Educational policy analysis archives

Educational policy analysis archives

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Educational policy analysis archives
Arizona State University
University of South Florida
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 11, no. 44 (November 18, 2003).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c November 18, 2003
Teachers voices interpreting standards : compromising teachers autonomy or raising expectations and performances? / Leo C. Rigsby [and] Elizabeth K. DeMulder.
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University of South Florida.
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1 of 32 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Volume 11 Number 44November 18, 2003ISSN 1068-2341Teachers Voices Interpreting Standards: Compromising Teachers Autonomy or Raising Expectations and Performances? Leo C. Rigsby George Mason University Elizabeth K. DeMulder George Mason UniversityCitation: Rigsby, L. C., & DeMulder, E. K. (2003, N ovember 18). Teachers Voices Interpreting Standards: Compromising Teachers Autonomy or Raisin g Expectations and Performances? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (44). Retrieved [Date] from State of Virginia has adopted state-mandated te sting that aims to raise the standards of performance for chil dren in our schools in a manner that assigns accountability to schools and to teachers. In this paper we argue that the condition s under which the standards were created and the testing implemen ted undermine the professionalism of teachers. We belie ve this result has the further consequence of compromising the cri tical thinking and learning processes of children. We argue this h as happened because teachersÂ’ views and experiences have driven neither the setting of standards nor the assessment of their ac hievement.


2 of 32 We use data from essays by teachers in an innovati ve masters program to compare teachersÂ’ experiences involving the Virginia Standards of Learning with ideal standards for prof essional development adopted by the National Board for Profe ssional Teaching Standards. We argue that there are serious negative consequences of the failure to include dialogue wit h K-12 teachers in setting standards and especially in the creation of assessments to measure performances relative to the standards. We believe the most successful, honest, and morally defensible processes must be built on the experience and wisdo m of classroom teachers.IntroductionThe State of Virginia, along with 48 other states i n the US, has adopted state-mandated testing that aims to raise the stand ards of performance for children in our schools in a manner that assigns ac countability to schools and to teachers (Martin, 1999). These changes have occurre d at the same time that there are increasing national pressures for teacher s to develop as professionals, increasing both their pedagogical co mpetence and subject matter competence (National Board for Professional Teachin g Standards). These contradictory pressures on teachers have generated a voluminous policy literature on the benefits and costs of an accounta bility system that is governed by standards and tests. General treatments of the i ssues are available in books by Hirsch (1996), Cookson (1998), Kohn (1999, 2000) McNeil (2000), Meier (2000), Popham (2001), and Sacks (1999). These poli cy treatments have not always fully articulated the models of teaching and learning they assume. Empirical studies of how classrooms and classroom p ractice are affected by the imposition of state-wide standards and tests have b egun to appear. A number of empirical studies of teachers attitudes and beli efs about testing (Cimbricz, 2002), about changes in teachers perceptions of tes ting (Grant, 2000) and other topics (Brown 1993; Gallucci 2003; Haney 2000; Jone s et al. 1999; Kebow and DeBard 2000; Mitchell 1997; Smith 1991) have been r eported. Cimbricz, (2002. p. 11) concludes . studies that provide a ric her, more in-depth understanding of the relationship between state-man dated testing and teaching in actual school settings . are greatly needed. In this paper we focus in depth on the impact of st andards and testing on the teaching force of a number of Northern Virginia sch ool divisions. Our intention is to share the voices and analyses of teachers as the y make sense of how the standards have affected their practice. Analyzing w hat teachers wrote about their experiences with the standards and tests lead s us to the conclusion that the conditions under which the Virginia Standards o f Learning were created and the testing implemented undermine the professionali sm of teachers. We fear this result has the further consequence of compromi sing the critical thinking and learning processes of children. We believe this has happened because teachers intuitive understandings of teaching and l earning have been ignored in the setting of standards and the planning of assess ments. We use data from writing by teachers to compare their classroom expe riences involving the Virginia Standards of Learning with ideal standards for professional


3 of 32 development. We argue that there are serious negati ve consequences of the failure to include dialogue with Pre-K-12 teachers in the setting of standards and especially in the creation of assessments to me asure performances relative to the standards. We believe the most successful, h onest, and morally defensible accountability processes must be built o n the experience and wisdom of classroom teachers. Given the political n ature of the decisions to adopt standardized tests at the state level (Berlin er & Biddle 1996), no state has adopted standards and assessments that fit the mode l we advocate. A growing literature, of which this paper is an example, illu strates the impact of these decisions on classroom practice and childrenÂ’s lear ning. MethodsData for this paper come from an on-line discussion carried out by teachers in a masters program (see Appendix). On-line discussions are a routine aspect of the pedagogy of the program. The course and the dis cussion took place in the spring and early summer of 1998, just after these t eachers or their school colleagues had administered the first round of test ing associated with the Virginia Standards of Learning. The discussion narr atives were their reports and analyses of these experiences. Teachers in the coho rt who contributed to these discussions came from five Northern Virginia school districts, representing twenty-nine schools in all. They came to the progra m in teams from these schools. Teams varied from two to five teachers. Te achers had from one to twenty-five years of classroom experience. The dist ribution of experience clustered around five to seven years. Teachers vari ed in age from twenty-two to mid-fifties. In the cohort of 77 teachers who finis hed the program (of 85 who began the program in the summer of 1977), thirty-ni ne were elementary teachers, twenty-four were middle school teachers, and fourteen were high school teachers.The course in which teachers were enrolled at the t ime of the discussion focused on the language and cultural basis of class room practice. Topics include such foci as: identity and subjectivity, mu ltiple perspectives, and multi-cultural experience. The discussion narrative s are like conversations among the teachers. We had the advantage of being e thnographers "listening" to these written conversations. In this sense, the conversations are more thought-out than teachers lounge conversations. The teachers had read and discussed Shirley Brice Heath's Ways With Words Sylvia Ashton Warner's Teacher Lawrence Levine's The Opening of the American Mind and E.D. Hirsch's The Schools We Need and Why We DonÂ’t Have Them In addition to the discussion narratives, we draw on papers writte n as the final assignment of the course to summarize and comment on the Web-base d discussion. Our expectations were that teachers write in the fo rum at least once per week over a three month period about issues that connect ed in any way with the topics of the course. We had no expectations about the particular content of the discussions. Our intention was that the conversatio ns be governed by the concerns the teachers brought from their classrooms Faculty read the postings but did not participate in the exchanges. It was in reading the postings that we learned of the concerns teachers had about the new Virginia Standards of Learning (curriculum standards) and the tests that came with them.


4 of 32 Our attention was drawn to the issue of the impact of standards and testing on classroom practice as we encountered teachers writi ng about their experience. One very dominant thread in the discussions was tea chers’ reactions to the new curriculum standards and to the test that was given for the first time. We also were encountering the standards and test for the fi rst time. We were driven to try to make sense of what the teachers were saying and why their comments were so overwhelmingly critical.The nature of these data do not allow us to general ize to the experience of all teachers or all contexts. This is a self-consciousl y "local" study that seeks to make sense of the experience of these teachers as t hey began to teach under the regime of state-mandated curriculum standards a nd testing procedures. That the experience of these teachers fits the expe rience of teachers in other locales is confirmed by other studies that will be cited in the discussion that follows.The Context of Professional Development of TeachersThe implications for teachers and teaching of the c ontradictory pressures from the standards and tests are profound. Wood has argu ed “ . at the heart of any plans for professional development and institut ional growth are, of course, the twin issues of assessment and accountability” (Wood, 2000). She goes on to point out that programs developed in response to the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) ( ) disrupt more conventional notions of these terms (W ood, 2000). Professional development programs that have teachers shouldering a portion of the assessment burden through collaborative, reflective and evaluative processes of inquiry and intervention can transform the cultu re of schools. Wood argues that plans for teachers’ professional development t hat require teachers to take more responsibility for assessment of their own pra ctice and continuous self-improvement have the potential to revolutioniz e educational practice. They create opportunities for teachers to develop the ca pacity to make strong professional judgments based on self-reflection, cr itical dialogue, and credible use of evidence. Most assessment plans, and particu larly, we argue, the typical state-mandated "core knowledge examinations" simply by-pass teachers professional judgments altogether. Smith and Knight (1997) describe the professional dependency such practices promote: Reliance on packaged programs developed by experts outside the local school is a typical way of addressing problem s in schools and school districts. This apparent infatuation with im plementing the “newest solution of choice” mirrors the expectation of large numbers of teachers that they and their colleagues need to rely on the prescriptions of putative outside experts rather th an on their own professional judgments. The teachers we work with r eject this idea (p. 45). The professional development programs based on prin ciples consistent with the work of NBPTS advocate an approach to accountabilit y that is equated with the capacity of teachers to be responsive to the needs of real children. Schools, of


