From an analysis concerning High Stakes Testing I wrote in partial fulfillment of an Ed.D.
Another area, often overlooked, is the demands of high stakes testing without providing opportunity to improve the practices of teachers through professional development. A case study (Passman, McKnight, 2003) of six Texas elementary teachers and the researcher reflected upon Barriers to Change, Conditions of Change, and Discourse of change. The school which employs these teachers saw a dramatic jump in the passing rate of the Texas Assessment of Academic skills, with an improvement from a dismal 44% passing rate to a respectable 68% passing rate.
In this study a partnership between the regional testing agency, a school and a university professor was forged to provide assistance in improving the writing scores. The theme of this partnership was that “good teaching can overcome bad testing”. An intense in classroom professional development of six months was combined with meetings of all participants. A large part of the study was focused upon barriers, conditions and discourses for change.
Barriers to change were composed mostly of external forces placed upon teachers, such as the state test and administrative mandates. Focus on these factors often leads teachers to the faulty assumption that good instructional planning is brought upon factors outside of the control of the classroom teacher. An analysis of the reflections found that these barriers are often insurmountable in the mind of the teacher unless support from the administrator and by that administrator setting about an emotional safety net for the teachers to begin to act as agents of change within the classroom.
Conditions to change were found to be the teachers struggling to internalize changes within their classroom practices. This is modeled by teachers concerns about giving feedback to students, and delivering it in a way that impacts student learning. The group discovered that the reflections of the teachers provided more answers to solve these problems in a collegial manner. As the in-service and reflection period developed, teachers found that they were changing not only in the manner that they approached teaching, but also how students reacted. All reported increases in morale and in achievement.
The final stage of the professional development was to provide Discourses in change, or to formally articulate what had happened in a coherent manner. Each of the teachers found that they had internalized methods of teaching and planning that had lead to more direct interactions with their students and with increased levels of communication among their peers.
Of all the studies mentioned, (I had quite a few in this analysis) this one particular study gave practical methods which could be employed by a school or school district to directly impact teacher practices in a high stakes testing environment. Rather than focus upon the looming test, direct interventions and actions of the teachers with professional development and a dispensation of time and resources for collegial reflection not only changed the atmosphere of the classroom, but impacted directly upon the achievement of the learners. This study implies using the areas that high stakes testing have actually greatly improved pedagogy, such as critical thinking, explanation, analysis, and writing, is the greatest way to affect the attitudinal factors of the teaching staff towards high stakes testing, but to also positively impact student learning.