "â€¦federal funding "for developing 'local reformsâ€¦the development of standardsâ€¦enhanced professional development, improving in technology, and changes in governance for accountability"" with the goal of increasing student performance in the â€¦"core subject areas such as, reading and mathematics (Fuhrman, 1994, p. 84). Goals 2000 laid the groundwork for NCLB. It was during this time that the term "accountability" became important since it was used as an incentive for states to acquire federal funds. This idea was added to NCLB, but President Busch extended the meaning by making the relationship stronger between the federal, state, and local agencies.
Although the accountability measures set forth by NCLB have proved to be controversial, its basic goal of the Act was "â€¦to create an incentive for educators to ensure that no one student, or group of students, is left behind in their reading, language, and mathematics abilities". NCLB had numerous requirements that states and school districts had to follow in order to receive federal funding. The foundation of the NCLB law is that states must reach AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) each year. The law specified that every state "â€¦must develop, and integrate into their curriculum, a standards-based accountability program that demonstrates student proficiency levels in the core subject areas of reading, language arts, and mathematics" (Schmidt, 2008). These proficiency levels are measured by standardized tests given to all students once a year and these tests had to be approved by the Department of Education prior to being given (Abernathy, 2007, p.5; Sunderman et. al., 2005, p. 5). By conducting annual testing, districts can closely monitor the progress, or lack thereof, of students.
The standards-based education reform and accountability movement started in the mid-1980s and raised expectations of performance for U.S. schools (Buttram & Waters, 1997). The state of Florida took the initiative to improve K-12 education and then Governor Jeb Bush instituted the A+ Plan in 1999. This plan was created as a standards-based accountability system, focusing on improving the performance of all students, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, poverty levels, native language or disability status. The main premise of the A+ Plan was that "every child can learn and no child should be left behind" (Executive Office of the Governor, nd.).
A brief review of the literature found a clear division between researchers who found that standardized tests are beneficial vs. those who believe these tests are detrimental to education as a whole. Many authors began their writings by describing the necessity of standardized testing in today's schools. Bandalos (06) explained the need for standardized testing within educational settings today since these high-stakes tests are the method in which student learning is assessed and continuously evaluated by teachers, principals, and school districts. Bandalos also stated that learning is the goal in all of education and the role of assessment is to help professionals understand the level of learning students have achieved.
Hammeran(10) also felt that it was possible to "teach to the test" while still covering the important curricula for a class. This author studied teaching a science program that was aligned to the National Science Education Standards (NSES). She wrote that since the state standards reflect the national standards, and standardized tests reflect both the state and national standards, then focusing on teaching to the test would ensure that students were receiving the important content in science class.
The significance of the problem is clearly discussed
The significance of the question of teacher beliefs in their role in shaping instructional strategies to prepare their students for testing is a timely one in the state of Florida. Performance-based assessment is now mandatory in many classrooms but teachers and parents have become concerned about the authenticity of these assessments and how assessment information can be used as formative feedback to improve teaching and learning. Although these newer approaches are driven by a motivation to make student assessment data more useful and meaningful than some traditional approaches this change was viewed as a positive advance by some researchers while others felt that it was hard to judge the theoretical benefits of these changes or to begin to systematically explore the nature of teachers' classroom assessment practices. This difficulty arises because researchers, supporters, and specialists in school districts in the country have not arrived at a consistent definition of what these terms mean or what these practices look like (Frey & Schmitt, 2007).
Coming to Terms With Classroom Assessment 2007
Bruce B. Frey-University of Kansas, Vicki L. Schmitt-Missouri State University
Those who advocate for "â€¦test-based accountabilityâ€¦" argue that it increases student success by assisting teachers to put more emphasis on the important content in their subject area, provides rewards for good teaching, and produces data that is used to make decisions about students, teachers, and schools. For such systems to work as intended, the policies must promote good instruction, and any resulting increases in test scores must support valid inferences about increased student achievement.
Research has shown that high-stakes testing does indeed influence instruction, but these effects are complex and comprise both desirable and undesirable changes in practice. For example, teachers in districts or states where high stakes are associated with test results tend to focus on tested material and de-emphasize untested material (see Stecher, 2002). Similarly, research indicates that the gains in scores on high-stakes tests often generalize poorly (or not at all) to other tests of the same domain, raising doubts about the extent to which these gains provide valid evidence of improved student performance (Klein, Hamilton, McCaffrey, & Stecher, 2000; Koretz & Barron, 1998; Koretz, Linn, Dunbar, & Shepard, 1991; Linn, 2000).