5 of 32 course, exist in a complex set of nested, constantl y changing contexts--geographical, cultural, political, econom ic, technological. Being accountable simply cannot hinge on the mastery of s ome set of generic techniques. For teachers to be truly accountable, t hat is to be responsive to children, they must know how to think, reflect, inq uire, research, problem-solve, and evaluate, the very processes these programs rec ommend (Wood, 2000). The NBPTS standards address the joint aims of profe ssionalizing the teaching force of the United States and of raising standards for student performance. Many educational commentators see these as being ti ghtly connected objectives (Hirsch 1996; Kohn 1999; Meier 2000; NBP TS). Educators differ among themselves in how they imagine these objectiv es can be achieved and how the objectives relate to accountability. The Na tional Board has posed a set of standards for accountability that would give pre cedence to teachers practice as the essential criterion for accountability. In c ontrast, educators like Hirsch argue for an externally controlled set of standards and tests to govern accountability. Tucker (2002) identifies the latter model as the "Political Accountability Model." He argues that the "quality of standards and assessments used" was not the focus of the interest s of the political leaders behind this model. Their interests were only in the incentives (increases or decreases in funding levels) offered to produce hig her test scores. NBPTS has developed a framework “to establish high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be a ble to do, to develop and operate a national, voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet these standards, and to advance related education r eforms for the purpose of improving student learning in American schools.” (N ational Board for Professional Teaching Standards) This effort has de veloped in response to the call by the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Pr ofession (1986) for the establishment of national standards for certificati on of teachers. Unlike other standards-setting entities, the NBPTS is governed b y a board composed largely of classroom teachers. Their certification program is "developed by teachers, with teachers, for teachers."The NBPTS are organized around five core propositio ns that define competencies and commitments of professional teache rs: Teachers are committed to Students and Their Learni ng 1. Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Te ach Those Subjects to Students 2. Teachers Are Responsible for Managing and Monitorin g Student Learning 3. Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practice and Learn From Experience 4. Teachers Are Members of Learning Communities 5. These propositions provide an interpretation of wha t it means to be an autonomous professional (Sockett, 1993). Teachers m eeting these high standards define their success in terms of understa nding and meeting the learning needs of the children in their classrooms.In order to understand what was happening in the cl assrooms of the Northern


6 of 32 Virginia teachers, we needed a standard of comparis on against which to contrast reports of their experience. The NBPTS pro positions provide such a framework for comparison. We are not arguing that t he teachers have adopted these standards. Rather they have adopted various s tandards, some much like those of the NBPTS, some much less progressive than those of the NBPTS. An important issue is that both the NBPTS and the supp orters of state standards and testing want to accomplish the goals of raising student achievement and of professionalizing the practice of teachers. Our ana lysis will help us shed some light on the relative success of standards and test s in achieving these goals in Northern Virginia classrooms.AnalysisGenerally teachers viewed raising standards for stu dent achievement favorably. Further, many of them held favorable views of emplo ying a common core curriculum to enhance the likelihood that children coming into their classroom would have been exposed to specific elements of cur riculum. Teachers holding the latter views were more likely to be middle scho ol and high school teachers than elementary teachers. In fact, elementary teach ers were largely opposed to a rigidly drawn core curriculum. Many teachers foun d the testing associated with the standards to represent real threats to their au tonomy and to be based on assumptions that contradict their own conceptions o f how children learn. In order to put their reports and analyses in context, we organize selected but typical responses of these teachers around a discus sion of the propositions of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standar ds. Using the Propositions as an organizing frame allows us to contrast the di fferent models of teacher work and accountability.1. Teachers are committed to Students and Their Lea rning[Teachers] treat students equitably, recognizing th e individual differences that distinguish their students one from the other and t aking account of these differences in their practice. They adjust their pr actice as appropriate, based on observation and knowledge of their studentsÂ’ intere sts, abilities, skills, knowledge, family circumstances and peer relationsh ips. (NBPTS: Report: Policy)In contrast to the NBPTS focus on individual streng ths and needs, teachers report that they are forced through the pressure of the standards testing to ignore individual differences and simply plow throu gh the curriculum items. For example, a number of special education teachers com mented on the impossibility of both following a common curriculum and simultaneously meeting individual needs of their children with learning di sabilities. They feel the focus on Standards of Learning and the conditions of test ing have little relevance to the learning of these students. Both law and their sense of good educational practice demand that children with learning disabil ities be served in regular classrooms with accommodations. On the other hand, the demands of the Standards of Learning contradict these accommodatio ns and individualized instruction. One special education teacher wrote:


7 of 32 As a[n elementary] special education teacher, theso-called“standards” that are set for my students a re developed by the parent and me. At the beginning of the year, we write an I.E.P. [Individual Education Plan] with goals and objectiv es that focus only on their child. For the whole year, I work toward m astering these goals and discuss the outcome with the parents to s ee where their child is. On top of this, each of my students must also meet the standards set by the county. I have just finished a dministering the S.O.L. test and found it to be very difficult for m y students. We (special education teachers) have been told by the county, which . .[has] . .been told by the state, that we must st op exempting special education students from the standardized tests. We have been told to accommodate the testing situation. Well, I gave the test with plenty of modifications but if the student is unabl e to process the vowel sounds and decoding skills and is still readi ng at the first grade level, how in the world do I accommodate for that disability? It is important to emphasize that the IEPs for chil dren with learning disabilities are based on detailed analysis of what the child kn ows and can do, with an eye to determining what the child needs to accomplish n ext. Such practice clearly meets the standards of teaching described in NBPTS’ s first proposition. It is not just children with learning disabilities for whom the curriculum and the associated tests are problematic, according to teac hers. An elementary teacher in a multi-grade classroom made this observation ab out variations in individual needs and strengths: . I’m not against raising the standards of lear ning. The only thing that bothers me is that children are asked to perfo rm up to SOL standards at a given grade and age. I firmly believ e that curriculum standards or SOLs should not be age and grade dicta ted. Many students come to my second and third grade class an d cannot read. Well, you cant very well learn the states and capit als if you cant read. Children will succeed and learn core knowledg e if we let them work at their own pace to acquire knowledge. . Variations in cultural background also require that teachers make individual accommodations. This elementary teacher emphasizes the cultural differences among her students and the necessity of adjusting i nstruction to meet these varying needs: . .my classroom contains children from different cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and academic abi lities. I do follow the [county] Program of Study and try my bes t to meet each child’s needs and abilities. If Sally can’t remembe r her street address, I do not want to move on to teach her the seven continents. I feel it is vital for children to master one task or skill before moving on to another, this way I can avoid confusion and b uild self-esteem. I hear of teachers simply "exposing" children to the many, many standards put upon us by the state. Instead of help ing students


8 of 32 master some of these standards, they are pushing to expose them to every item for fear of accountability. Are the S OLs going to sacrifice the quality of instruction our children a re receiving? I believe that is a threat. These teachers describe a number of real life situa tions that they encounter in their classrooms. To ignore the implications of the se and other situations for childrenÂ’s readiness to learn as foundations on whi ch to build new knowledge is to violate professional standards that teachers hol d to be central to childrenÂ’s learning. Virginias Board of Education may argue th at the views of these teachers are exactly the problem with American educ ation. They may believe that teachers who worry about "self-esteem" or who attempt to teach children of different ages and grades in the same classroom or who are inclined to adjust their expectations for children who are labeled "le arning disabled" are not upholding the high standards demanded by our techno logical society. We argue, to the contrary, that these are teachers who are torn by conflicting demands that they recognize and respond to individu al needs and build on individual strengths versus that they should ignore individual differences and teach the same curriculum with the same performance expectations to every child in the same limited and constrained time span The conflict is expressed eloquently by this elemen tary teacher struggling to reconcile the contradictions between her generally favorable disposition toward a core curriculum and her detailed understanding of how children learn: Hirsch's idea of a core curriculum is an interestin g one. I do think that a general set of goals and objectives for educ ation is a good idea. However, how could we possibly as such a larg e and diverse nation, ever come to a consensus on such standards? . . I believe that Hirsch makes MANY assumptions about children a nd how they learn, specifically that all children learn in the same way and that they ought to be taught as such. Any learning that does not take place, he seems to say, is because we did not teach the subject firmly enough or the child was not paying attention He does not take into account variables in children's lives such as background, culture, or the fact that they are unique human bei ngs. . Further, school administrators themselves feel unde r the gun about the standards and are making decisions about school adm inistration that further distort professional standards for teaching and lea rning. One graduate of the masters program commented about her principal, She is so hung up on SOL's that I'm not sure she kn ows if she's coming or going. You can hardly have any kind of co nversation with her that doesn't end with something regarding the S OL's. . It's rather ridiculous when you really think about these 5 and 6 year olds being expected to know the 7 continents, 4 oceans, simple functions of the government and etc. when they don't even und erstand the distance between . [town A] and [town B]! They think [county seat] is a state, and I haven't figured out what they thi nk . County is, but it isn't what you and I think!! [Our principal] . has mentioned


