Children of Reform: The Impact of High-Stakes Education Reform on Preservice Teachers

Dec. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education,61(5), p. 477-491. November/December 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article presents findings from an instrumental case study (Stake, 1995, 2005).
The purpose of the instrumental case study was to examine the impact of high-stakes standards-based accountability reform on preservice teachers and what this means for teacher education.
This article brings to light the level of complexity that these teacher candidates possess in understanding how their profession and their field of work are changing due to this reform process.
The state’s policy makers held students, teachers, and schools responsible for students’ academic achievement on statebased standardized tests to ensure that all students who graduated from Texas’s public schools had mastered a specific set of knowledge and skills.

Research Questions 
The first question examined how a sample of preservice teachers’ prior schooling experiences in Texas’s K-12 high-stakes classrooms affected their conceptions of teaching and learning.
The second question examined how these prospective teachers’ experiences in their teacher education program and their field experiences, both of which took place in Texas, affected their conceptions of teaching and learning.

The Teacher Education Program

Participants for this study attended a large urban teacher education program in Texas that offers a three-semester training sequence designed to lead them to receiving either an early childhood through fourth grade teacher certification (EC-4) or an EC-4 teacher certification with a bilingual endorsement.

Discussion and Implications for Teacher Education

The data from this case study reveal that these candidates entered their teacher education program with an understanding that Texas’s high-stakes testing system was driving public school teachers’ instruction and students’ learning.

Furthermore, the findings also show that these candidates learned in their teacher education program that they had to incorporate Texas’s mandated curriculum into their teaching. However, their field experiences taught them that knowing how to teach the mandated curriculum and putting that knowledge into practice is a difficult task to undertake. This led them to question whether they could implement the TEKS in a manner that is more than preparing their future students for the TAKS tests, which mirrored their own experiences as students.

Based on these findings, two central strategies are presented that teacher educators might consider implementing in their programs to prepare their preservice teachers to become effective teachers.
Building off Their Own Experiences as Students in High-Stakes Classrooms
The findings from this study demonstrate that teacher educators also need to incorporate these preservice teachers’ experiences as students in high-stakes K-12 classrooms into their programs. These candidates’ experiences as students in high-stakes classrooms helped them recognize the complexity of the teaching and learning process within Texas’s education system.

Limited Experience Instead of Limited Knowledge
In this study, these candidates’ beliefs about teaching are not naïve or limited, but rather, their personal experiences with complex teaching in Texas’s high-stakes schools were limited.
By analyzing the students’ field experiences, teacher educators and their candidates can develop instructional strategies that respond to high-stakes tests in a productive manner that fits within the instructional requirements of field placements.

In the end, these teacher candidates’ complex experiences with high-stakes standards-based accountability reforms as former students and as teachers-in-training demonstrate that there are multiple opportunities for teacher educators to channel candidates’ personal experiences into their coursework.

Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), The handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 443-466). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Updated: Feb. 29, 2012