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Constraining Elementary Teachers' Work: Dilemmas and Paradoxes Created by State Mandated Testing

Abstract

This paper examines the challenges to teacher professionalism that are associated with high stakes and mandated testing through a year-long field study in two elementary schools in upstate New York. Teachers reported that the 4th grade tests in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science undermined their ability to do their jobs with integrity. Through this study, the authors "came to understand in more nuanced ways the ongoing tension created by teachers' desires to be professionals, to act with integrity, and at the same time to give every child a chance to succeed.... The teachers at these elementary schools are not radicals. They do not seek complete autonomy, they do not eschew the need for accountability (even bureaucratic accountability), they find some virtue in state mandated tests, they are content within centralized systems that proscribe some aspects of their work. But, they also perceive themselves as professionals with both the responsibility and capability of doing their jobs well and in the best interests of their students."


The results of this paper may be of particular interest to MSPs as these two schools are in school districts participating in an NSF funded teacher enhancement project aimed at providing professional development to help teachers prepare students for the New York State 4th and 8th grade science tests.

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