9 of 32 cutting lunch from 30 to 25 minutes next year becau se she has determined on her lunch duty day, children finish e ating in about 15 minutes--therefore, we could add 5 minutes of instr uctional time by cutting back. Also, [we are to have] no recess on P E days. She really hopes to cover extra ground there! It's all a bit discouraging--you don't have to look beyond your ow n table at faculty meetings to see the low morale this is caus ing. I'm sure the "state" could care less about teacher's feelings an d thoughts on the issue. (Personal correspondence) Other researchers have reported similar conclusions Brown (1993) reported that more than half the teachers in his qualitative study "indicated that the tests did not reflect their priorities for content" (p. 2 2). Smith (1991) concludes that a focus on testing leads to . .a reduction of tea chers' ability to adapt, create, or diverge" (p. 10). Mabry, et al. (2003) report that teachers in their Washington state study found their state test to be inappropri ate for children who were language minority, had special needs, were low SES, or had diverse learning styles.What these experiences demonstrate clearly is that the externally imposed standards, and, particularly the externally imposed assessments, undermine the professional performance of teachers. The use of ri gid standards to determine curriculum and assessments strip teachers and princ ipals of their capacity to act compassionately and with reflective care to respond to the individual needs and strengths of their students. While Virginias State Board of Education and the business community may support such mechanized trea tment of children, we anticipate that few of Virginias parents will agree with a policy that causes teachers and administrators to ignore the individua l strengths and needs of their children.2. Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to StudentsAccomplished teachers command specialized knowledge of how to convey and reveal subject matter to students. They are aware of the preconceptions and background knowledge that studen ts typically bring to each subject and of strategies and instruc tional materials that can be of assistance. They understand where di fficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice according ly. Their instructional repertoire allows them to create mult iple paths to the subjects they teach, and they are adept at teaching students how to pose and solve their own problems. (NBPTS: Report: Policy) At issue for this proposition is who shall determin e what is to be taught and how it shall be taught? Embedded in the NBPTS propositi on is the assumption that each teaching/learning situation combines knowledge of curriculum, knowledge of pedagogy, and specific knowledge of the strength s and needs of the learners. Curriculum standards and testing have bee n developed in a way (e.g., voluminous content and the assumption that all lear ners will learn in the same way and at the same pace) that contradicts the NBPT S assumptions.


10 of 32 Teachers in our discussion were not against having curriculum standards. Nor were they opposed to adopting "higher expectations" for student performances. They seem to understand the theoretical and empiric al backing for the claim that higher expectations elicit higher performances from children. Many teachers object to the external imposition of standards and assessment strategies. The teacher quoted below describes an a lternative model to externally imposed standards and assessments found in Virginia: A couple of years ago, my principal initiated a mov ement in our school to improve the quality and quantity of basic writing skills. She did this due to poor writing skills on the Literacy Passport Test (LPT) and her strong belief in writing as a survival skil l in the real world. As part of the initiative, we met across grade levels to discuss the criteria for a quality paper in grades kindergarten through fifth grades. This was helpful for all of us because we e xamined writings above and below our grade levels. Some teachers dis covered they needed to raise their expectations and we further r ealized what skills were in need of a more intense focus. After meeting several times and sharing writing portfolios and developing rubri cs together, we decided to implement a formal writing prompt every quarter. The individual grade levels decided what prompt and typ e of writing they would evaluate. In addition, teachers scored their own papers from their class and then sent them to another grade lev el to score. We are currently establishing anchor papers for each g rade. Through dialogue with one another and the students, as well as a clear focus throughout the school, our LPT writing scores have improved dramatically. More importantly, I have seen an imme nse improvement in the quality of writing that I receiv e from lower grades. Each year I am able to do less review and m ore actual teaching of writing. As teachers, we have improved our methods due to our meetings discussing strategies. More of the teachers have become more comfortable teaching writing and are te aching it well. Our administrator is pleased as are we because we h ave seen improvements. I agree that core knowledge should no t be implemented from the outside. Effective schools res earch reveals that the most beneficial changes are done internall y. This was the case for my school. Even the high school teachers, who are generally mu ch more supportive of the Standards of Learning than elementary teachers, see conflicts between what they believe are professional teaching practices an d the conditions of teaching that have been imposed by the Virginia Board of Edu cation. A high school biology teacher comments below that the main focus of teachers since the SOLs were developed has been on guessing about the content of the test: The issue of standards in the classroom, or develop ing a Core Knowledge Curriculum, has been a source of agitatio n for me and my fellow Science teachers at . County High Sch ool. We have had numerous meetings to discuss what sort of quest ions might be included on the SOL test. Some teachers have modifi ed what they


11 of 32 teach and how they teach it in anticipation of thos e tests. They did not do this because they believed it to be instruct ionally sound, they did it because they knew it was their heads on the chopping block if their students did not score well. In the past, our school system has been unusually progressive in their stance on curri culum development and assessment. We have been allowed th e freedom to develop and implement our course material as we (who are professionals) see fit. We have been trusted to eva luate whether or not our students have learned the material. Those d ays are over for good; or at least until the next state-supported po litical agenda says otherwise.Our Science Department has seen the need [before th e SOLs were adopted] to coordinate the curriculum across the sa me subject area, i.e. all Biology teachers cover topics A, B, C, and D so that the students in our school get a similar education. We also saw the need to create some standards that stretch across grade levels. It was discovered that some teachers covered certain topic s and others did not. Although they considered the argument that tea chers teach best what they know best, our Instructional Advisors (ad ministrators) decided that standardization was the way to go. The n came the hard part. What do you teach? When? In how much detail? It was very difficult to get consensus. Even though a coordinat ed curriculum was published, it was not necessarily followed by all t eachers. So the process is not easy, but is it valuable? I think it is. I have seen an improvement in the basic skills of the students tha t I receive from earlier grades. This came about because of a purpos eful effort of our staff to implement our version of a Core Knowle dge Curriculum. I donÂ’t think standards are valuable if they are impo sed from the outside, however. The value comes from the deep ref lection on what you do in your classroom, what serves the student b est, and how you can coordinate with the other professionals in your system to make a system-wide improvement. These teachers are arguing an important perspective here. They believe and provide evidence in some cases, that teachers can d erive realistic, fair, and useful standards by working together, across grades and social contexts, to share their classroom experience, to try strategies in their classrooms, to assess and revise strategies, and to begin the cycl e again. A consequence of such activity is that teachers develop curricula an d pedagogies to which they have strong personal commitments because THEY have developed them. These curricula have been subjected to "public deba te" in and between classrooms, schools, and in some cases, school dist ricts. Such public discourse over curricula and pedagogies, in and across grade levels, is the optimal way to create professional standards for schools (Kohn 200 0). Further, teachersÂ’ deliberations build on their lived experiences in t heir classrooms. Their curricula reflect the needs, interests, and strengths of the students they have, not the needs, interests, and strengths of children in a va stly different social context. Teachers engaged in such processes of curriculum de velopment in a context of critical debate among professionals are, ipso facto engaged in processes of continual personal and professional development. Th ey are meeting the


