Standards-based reform and the proliferation of legislative mandates to improve the quality of teaching and learning in K-12 education are two of the most hotly contested and complex educational issues in contemporary U.S. education. Although teachers are the main agents of implementation of these legislative mandates, they remain absent in this debate and their voices continue to be relegated to a lesser rank in the design and implementation of educational reforms. In efforts to give voice to teachers, this qualitative multiple-case study explored middle and high school English and Mathematics teachers' perceptions of both the value and effects of standards-based reform in relationship to curriculum, instructional practices, and the quality of student learning. The study's focus on English and mathematics teachers was motivated by the emphasis standards-based reform, notably the No Child Left Behind Act, places on these two subjects with the goal of 100% proficiency for every student by the year 2014.
The findings of this study revealed teachers believed the K-12 educational system needs to be "reformed" and they unanimously welcomed the ideals that the reform movement and NCLB promote. However, they believed standards-based reform has floundered in its implementation because policymakers, uninformed about classroom realities, set policies promoting unrealistic expectations that affect the curriculum, instructional practices and the quality of student learning adversely. Teachers viewed the reform as an attack on their profession, and they expressed strong views against the testing culture as well as the excessive volume of the prescribed curriculum and the lack of time to teach it. Further, they were concerned about students' lack of academic preparation to meet the standards, because most of them are performing far below grade level, which places them at greater risks for failure.
These findings suggest teachers' voices and opinions are important factors to consider for designing appropriate educational policies, for teachers are the ones most closely affected by any legislative mandates and the ones who know their students better than any policymaker. If legislative mandates continue to be crafted without any basis in classroom realities, students will continue to suffer and flounder academically. Similarly, teaching will become a mere act of compliance as opposed to a creative exercise, which promotes the intellectual and personal growth of both the teacher and the learner.
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Education Policy|
|Keywords:||No Child Left behind, Standards-based reform|
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