A ratings-focused response to the Texas Accountability System and the professional lives of teachers: an ethnography

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Sloan, Kris

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This dissertation presents the findings of a three-year ethnographic investigation of the teachers’ professional lives in one urban elementary school in an era of educational accountability. The dissertation outlines the localized responses by community and district leaders to the Texas Accountability System (TAS) by offering a brief historical analysis of the community and school district in which this research took place. This historical analysis revealed that the community and school district leaders had formulated two district responses the accountability system since 1990, the first a student-focused response and the second a ratings-focused response. Detailed case studies of teachers and their day-to-day experiences under intensified conditions of accountability follow this analysis. The findings of this research suggest that curriculum and assessment policies focused on earning a district a more coveted state rating not only undermines the professional lives of teachers, but undermines the quality of instruction they deliver in the classroom. Specifically, such a ratings-focused response to accountability undermines teache rs’ professional knowledge and leads to the de-skilling of teachers. In the end, the curriculum changes made by the district to boost its state rating did not lead to the very improvement in educational quality and equity upon which the move toward accountability is premised.