12 of 32 standards for continuous improvement. Given the gen erally isolating conditions of work in public schools, public examination of cu rricula and pedagogy may be as important to changing the culture of schools and improving students learning as anything else that goes on in schools.We have to acknowledge school districts and states need to coordinate curriculum across grade levels and school contexts. That need is in some ways at odds with the very real benefits of having teach ers develop curriculum and pedagogy around their own strengths and the needs a nd strengths of the students they teach. Current testing procedures emp hasize the coordination and standardization of curriculum at the expense of teachersÂ’ judgment and creativity.It is interesting to note that several of the revie wers of this paper objected to the assumption that most teachers are capable of the ki nd of data-driven practice that allows teachers to assess the needs and streng ths of their students. The assumption, embedded in the Beliefs and Practices t hat guide the program from which these data are derived, ( http:// ), is a guiding principle of our pedagogy. While we could argue about whether the as sumption is "true," its truth is less important than its use as a guiding p rinciple. We conduct the program as if it were true and find that most teach ers incorporate its truth as a personal practice. Teachers conduct two classroom r esearch projects over the two years that foster their developing the skills a nd knowledge to use data from classroom research to guide practice. If it is not literally true that every teacher is ready and able to adopt a data-driven practice, most do adopt data-driven practice within the constraints of the program cour ses and procedures. We can be sure that if we were to assume that teachers are incapable of conducting data-driven classrooms, few would do so on their ow n. The constraints of time, energy, and limited research skills work against su ch practice as do the demands of state-imposed curriculum standards and t ests. (See more about the masters program in the Appendix.)Teachers like other workers are affected by the con text of their work. Where they are treated as professionals, they are much mo re likely to respond in a professional manner (Deal and Peterson 1998). Teach ers frequently react negatively to a context that deskills and mechanize s their work, as we believe the Virginia Standards of Learning does for the wor k of teachers in Virginia. Smith (1991) reinforces these conclusions in her st udy of two elementary schools in Arizona. She writes: "Because multiple-c hoice testing leads to multiple-choice teaching, the methods that teachers have in their arsenal become reduced, and teaching work is deskilled" (p. 10). Jones et al. (1999) report an even more disturbing impact of testing on teaching: "Many teachers are also concerned about raising scores on a measur e that they themselves do not view as particularly valid. They simply go thro ugh the motions, receiving little or no feedback on how they may improve their instru ction. Furthermore, most teachers do not find external tests useful and have no confidence in their abilities to reform educational practice." This rel ates to a point made by Kohn (2000). He points out that if teachers teach to the test, they will inevitably be able to raise test scores. If there is no public di scussion over whether the test


13 of 32 assesses qualities we are explicitly committed to h aving our children learn, teachers will end up making the testing regimen loo k good. This is because it will appear that student achievement is rising even if students are not learning what teachers and parents wish they were learning.3. Teachers are responsible for Managing and Monito ring Student LearningAccomplished teachers command a range of generic in structional techniques, know when each is appropriate, and can implement them as needed. They are aware of ineffectual or da maging practice as they are devoted to elegant practice.They know how to engage groups of students to ensur e a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instructi on to allow the schools goals for students to be met. They are adep t at setting norms for social interaction among students and bet ween students and teachers. They understand how to motivate stude nts to learn and how to maintain their interest even in the face of temporary failure.National Board Certified teachers can assess the pr ogress of individual students as well as that of the class as a whole. They employ multiple methods for measuring student growt h and understanding and can clearly explain student perfo rmance to parents. (NBPTS Report: Policy) We take teacher developed assessment as essential t o high stakes decisions because such assessments will very likely draw on a variety of skills, learning styles, and modes of demonstrating what children ha ve learned. Assessment must be tied to instructional aims and to pedagogie s actually employed in the classroom. To impose a standardized test that takes children as undifferentiated learners who can all be fairly ass essed by the same instrument at one time runs against teachers and developmental theorists conceptions of how children learn and of childrenÂ’s abilities to d emonstrate learning. Teachers question whether one standardized test administered at a single point in time, and drawing on a single mode of demonstrating learn ing could ever produce a fair assessment for all children. A special educati on teacher describes her experience regarding the children for whom she has instructional responsibility: I teach special education and feel that my students make tremendous progress each year. Unfortunately for th em, they do not make the kind of progress that is measured on the t ests. My children (as do all children) make progress in their interpe rsonal skills, their anger management, their study skills, and their aca demics. They meet or exceed their IEPs each year, but are made t o feel like failures when they take these tests. Yes, I can exe mpt my students, but it was made clear to me that this was really no t an option for ED students. Also, exempting special education student s can have a later effect on their ability to earn a regular dip loma.


14 of 32 . We only ask regular education students to mak e one year's progress, why do we expect special education studen ts to do more? The same argument can be used for any child that is below grade level. No matter how much progress they make, until they catch all the way up they will always feel like a failure on those tests. The Virginia Board of Education has adopted the pre mise that only those who can function well on the particular tests they have arranged should be certified for graduation in the public schools of Virginia. T hey assume that teachers and childrenÂ’s efforts are all that matter in learning the facts. The third NBPTS proposition assumes that professional teachers will assess practices and assessment instruments (including those such as the SOLs). Further the proposition assumes that when practices and assessm ent instruments are judged by teachers to be ineffective or damaging, t hey will not be used. Yet, teachers have no choice with Virginias SOLs. Teache rs are forced to use them regardless of their professional judgments. In this way the SOLs undermine teachers abilities to act as professionals.An elementary teacher gave the following account of how she has developed her own standards over five years of teaching. She uses her standards to gauge the progress of children and to guide further instruction. Her assessments provide evidence for her own decision m aking and for sharing her assessments of individual children with their paren ts. When I read [another teachers] narrative on standar ds, I found myself agreeing with so many of her statements. I a lso teach second grade and set personal standards for my students. L ike [her], I expect certain standards of work from my students. If his or her work doesn't meet my standards I return it to the studen t and expect work that is improved. From five years experience teachi ng second grade I find that I have developed a set of average stand ards that I expect from every student in my class. From this simple li st of standards in reading, writing sentences, math skills and oral la nguage I can gauge a students progress. I can then pinpoint exac tly what I want that student to work on and can reiterate that to t he parents at conference time. These are my personal standards an d have nothing to do with testing but with my expectations I try to keep these standards high so that my classroom has high requirements. The kind of subtle adjustments and responses profes sionals must feel free to make in order to meet the individual needs of child ren are described in this reflection by a first grade teacher. She explicitly challenges the assumption that a core curriculum will typically be of benefit to c hildren who move from school to school: . . the standards of learning would help studen ts who are moved from school to school only if they were on a time l ine. They would help students new to the school if the same thing w ere being taught at the same time all over the country. However the diverse population that I teach is directly proportional to how fast we cover a


15 of 32 topic. Everyone is not at the same place and I prov ide extensions or other work for the students who are faster and stro nger students while I help those who need extra help. So there is no guarantee that I would be finished a topic the same time as e ven a teacher in another school in [my county]. Supporters of the SOLs would want to ask these teac hers: Are your standards comparable across teachers? Do you hold each child to the same standards? Teachers following the principles of professional b ehavior developed by the National Board will answer these questions with a r esounding No. The differences in perspectives between the National Bo ard and the Virginia Board of Education reveal a vast chasm in understandings of how children learn and of what conditions are necessary for effective lear ning. We argue, along with these teachers, that children exhibit great variety in learning. They have different strengths and needs. To treat them exactl y the same is to cheat some children of their birth right for learning. The dif ferences in perspective between supporters and critics of Virginias Standards of Le arning on how standards should be applied should receive open and frank dis cussion. A number of other local studies have reported impor tant curricular effects of the imposition of state standards and testing. Jones, e t al. (1999) report from their study of 16 elementary schools in North Carolina th at ". . teachers tell us that science and social studies are minimally taught. . ." They report further a substantial reduction in instructional time as teac hers spend more time on test-taking skills and practice tests. Mitchell (19 97) likewise reports that principals in her study reported that ". . prepar ation for traditional accountability tests takes time away from innovative instruction a nd meaningful learning." Kubow and DeBard (2000) concluded that testing cons tricted the curriculum and creative teaching. The powerful critique of tes ting in local studies is not being heard or heeded by policy makers and politica l leaders.4. Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practi ce and Learn From ExperienceNational Board Certified teachers are models of edu cated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire in st udents--curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences--and the capacities that are p rerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple perspectives, to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving orientation.Accomplished teachers draw on their knowledge of hu man development, subject matter and instruction, and th eir understanding of their students to make principled judgments abou t sound practice. Their decisions are not only grounded in the litera ture, but also in their experience. They engage in lifelong learning which they seek to encourage in their students.Striving to strengthen their teaching, National Boa rd Certified teachers critically examine their practice, seek to expand their


