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How Teachers' Professional Identities Position High-Stakes Test Preparation in Their Classrooms

by Lesley A. Rex & Matthew Nelson - 2004

In this article, we present profiles of two high school English teachers and their classrooms as the teachers responded to mandated high-stakes test accountability. Both teachers accepted targeted professional development, strong accountability measures, vigilant specialist support, and school site leadership; both believed tests were permanent and measured important skills; and both were committed to being team players and to teaching to the test to support their low-achieving students in performing well. We describe how both teachers unwittingly stymied their own test preparation objectives, and we represent the complicated reasons for these acts as expressions of their own personal accountability. Their purposefulness in their teaching competed with and mostly took precedence over the accountability goals of their departments, schools, and districts. We represent their powerful personal commitment as an expression of their professional identities. These we represent through pastiches of the teachers' own descriptions of their teaching. Through our descriptive narratives of their classroom practices, we illustrate relationships between their beliefs and practices, illustrating how they render test preparation to a subordinate position. The cases illustrate three interrelated dimensions for understanding why this occurs: professional accommodation, personal integration, and delegation of testing to secondary status. At the conclusion of the paper, we discuss the implications for policy and professional development.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 6, 2004, p. 1288-1331
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11574, Date Accessed: 8/2/2021 1:56:16 AM

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About the Author
  • Lesley Rex
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    LESLEY A. REX is associate professor of education at the University of Michigan. Based on this study and five additional studies from this research, she is conducting a professional development project in her research district. Her primary interest is secondary English language arts education, particularly inclusionary classroom teaching. Two recent publications on this topic are ‘‘Teachers’ Pedagogical Stories and the Shaping of Classroom Participation: ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Graveyard Shift at the 7-11’ in American Educational Research Journal, with T. Murnen, J. Hobbs, and D. McEachen, and ‘‘Exploring Orientation in Remaking High School Readers’ Literacies and Identities’’ in Linguistics and Education.
  • Matthew Nelson
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    MATTHEW C. NELSON is writing his dissertation in the Joint Program of English and Education at the University of Michigan. He is the research assistant for this program of research. His interests are in the training of university composition instructors and relationships to classroom teaching and high school preparation.
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