The literature on high stakes testing is clear regarding the history and development of these tests and how they are being implemented in school districts today. Conversely, the literature is divided into two factions-authors who believe that standardized testing is a good measure of student learning and teaching, and authors who feel that high-stakes testing is a negative influence for teachers and students. The role that teachers believe they play in implementing in shaping instructional strategies to prepare students for testing is not a subject that has much coverage in the literature, but the ramifications of" teaching to the test" is covered. The research question is designed to understand the role teachers feel they play in shaping instructional strategies to ensure that their students achieve success on these mandatory state and government required tests. These are the tests that they themselves are held accountable for the results by their schools and districts. If teachers feel they have no role in shaping the instruction for their own students then for them it will be a matter of "teaching to the test". If, on the other hand, they feel in control of instruction the term "teacher efficacy" will be applicable to these teachers.
Teacher self-efficacy refers to a teacher's belief about his or her competence in having a positive effect on student learning achievement, Ashton, 1984 as cited in Denzilel, 2005. Prior research conducted in the field indicates that teacher self-efficacy is related to a teacher's success in curriculum innovation (Berman & McLaughlin, 1977), beliefs about students' capabilities (Ashton, 1984) and intelligence (Klein, 1996), quality of student relationships (Ashton & Webb, 1986), confidence in working with parents (Hoover- Dempsey, Bassler,&Brissie, 1987), time spent on academic learning (Allinder, 1995), self-efficacy of low-achieving students (Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989), and the teacher's ability to hold students accountable for their learning and performance (Ashton &Webb, 1986).
In the original Rand studies, teacher self-efficacy was measured by asking two questions: (a) 'When it comes right down to it, a teacher really can't do much because most of a student's motivation and performance depends on his or her home environment', and (b) 'If I try really hard, I can get through to even the most difficult or unmotivated students'. The first question was hypothesized to assess teachers' outcome expectations, typically labeled teaching efficacy (TE). In contrast, the second item was hypothesized to reflect personal teaching efficacy (PE). From this perspective, TE relates to a teacher's outcome expectations and PE is based on the teacher's judgments of his or her personal ability to influence student learning. Early Rand researchers grounded teacher self-efficacy in Rotter's (1966) locus of control construct and placed significant emphasis on outcome expectations and personal responsibility when interpreting efficacy scores. Later, Ashton and Webb aligned the construct with a social cognitive theoretical perspective of self-efficacy (1977, 1978). In contrast to the locus of control perspective, the social-cognitive approach emphasizes the relations between efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations. According to Bandura, outcome and efficacy beliefs are related but can be conceptually and empirically differentiated (1986, 1997). For Ashton and Webb, TE and PE represent measures of outcome expectations and efficacy expectations, respectively.
Teacher efficacy can be affected by the role they play in preparing students for mandated standardized tests. Author Kenneth Vogler (2006) stated in his article that in the past teachers were only accountable to their administrators and local school boards. It was those local boards that developed the curriculum as well as the standards for their school system. Now, teachers, as well as administrators, are being held accountable to the public for the academic performance of students in their charge.
Standardized testing is a reality in south Florida and that fact is not changing in the foreseeable future. Students, parents, and teachers have mobilized to change the importance and weight of these tests, but there is still "FCAT blackout" where no schools are allowed to take field trips, no personal days are given to teachers, and no conferences are held by the district. After the blackout comes "FCAT season" where schools are on virtual lock-down until all the testing is complete. From personal experience, teachers are ranked by the gains their students made, especially in reading, math, and science. When the CAO was in office, each teacher received a "script" to be completed that day. Sometimes the daily script was fifteen pages or longer. All of the control was taken away with regard to instructional strategies and teaching to the test began on the first day of school. The research says that this focused teaching can be positive or negative. The focus of this study is to ask teachers if they fell they have control preparing their students for these high-stakes tests and to examine what works in their preparation and which areas they feel they have no control in instruction. The results will be beneficial to both the school and district as we struggle to balance the goals set forth by the government with our student's individual needs.
TEACHERS' RESPONSES TO HIGH-STAKES TESTING AND THE VALIDITY OF GAINS: A PILOT STUDY. Daniel M. Koretz CRESST/Harvard Graduate School of Education Laura S. Hamilton CRESST/RAND Education
Coming to Terms With Classroom Assessment 2007 Bruce B. Frey-University of Kansas, Vicki L. Schmitt-Missouri State University
British Journal of Educational Psychology (2005), 75, 689-708, 2005 The British Psychological Society www.bpsjournals.co.uk. Confirmatory factor analysis of the Teacher Efficacy Scale for prospective teachers.
Gypsy M. Denzine1*, John B. Cooney2 and Rita McKenzie3
1Northern Arizona University, USA
2University of Northern Colorado, USA
3Buena Vista University, USA