16 of 32 repertoire, deepen their knowledge, sharpen their j udgment and adapt their teaching to new findings, ideas and the ories. (NBPTS: REPORT: Policy) Here the focus is on developing reflective practice and a commitment to continuous learning. The standard implores professi onal teachers to observe in their classrooms, think about how they have approac hed different elements of the curriculum, assess how the curriculum has worke d for different students, make critical judgments and evaluations about what has worked well and what has worked poorly, make changes, and start the proc ess all over again. Good teachers continually assess, evaluate, plan, and mo dify elements of pedagogy in the context of the strengths and needs of partic ular children. They recognize that changing students and changing circumstances m ean that the job of planning the curriculum and pedagogy is never finis hed. Reflection on their practice is the crucial element in developing on continuous improv ement. The imposition of curriculum and assessment from ou tside schools substitutes for reflective practice. If teachers develop the cu rriculum and have to worry about articulation across and within grade levels, they have to think through their own (possibly conflicting) aims. They have to work through compromises with colleagues over differing perspectives and exp eriences. They have to think through a variety of pedagogies to meet the differi ng needs and strengths of students. If teachers formulate the assessments tha t will be used, they have to plan the intellectual journey from aims through cur riculum to assessments. They have to imagine the range of ways children with dif ferent learning styles and experiences may demonstrate their learning. In cont rast, the very presentation of standards and assessments by the State Board of Education makes its staff and consultants the "Experts." Classroom teachers a re cast as technicians who use the manual to see how to implement curriculum a nd assessment. Our point is that structures can promote or undermine reflect ive practice. The Virginia Department of Education has chosen a structure that undermines reflective practice of teachers and has maximized the likeliho od that teachers will be unthinking technicians whose only reflection is abo ut "how I teach the material that I think will be on the test."Facing an externally imposed curriculum and assessm ent regimen, teachers scramble to guess what the standard makers are goin g to do next. This teacher critiques the assumptions about childrenÂ’s learning that are embedded in Virginias SOLs and points to the skills and culture embedded in the taking of such tests at all: The core knowledge curricula proposed by E.D. Hirsc h and others make many assumptions about the information that ch ildren need in order to be successful in todayÂ’s society. Not the least of these assumptions is that all children need to be taught the same facts. The nature of our education system is such that we are attempting to artificially civilize the whole spectrum of the pop ulation, including those who enter school with major disparities, to a common level. It is a race to the top of a hill that was chosen by t he powers that be to be the goal of all children. The problem is that th ere are unforeseen handicaps in the race. Some children start further up the hill than


17 of 32 others. Some children have to carry heavy baggage. Some children have been coached in racing tactics. Some children were unable to read the racing instructions. Yet all children are assumed to be equally able to race. The rules state that it is op en to all comers, in fact it is mandatory that everyone participate.If we as educators assume that all children have an equal chance of success at school then we are ignoring the inequali ties and lack of franchise that some students experience from social forces outside the school grounds. Why run hard in a race that see ms pointless? Why learn facts that have no personal meaning or so cial context? A curriculum must be meaningful and comprehensible to as many sectors of society as possible and not merely refle ct lip service to minority cultures and interests. If we realize that the standards of learning are largely set by, administered by, and t aught by members of the white middle classes then we cannot be surpr ised that it is the children of those classes who succeed in school. Ma ny of the ideas and behaviors they are expected to learn at school are already in place. These are the heavy favorites to win the rac e because it is their culture that sets the rules. These are the “s avage inequalities” in our education system that form the basis of the works by Heath and Ashton-Warner and the title of the study by Jon athan Kozol. This high school mathematics teacher argues for a s tronger role for teachers in the development of standards, which she supports. H er fear is that the standards will become inflexible and inaccessible t o teacher critique and feedback: Personally, I feel that standards are a necessary p art of the educational process. All teachers have some type of standards for their students: whether those agreed upon by the st ate board of Education, or school-wide standards, or simply the teachers own idea of the important material to be covered and me thods of evaluating proficiency. Every time a grade is assig ned, the teacher is evaluating the degree to which a student has met th e standards that have been set in the classroom. As a teacher of hig h school mathematics and as a parent, I see a definite need for state, if not national, standards to mandate and coordinate conte nt. I believe that these standards must be developed by those who are directly in education: teachers, administrators, parents, and w here possible, the students themselves. The standards should be se t as high as possible, but reasonable for the age level of the s tudents. Room must be left for individual teaching and learning s tyles, with accommodations possible for those with special need s. . I also feel that the standards of learning need to be re-e valuated periodically to determine whether they continue to be reasonable and appropriate expectations. A maximum amount of t eacher input, rather than government control, is essential in mak ing this determination. (Teachers paper summarizing and comm enting on the forum)


18 of 32 This teacher's views on the standards are typical f or secondary mathematics and science teachers. Her experience is that a noti ceable number of students come to her classes without the prerequisite knowle dge and skills for the work to be done in that class. Whether this is because t he materials were not taught (her assumption) or were not learned is unclear. In any case, she believes that standards that are flexible enough to adjust to tea ching and learning styles are of benefit to her practice.That successful teachers must reflect on and contin ually reassess classroom practice is the point made in this teachers comment : The individual needs of the learner should be our n umber one priority. Although we need to set high standards fo r each of our students, they should not be the same for everyone. Our standards should differ based on the individual needs of the child. Each student needs to be challenged at his/her instructi onal level. Rather than trying to bring all of our children up to the same level of competency, we need to look at what is best for eac h child in order to make them successful. We know that success build s on success. In order for our students to experience success, we have to tailor our instruction and expectations to each childÂ’s needs and abilities. It we do not do so, we will be setting many of our childr en up for failure. Outlining one standard to meet the diverse needs of our students is unthinkable.The goal of education should be to find out the ski lls and knowledge each of our students possess and then continually b uild on them. We should be assessing each child individually and then teach to challenge their developmental levels and push for g rowth. Of course, we have to keep in mind our local objectives and th e state SOLs when we are creating standards for individual stude nts. I believe that we, as teachers, do everything we can do and are sk illful at achieving this goal. Unfortunately, I think that a large percentage of the population has a very different goal in mind fo r education. Therefore, what they . [equate with] . succ ess is very different. The problems that arise for this lack of a common g oal is apparent in the fact that the state is using SOL tests to deter mine whether or not a childÂ’s education has been successful. A childÂ’s success is equated with whether or not they have mastered the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the SOLs test. The fact that a child has shown major academic growth throughout a school year is not valued . [by those in charge of assessments for the SOLs]. (From a teachers paper written about the electronic discu ssion) The teacher commenting below had a much more proble matic experience with the curriculum and the standardized test. Her abili ty to engage in the reflective development of curriculum and assessment were inter fered with by the SOL regimen: . I feel as though the state put the cart befor e the horse in regards


19 of 32 to the assessment of the standards. This year, as a fifth grade teacher, I was involved in the administering of the SOL tests. Due to changes in the curriculum in science, my students w ere going to be tested on some material in which they had not been instructed. In an attempt to prepare our students, my teammates and I taught a unit on weather, which was not part of our curriculum, a s well as the four required units mandated by the county. In addition to this, the county provided us with eight other units that would be co vered on the science test. These eight units were full of vocabu lary words and minute details of information ranging from atoms an d molecules to reproduction in plant life. I presented the informa tion to my students in a way in which I was not comfortable: read, reci te, review, MEMORIZE. I knew the majority of my students would retain little, if any, of it. However, I got caught up in the fervor of testing mania, and just like every other teacher wanted to give my students every possible chance to do well on the test.The morning of the second sub-test I looked at what was on the science test and I fell apart. Many of the terms th at I had helped my students memorize were nowhere to be found, but the re were many other items on the test that I had not emphasized a s much. I was angry that I had succumbed to the testing mania and felt guilty that I had subjected my students to a type of teaching tha t I knew to be ineffective, but did it anyway because I was caught up in the panic. What was the point of what I had done? Maybe some o f them guessed correctly, maybe a few of them actually rem embered something that we had drilled on, but had they lear ned it? Had I helped them make connections to their lives? Would they now be able to apply this knowledge, if they actually reme mbered any of it, to real life situations? I doubt it. . .I know I did not ruin the students, but what I regret is that I did not teach them as t hey deserve to be taught. I believe it is so much more important to t each the process and problem solving rather than just the facts. Tha t is what should have been done to make these science topics meaning ful to my students. (From a paper written to summarize and co mment on the discussion.) We believe the foregoing comments from teachers dem onstrate that inflexible, test-driven, standards will fail to address the lea rning needs and strengths of many children. Further, the more culturally diverse the population of children, the greater is the likelihood that any standardized decontextualized assessment instrument will misjudge what the childr en have learned and what they are capable of learning under optimal conditio ns. The quote below, from the first year research proje ct of one of the teachers in our school-based masters program, illustrates the g reat dilemma faced by creative teachers. The dilemma is how can teachers meet three divergent objectives: teach the Standards so that content is tied to a broader context of learning, use pedagogy that responds to the diverse learning styles of children, and engage students in the learning process to maxi mize their learning. This middle school mathematics teacher describes the pro cess of designing


