How high the stakes?: a critical ethnographic study of the changes in programs and instruction for low income children of color in a Texas elementary school
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The purpose of this study is to identify parent and educator’s perceptions of reforms that were implemented within an elementary school to obtain higher test scores and the effects that these changes had on stakeholders, programs, and instruction. Currently, in a majority of states nationwide, students are being assessed using tests in the major content areas, based upon standards, to determine school effectiveness. This shift of emphasis from adequate resources and processes to assess student achievement and school effectiveness through the use of test driven assessment, coupled with sanctions, is a documented trend. The focus of this research is high stakes tests and accountability used for school reform and of the effects of these policy practices utilizing critical race theory. viii Three major questions were examined from a critical race theoretical perspective utilizing qualitative methods. The qualitative data was analyzed to discern the empowering or disabling consequences of these changes as perceived by members of the school community in a low income school for children of color. This study was undertaken utilizing a critical ethnographic strategy to record the events, processes, and policies that occurred in an elementary school setting within the environment of high stakes accountability. To complement the purpose of this study a single case study in one Texas school was undertaken to seek to “provide insight” regarding the consequences that an emphasis on high stakes test reform had on programmatic and instructional practices in an elementary school for low income students of color. Study participants provided compelling data sources through their interviews by presenting counternarrative accounts of events (Delgado & Stefanic, 2001). Thus, critical race theory was utilized as both an analytical, as well as a theoretical framework. The significance of this study is that provides practical and theoretical importance. This study presents analysis from a critical race theoretical perspective; one not commonly found in the literature. This investigation is also significant because high stakes testing is at the forefront of a current educational debate making additional research and discourse from the most affected stakeholders of vital relevance to policy makers and practitioners.