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ERIC Number: ED550488
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 259
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2678-4521-4
Negotiating Dual Accountability Systems: Strategic Responses of Big Picture Schools to State-Mandated Standards and Assessment
Suchman, Sara P.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Harvard University
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandated that states implement standards and test-based accountability systems. In theory, local educators are free to select the means for teaching the standards so long as students achieve a predetermined proficiency level on the exams. What is unclear, however, is how this theory plays out in schools committed to educational approaches that are seemingly incompatible with state-determined standards and testing. This dissertation examines how such schools strategically respond to the opposing demands of their program design and these government mandates. This qualitative study focuses on five schools affiliated with the Big Picture Learning (BPL) network. BPL offers an example of an educational program whose emphasis on individualized interest-driven learning and authentic real-world assessment is not easily aligned with standards-driven content and tests. This study considers empirical research on school-level response to externally imposed accountability mandates (Carnoy, Elmore & Siskin, 2003). In addition, it draws on sociology's organization-environment relations literature including institutional isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983), agency (DiMaggio, 1988; Oliver, 1991) and the theoretical models of bridging, buffering and decoupling (Scott & Davis, 2007) to create a conceptual framework of how these BPL schools negotiate competing expectations. Findings show that these schools filter state demands for accountability through the lenses of both individual teachers and Big Picture design. While taking action both to meet the demands and protect the core program, schools internalize the value of a standards-based curriculum and increase internal accountability to incorporate content-standards while simultaneously rejecting the validity of testing and gaming the system. Currently, failure to meet state mandates comes with such severe consequences that these schools may be forced to choose between radically morphing to survive or maintaining integrity and possibly closing. However, if the regulatory climate becomes less standardized and more qualitative, these schools could be forerunners in meeting revised mandates. The study suggests policy implications surrounding the intersection of belief systems, consequences and strategic responses. It offers a cautionary tale about the power of the state, the precarious nature of falling outside state norms and what prioritizing bureaucratic efficiency may mean for innovation in education. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001