20 of 32 curriculum to meet the needs of her students, provi des data on the consequences of using the pedagogy, illustrates wha t happened when pressure from the SOLs caused her to revert to old practices and interprets what happened as she returned to her well designed curri culum. As the year progressed and the Standards of Learnin g tests approached, I was very focused on the materials lef t to teach. I felt hurried and reluctant to design new activities, try new approaches, or go out on a limb with a different activity. The cru nch was on and I kept thinking to myself, “I have to cover these ski lls. I have to get through this unit.” As I have used fewer activities the students backed off their engagement in class. I discovered the busier I became with after school activities, coaching, and committee meetings, the more I tended to go through the motio ns without much reflection as to what I was doing in class. When I reverted back to the same old grind and the same old routine, my stu dents also reverted back to the same lack of engagement as the previous years. After this stark realization, I rejuvenated some prior class activities and instigated a new team competition. T he results were astounding! Likewise, when I rejuvenated student jo urnals, not only did I rededicate myself, but I jump started the stu dents also. As a result of this research, I planned better activitie s with more student options and activities.By the end of the school term, the student attitude s had changed. I found that the students likes and dislikes pertaini ng to math activities changed as the year progressed. Many students that stated that they liked worksheets at the beginning of the year had n ot checked that on their survey near the end of the year. No longer were the students content to be passive learners, they had c ome to expect to be involved in class and engaged!In addition, my attitude had changed as well. Refle ction became an important tool for me. I learned that I could not l et up for even one minute, or my students would let up as well. The st udent attitude of engagement was achieved through varying instruction al techniques and class activities. Constantly designing and impl ementing a variety of activities in my math classes, I elicited studen t engagement and ultimately student success in math class. (From a f irst year research report) This teacher sets a high standard, indeed, for her colleagues. Working reflectively, she has managed to provide a larger l earning context for the SOL-guided learning of her students using a variety of strategies that empower different learning styles and engage the students i n their learning.5. Teachers Are Members of Learning CommunitiesNational Board Certified teachers contribute to the effectiveness of the school by working collaboratively with other pr ofessionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and st aff development.


21 of 32 They can evaluate school progress and the allocatio n of school resources in light of their understanding of state and local educational objectives. They are knowledgeable abou t specialized school and community resources that can be engaged for their students' benefit, and are skilled at employing suc h resources as needed.Accomplished teachers find ways to work collaborati vely and creatively with parents, engaging them productively in the work of the school. (NBPTS: REPORT: Policy) A number of the forgoing quotes highlight the benef its for the community of teachers in a school or in a school division of wor king together to formulate curriculum standards. As teachers work together, th ey share and critique ideas, share classroom experiences, challenge assumptions about pedagogy, and work toward common understandings of childrenÂ’s lea rning. The outcomes of such community efforts are strategies teachers beli eve in and are committed to because they have developed the strategies. Even if the strategies are new to them, they understand where the strategies come fro m and how they were developed. In contrast, Virginias SOLs come from un trusted, unknown sources. They violate assumptions teachers make about the le arning of children. Virginias SOLs disrupt and undermine community beca use they introduce uncertainty and threat. The teacher quoted below co mments on the value of working within the community of teachers: Creating a common language among teachers has been a goal at my school for years it seems, but the time to serio usly talk is rarely available. I do believe that when we are speaking t he same language from grade level to grade level for readin g, writing, math, etc., the children will benefit tremendously. I per sonally feel that working these issues out together as a staff of tea chers will be far more beneficial than having a bunch of politicians decide for us what and how to teach! That seems so obvious doesn't it? Why on earth would they think they could create a set of standar ds of learning for the children of Virginia when they are not trained in education? Hmm... I guess that says a lot about their opinion of our profession. The state Department of Education has imposed a com mon understanding of childrens learning that contradicts the experiences of many classroom teachers. On the other hand, given the way schools have been run, it is very difficult for teachers to bring their knowledge and experience to bear on the setting of standards and the determination of strategies of as sessment. Isolation in the classroom is a major problem faced by teachers. We believe this has been one of the key causes of the poor student performances to which the SOLs are a response. Throughout this paper we have used teache rs voices to demonstrate what can be done in schools--teachers working toget her to develop curriculum and pedagogy that are effective and build on the st rengths of the children in their classroom. Unfortunately, many schools lack t he leadership and resources to convene study groups of teachers to work on curr iculum and pedagogy. As this teacher points out:


22 of 32 I believe the above comments . .[in this forum] . show one of the reasons we have encountered problems. We donÂ’t know enough about each other. We become focused only on our stu dents and our subject/grade level. We need to encourage and suppo rt one another and learn from each other. I applaud those teachers and education systems that have come together to develop a compre hensive curriculum for their grade level or subject. Howeve r, as many have pointed out, there must be room for individual crea tivity and teaching style and we now have to be sure that our programs will address the SOLs. Lack of communication and collaboration is on e of those issues that continually crops up in our profession. However, I believe were turning the corner in that area as evidenced b y this masters program and the comments in this forum. I'm beginni ng to understand the difficulties faced by middle and hig h school teachers and perhaps they are getting an idea of the problem s faced by an elementary teacher. The core curriculum concept is just another difficulty we have to face TOGETHER. Teachers are not only isolated from each other. The y are also cut off from the larger community, both by their lack of public voic e and by the fact that the larger community does not look to and value teacher s classroom experience. One teacher wrote: There are many different issues that arise in my mi nd when I see the word standards. I see that there are individual nee ds that are brushed aside to fit children into a specific mold. I am frustrated that there is so much curriculum to teach that I donÂ’t g et to spend quality time on any particular subject. I also resent the t ime that it takes to test each student each year. However, I must realiz e that I, as an educator, am partially responsible for letting thes e standards imposed by someone else invade my practice.For years there have been reports published that pu t American school children below other countries on tests. Whi le I could take issue with the tests or talk about the fact that we do a much better job of educating all children than those tests give us credit for, I wonÂ’t. The message that teachers should get from th ese statistics is that we need to do a better job, not of educating c hildren, but of educating the community. I think that, in most case s, we assess the needs of individuals in our classes and set standar ds which as professionals we think are reasonable. We need to f ind a way to show that each day we make professional decisions a bout the children in our classroom. That there are standards that are created for each child. The community needs to see the prog ress that each individual makes, not the failure of an entire syst em. Without agreeing with the validity of the internati onal comparison, we can see that this teacher speaks to the need to use data fr om children in her classroom to show what work has been done and what results ha ve been produced by the children. Teachers who have experienced the kinds o f professional


23 of 32 development that supports the NBPTS principles are able to use data from their classrooms to show others how their pedagogy develo ped (what learning problems they have addressed), what forms pedagogy has taken, and how it has effected the work of children in their classroo ms. Are standards and a common curriculum inevitably ba d? Teachers agree that standards reflecting the voices of classroom teache rs can be beneficial. This teacher writes about how the imposition of standard s both left her feeling frustrated about her teaching of science but benefi ted the learning community of her fifth grade team. We should stress that teacher s working together to plan curriculum is a very positive outcome. On the other hand, such work can be promoted in more respectful and supportive ways, as other teachers comments have shown. . Science, the core subject that sometimes took a back seat to other areas, came to the forefront. I received a s cience booklet consisting of an enormous . [number] . of v ocabulary words my students would have to know. The quarterly science kits we received from the county were irrelevant according to this b ooklet. I changed my way of thinking about science very quickly. Many mornings and afternoons were spent with science projects and qui zzes in order for my students to learn all I could teach them for the tests. I found myself meeting objectives and the needs of my stude nts. As stressed as I became, I must admit that there wa s a very positive effect on me and my fifth grade team of teachers. F or several months our weekly team meetings had a focus. Our di alogue during those meetings had more purpose. We planned more to gether, we knew the instruction that was going on in each othe rs classes. We even shared methods of teaching in all areas. The S OLs gave us a focus that drew us together. At our meetings, that were now held twice a week, we did not welcome visitors who would interrupt us because we had a purpose. The SOLs forced us to ope n the lines of communication with each other, which I believe had a positive effect on the students. Teachers who have had the benefit of working within a community of teachers to evaluate and plan together attest to the value a nd power of such collaborations. The power of these collaborative ef forts has been well documented in the quotes from teachers throughout t he paper.ConclusionsWhat are we to make of these experiences of teacher s? We believe the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the SOLs, as implemented and assessed, undermine teacher professionalism. See al so complementary discussions by Kohn (2000), Meier (2000), and Darli ng-Hammond (1997). This does not say that standards are inherently bad for our educational system. Where teachers have talked about the development of curriculum and standards as activity among colleagues, they have e xpressed great enthusiasm about the end result and about the processes of bui lding a learning community


24 of 32 among participating teachers. Further, these teache rs expressed enthusiasm for the curriculum they had developed. In contrast, a number of teachers have shared horror stories about the curriculum provided by the state and especially with the assessment tied to that curriculum. While teachers acknowledge some benefits from working with other teachers to interp ret the state curriculum, much of the experience was negative: teachers report fru stration over having to forsake what they know to be the most effective tea ching methods to cover atomized facts, presented without context or ration ale. Teachers strongly object to the assumptions about l earning that are built into the SOL tests. Particularly teachers emphasize the benefits of individualizing instruction and assessments to meet the specific ne eds of individual children. The professional standards developed by the Nationa l Board stress that teachers should recognize “individual differences t hat distinguish their students one from the other and taking account of these diff erences in their practice.” As implemented, Virginias assessment demands that stud ents be treated the same. The needs and strengths of individual student s are ignored and assumed irrelevant.In their writing on the implementation of SOLs and assessments, teachers have commented on the dilemma created for teachers who h ave taken pride and pleasure in working with the children who are the m ost disadvantaged in skills and relevant school knowledge. Take, for example, t eachers who have chosen to work with children for whom English is not the f irst language spoken at home. To choose to work with such children, or those from the most troubled homes, has offered special challenge and rewards for many teachers. These are the children who are likely, under the right circumstan ces of nurturing and support, to make the most progress in the curriculum over th e course of a year. A first grade teacher quoted earlier wrote of the substanti al growth exhibited by such a child over the first grade year. However, this chil d was still performing well below grade level at the end of the year. What ince ntive does any teacher have to devote any time to such a child under the condit ions where standardized test results will be used to evaluate teachers and child ren? No teacher in this discussion wrote in opposition t o the notion of raising standards for children’s performance. Neither did a ny teacher write against the implementation of a core knowledge curriculum per s e. Teachers acknowledged the benefits of such a curriculum for guiding the a rticulation of teaching and learning across grades. Particularly high school an d middle school teachers argued in favor of a common curriculum in elementar y schools to assure that children coming to the more specialized teaching/le arning context at those levels would be prepared for the specialized curric ulum. This assumes, of course, that the variations in knowledge and skills that students bring to these levels are a function of what was taught or not tau ght in earlier grades. Elementary teachers, on the other hand have written about the great variations in students social and cultural backgrounds as the source of the differences in student learning. A number of teachers wrote in opp osition to the particular core knowledge curriculum developed by Virginias State B oard of Education. Further, they claim that for some grade levels and subjects, the test is too narrow. Most of the tests do not assess critical thinking or abi lity to apply knowledge to real life situations. Teachers also argued that there ar e serious misalignments


25 of 32 between the curriculum and tests. They pointed out that the tests created to assess learning do not help the teacher determine s pecific needs for further instruction.Along with our teachers, we believe it is possible to make the standards more relevant to the lives of students and teachers if t he State Board of Education seeks and listens to feedback from teachers about w hat works well and poorly in the curriculum and in the assessment. The NBPTS model of professional development offers solid theoretical grounds for de veloping and implementing standards that will be responsive to the needs of r eal children and the complexities of real classrooms. Darling-Hammond ma kes a similar point: To be effective, teachers must meet students where they are, not where an idealized curriculum guide imagines they s hould be. This is particularly important in a nation with high rates of immigration and mobility, where students continually enter and exit classrooms as their families move among various states and countr ies and thus different school districts. If teachers are to succ eed, they must have the flexibility to teach what students need to know based on what they have learned before. Teachers must also be fre e to use material that allows them to connect what must be t aught with what students can understand. Curriculum guidance that o verly prescribes content and methods prevents teachers from construc ting the necessary bridges between students' experiences and learning goals. (p. 232) One issue not raised in the foregoing discussion ex plicitly that has been raised in subsequent discussions with teachers is the effe ct on teacher moral of having their status reduced to technicians working with a teaching plan drawn up by a State Board of Education whose members have little experience in teaching and learning. One of the authors was told by two di fferent teachers in one school that they were thinking of leaving teaching altogether because of what they saw as the assault on their integrity and know ledge about teaching and learning. A kindergarten teacher said “I am being f orced to teach kindergartners in ways that go against everything I know and belie ve about how children that age learn. I’m thinking about getting a master’s in counseling or getting out of education altogether.” Her colleague said “This is so discouraging. They are telling us what to teach, and when and how long to teach it. What is left for the teacher?”These are dedicated teachers who put everything the y have into being creative, responsive teachers. They have options to move to o ther lines of employment where pay and working conditions will be better tha n they are in Virginia’s schools under the threat of Standards of Learning a nd Standards of Accreditation (the plan to use test results from th e SOL tests to accredit public schools in Virginia). Many other teachers talk in s imilar terms. Everything we know about job satisfaction and responsibility says that depriving intelligent and creative workers of opportunities to develop as aut onomous and responsible professionals serves to undermine their moral and p erformance. Is anybody at the State Board of Education listening?


26 of 32 ReferencesBerliner, D. C., & Biddle, B. J. (1996). The manufactured crisis: myths, fraud, and the atta ck on Americas public schools Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing. Brown, D. E. (1993). The political influence of sta te testing reform through the eyes of principals an d teachers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Atlanta, April 1993 Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession. (1 986). A nation prepared: teachers for the 21st Century. Hyattsville, MD: Author. Cimbricz, S. (2002). State-mandated testing and tea cher's beliefs and practice. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10 (2). Retrieved [Date] from /v10n2.html. Cookson, P. W. (1998). A parent's guide to standardized tests in school: h ow to improve your child's chances for success Florence, KY: Delmar Publishers. Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). The right to learn: a blueprnt for creating schools that work San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Deal, T. E., & Peterson, K. D. (1998). Shaping school culture: the heart of leadership San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. DeMulder, E. K., & Rigsby, L. C. (2003). Teachers' voices on reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 4 (no. 3), 267-290. Duke, D. L. (1993). Removing barriers to profession al growth. Phi Delta Kappan, 702-712. Gallucci, C. (2003). Communities of practice and th e mediation of teachers' responses to standards-based reform. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (35). Retrieved [Date] from Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school New York: McGraw Hill. Grant, S. G. (2000). Teachers and tests: exploring teachers' perceptions of changes in the New York State testing program. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (14). Retrieved [Date] from Hafernik, J. J., Messerschmitt, D. S., & Vandrick, S. (1997). Collaborative research: why and how? Educational Researcher, 25 31-35. Haney, W. (2000). The myth of the Texas miracle in education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (41). Retrieved [Date] from Hirsch, E. D. Jr. (1966). The schools we need and why we don't have them New York: Doubleday. Jackson, P. (1990). Life in classrooms New York: Teachers College Press. Jones, M. G., Jones, B. D., Hardin, B., Chapman, L. Yarbrough, T., & Davis, M. (1999). The impact of high-stakes testing on teachers and students in North Carolina. Phi Delta Kappan, (November), 199-203. Kohn, A. (2000). The case against standardized testing: raising the scores, ruining the schools Boston: Heinemann. Kohn, A. (1999). The schools our children deserve Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Kubow, P. K. & DeBard, R. (2000). Teacher percept ions of proficiency testing: a winning Ohio suburban school district expresses itself. American Secondary Education, 29 (No .2), 16-25. Lortie, D. (1975). School teacher: a sociological study Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mabry, L., Poole, J., Redmond, L., & Schultz, A. (2 003). Local impact of state testing in Southwest


27 of 32 Washington. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (22). Retrieved [Date] from Martin, W. (1999). Keynote Address: Fairfax County Public Schools Conference on the Standards of Learning. McNeil, L. (2000). Contradictions of school reform: educational costs of standardized testing New York: Routledge. Meier, D. (2000). Will standards save public education? Boston: Beacon. Mitchell, K. (1997). What happens when school refor m and accountability testing meet? Theory into Practice, 36 (No. 4), 262-265. Popham, W. J. (2001). The truth about testing: an educator's call to acti on Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Rhine, S. (1998). The role of research and teachers knowledge base in professional development. Educational Researcher, 28 27-31. Sacks, P. (1999). Standardized minds: the high price of America's tes ting culture and what we can do to change it Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing. Schon, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practioner San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Smith, F. (1983). The choice between teachers and p rograms. F. Smith (Editor), Essays Into Literacy (pp. 36-45). Exeter, NH: Heinemann Educational Book s. Smith, M. L. (1991). Put to the test: the effects o f external testing on teachers. Educational Researcher, 20 (No. 5), 8-11. Smith, R. G. (1994). Teacher study teams: a focused approach to school problem solving. ERS Spectrum, 13-19. Smith, R. G. & Knight, S. (1997). Collaborative i nquiry: teacher leadership in the practice of creat ive intelligence. R. L. &. G. W. J. Sinclair (Eds.), Reaching & teaching all children (pp. 39-60). Thousand Oaks, CA : Corwin Press, Inc. Smyle, M. A. (1996). From bureaucratic control to b uilding human capital: the importance of teacher learning in educational reform. Educational Researcher, 25 9-11. Sockett, H., DeMulder, E. K., Lepage, P., & Wood, D R. (2001). Transforming teacher education: lessons in professional development New York: Greenwood: Bergin and Garvey. Sockett, H. T. (1993). The moral base of teacher professionalism New York: Teachers College Press. Tucker, M. S. (2002). The roots of backlash. h21: Educational Week. Wood, D. (2000). Teacher as citizen: democratic res ponsibility and professional development. Paper presented at the American Association of Colleges o f Teacher Education, Chicago, IL Yancey, K. B. (1998). Reflection in the writing classroom Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.About the AuthorsLeo C. RigsbyAssociate Professor (Retired)Initiatives in Educational TransformationGraduate School of EducationGeorge Mason University10900 University Blvd., MSN 4E4Manassas, VA 20110


28 of 32 Leo Rigsby has conducted research on adolescent dev elopment, literacy, and more recently on teacher professional development. His current research focuses on reflective practice and professional dev elopment for teachers. Elizabeth K. DeMulderAssociate ProfessorInitiatives in Educational TransformationGraduate School of EducationGeorge Mason University10900 University Blvd., MSN 4E4Manassas, VA 20110Elizabeth DeMulder's research concerns children's e arly education and development, and includes the study of how developi ng teachers’ reflective practice enhances teacher-child relationships and c hildren’s learning. She is also involved in community-based action research in the immigrant community of South Arlington, studying ways that families, sc hools and communities can work together to support children’s healthy develop ment.AppendixThe Intellectual Context of These Discussions Among TeachersFaculty at George Mason University have developed a school-based Masters program based on the ideas consistent with the NBPT S propositions. Developed to promote norms of continual improvement over a career of teaching (Sockett 1993; Sockett et al. 2001; Duke, 1993; Smyle, 1996), the master’s program combines reflective practice (Scho n, 1987; Yancey, 1998), work in school teams (Smith, 1994; Hafernik, Messer schmitt & Vandrick, 1997), commitment to innovation and development in curricu lum and pedagogy (Rhine, 1998), and school-based inquiry (Smith and Knight, 1997). The program also features unconventional scheduling of classes to me sh with teacher’s work and family lives and a commitment to integrate technolo gy into the curriculum. With over 1000 graduates teaching in Northern Virginia s chool divisions, the master’s program provides opportunities for teachers to lear n and to construct their own understandings of children’s learning through class room research and reflection. The program is structured to support te achers as they go through the experiences of personal and professional transforma tion. Preliminary evidence supports the claim that these structured learning o pportunities enhance the development of practicing professionals who are abl e to function in classrooms in ways that are consistent with the National Board standards (DeMulder and Rigsby 2003; Sockett et al., 2001; Wood 1998). In contrast to more traditional programs of “in-ser vice” learning where “outside experts” come into the school setting to conduct wo rkshops on some new technique, the masters program encourages teachers to explore together the issues that are most troubling or puzzling from the ir classrooms or schools. Teams of teachers work together to refine their und erstanding of these issues as they seek solutions. They search for, devise, an d implement problem-solving actions. They study the impact of these actions in their classrooms. Teachers


29 of 32 are empowered to become experts in their own right. Classroom-based research fosters the professional development of te achers in the following ways. As teachers conduct detailed studies of child ren’s learning in their own classrooms, they come to focus on and recognize the strengths and needs of the individual children. Teachers who then draw on literature and their own experience to meet the learning needs of children h ave a stronger commitment to the pedagogies they devise. When they assess the ir pedagogies with assessment strategies they have had a hand in devel oping, they are likely to gain a better understanding of why and how children have learned or failed to learn. They have the tools to find or devise new st rategies as the strengths or learning needs of their students change. Thus, the professional development strategies we have embedded in our program promise to create conditions of self-renewal and continuous learning. (See DeMulder and Rigsby 2003 and Sockett et al. 2001 for documentation of program pr ocesses and effects.) The teachers whose voices are amplified here are en rolled in the masters program briefly described above. Our masters progra m recruits school-based teams of two to six PreK-12 teachers, who join and go through the program together. The typical entering masters class has ab out 70 students, all of whom must be licensed teachers currently working in scho ols. To be work and family friendly, classes are spread over three summers and the intervening academic years. Classroom instruction occurs in two 2-week s ummer sessions, a third summer session of one week and four class days pe r academic semester. All class days are eight hour sessions.As part of their studies, in the first year teacher s conduct an individual classroom-based, qualitative, research project, typ ically based on assessing the strengths and needs of the children in their classr oom. As they formulate curricular innovations to address unmet needs, teac hers assess their relative success in meeting the needs. Teams meet once a wee k, usually in the school, to share classroom experiences, discuss readings, e xchange drafts of upcoming papers, and engage in critical dialogue ov er interpretations of these materials. Faculty mentors participate in these mee tings two to three times each semester. First year classes concentrate on the mor al base of teacher professionalism, issues related to language and cul ture, qualitative research methodology and technology. Courses are complemente d by Web-based discussions in which teachers grapple with ideas, s hare their own experiences, and comment on the experiences of others. Some of t hese discussions are structured to focus on readings and issues raised i n the readings. Other discussions are designed to encourage teachers to s hare classroom practice or research issues. In effect, work in team meetings a nd the Web-based conferences extend the program “classroom” to other times and spaces where teachers work. In the second year, teachers on teams collaborate o n a research project resulting in written and oral presentations that ar e equivalent to a group masters thesis. Their classroom work includes further work on language and culture issues, epistemology, and qualitative research meth ods. Faculty mentors work with teams more intensively as research projects de velop and data collection and analyses proceed.


30 of 32 Finally, in the third summer session, teams present their research in a professional conference to the rest of the class, g uests from their schools, and to the entering class. The presentations reflect th e creativity and imagination of an energized group of teachers, most of whom claim to have experienced transformative change. The final writing project fr om program participants, also due in the third summer session, is an interpretati ve narrative exploring whether and how they have changed during the program. The i ndividual narratives are accompanied by a portfolio documenting teachers exp eriences over the previous two years (DeMulder and Rigsby 2003; Socke tt et al. 2001). Unlike most other masters programs, our program aim s to keep teachers in the classroom. It seeks to renew and invigorate teacher s. The team work addresses teacher isolation and facilitates critical dialogue centered on classroom practice. Team work in the program promotes team work in scho ols beyond the program. With this program we seek to open new avenues for l earning and social support that will serve teachers long after they have compl eted the requirements. We seek to foster the development of reflective practi ce, classroom based research, the capacity to engage in critical dialogue with co lleagues and with the professional literature. These are the qualities de fined by the NBPTS as the characteristics of autonomous professionals. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State Un iversity, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on TeacherCredentialing Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Univeristy Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University


31 of 32 Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Los Angeles Michele Moses Arizona State University Gary Orfield Harvard University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Jay Paredes Scribner University of Missouri Michael Scriven University of Auckland Lorrie A. Shepard University of Colorado, Boulder Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Kevin Welner University of Colorado, Boulder Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British ColumbiaEPAA Spanish and Portuguese Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editors for Spanish & Portuguese Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Universityfischman@asu.eduPablo Gentili Laboratrio de Polticas Pblicas Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro pablo@lpp-uerj.netFounding Associate Editor for Spanish Language (199 8-2003) Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma


32 of 32 Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico) Universidad Autnoma de Puebla Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil) Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Javier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma Marcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Angel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de DanielSchugurensky (Argentina-Canad) OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil) American Institutes forResesarch–Brazil (AIRBrasil) Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain) Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.) University of California, Los EPAA is published by the Education Policy Studies Laboratory, Arizona State University


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