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“I believe in home language, but the tests don’t”: Addressing Linguistic Diversity Within Assessment Practices Across Literacy Teacher Preparation and Classroom Practice


by Katrina Bartow Jacobs - 2019

Background/Context: Issues of policy, practice, and assessment and the relationships between them have been a persistent focus in the practice and research of teacher preparation. However, the field has also long appreciated the tensions that persist between assessment approaches espoused in most teacher education programs and the realities of practices in K–12 schools. These issues are of particular importance and consideration in the current climate of increasing standardization and accountability measures. There is a need to consider how teacher preparation programs prepare candidates to handle these pressures. Additional research following early-career teachers into the field is also needed to better understand the challenges and possibilities they face within their own literacy assessment approaches.

Focus of Study: Building on linguistic diversity work and issues of epistemic privilege and inequality related to literacy assessment in schools, the author theorizes practice within teacher education as inextricably linked to K–12 practices and policies, calling for a shift in teacher education to directly explore, and prepare teachers to navigate and circumnavigate, current policies and contexts. Focusing on linguistic diversity and assessment, I trace the tensions between the teachers’ asset-based beliefs and their practices within the current accountability climate.

Research Design: This study followed 10 early-career literacy teachers from their teacher preparation program into their first year of teaching. All the candidates completed their studies having strongly demonstrated beliefs in asset-based assessment practices and the need for clear links between assessment and practice. Through survey data—both qualitative and quantitative—and in-depth interview data gathered over a year, the study investigated shifts in the teachers’ beliefs and practices as well as the role of their school context in mediating the relationship between the two.

Findings: My focus in my analysis of the findings was understanding the impact of linguistic diversity as it relates to equitable assessment practices. These findings indicated that early-career teachers had differing degrees of difficulty implementing even strongly held beliefs. The early-career teachers described tensions between their goals and school expectations, increasing frustrations with standardized assessment measures, and disempowerment regarding their ability to support diverse students in the classroom through assessment measures.

Conclusion: Although teacher preparation programs can have a strong impact on candidates’ mindsets, simply focusing on shifting beliefs is not enough. I conclude by offering specific suggestions for how to better meet these needs through both pedagogical and theoretical changes within the field of literacy teacher education.



 I believe in home language, but the tests dont. So, ImIm stuck, you know? Because when I make assignments where the kids can use AAVE, or Spanglish, or whatever feels comfortable for them, then I worry Im not preparing them. And my principal worries too, because our charter requires us to do as well or better than public schools on the [state test]. He suggested that I only do that when its an in-class activity, and not for a grade, you know? But thenwhat am I saying to the kids? What message is that really sending? It seemed so easy when we talked about it in class. Kallie1


The preceding statement comes from a first-year fifth-grade teacher working in a neighborhood-based charter school in a large metropolitan area. Like many young teachers, Kallie had decided to go directly for her masters degree and reading specialist certification after completing her undergraduate elementary certification teacher education program. She had deliberately chosen a program with a specific focus on social justice and urban education. Despite a more financially lucrative offer to teach in a nearby suburban district, Kallie opted to remain in the urban district where she had completed her masters degree. She took a job at a charter school founded on commitment to the local community, celebrating and utilizing the neighborhoods diverse population within the school.


Kallies 28 students all came from lower economic backgrounds (eligible for free or reduced lunch), and most were from historically marginalized2 backgroundsapproximately 60% were African American, 30% were Latino/a, and the remaining 10% were White. Students spoke a wide range of English variations, including African American vernacular English (AAVE), and many of her students were identified as English language learners (ELLs). Kallie, like most early-career teachers, was a young White woman from a middle-class background and not from the school community. She started her first year of teaching committed to the schools social justice approach toward teaching that focused on community assets and expressed diversity as a strength. Yet as the preceding quotation demonstrates, Kallie struggled to enact her vision of equitable instruction and assessment within the pressures of accountability that face U.S. schools today, especially when it came to honoring students linguistic repertoires and cultural identities.


Although research has demonstrated the significant impact that high-stakes standardized accountability measures have had on classroom instruction and curriculum, such as the narrowing of topics and texts covered and increased instructional time spent toward test preparation (Cochran-Smith, 2005; Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Fisher-Ari, Kavanaugh, & Martin, 2017; D. Ravitch, 2016; Selwyn, 2007), relatively few studies have explored how teacher educators and their students adapt and respond (Buchanan, 2015; DeLuca & Bellara, 2013). As the preceding narrative demonstrates, early-career literacy teachers (ECLTs) face not only pressures in the form of mandated state tests and/or required curricula but also pressure from local administrators whose focus narrows to preparing students to meet these assessments. Given the increasing impact that these pressures have on both K12 students and teachers, it is critical that the field of literacy teacher education prioritize how ECLTs move their learning and experiences forward into practice during their early years in the profession.


The study described in this article focuses on the nature of literacy teacher preparation, and specifically on the role of linguistic diversitythe language practices of nonnative English speakers and speakers of dialects that vary from standardized or mainstream Englishwithin assessment practices. This article centers on a yearlong study that followed 10 ECLTs from their literacy education preparation program into their classrooms, offering insights into the ways their beliefs toward assessment, both formal and informal measures of student achievement and learning, were implemented in K12 classrooms. By approaching this work through a lens of critical practice (Jacobs, 2018) and linguistic and epistemic equity, this article demonstrates the need to explore the complex links between K12 education settings and policies, and teacher preparation programs and design. Drawing from interview and survey data, this study examines links between teacher preparation and induction. The goal was to understand how the ECLTs, all of whom had explicit social-justice-oriented and growth-mindset beliefs, did or did not implement these beliefs in their assessment practices. In particular, this article examines the teachers work around issues of linguistic diversity, including both ELLs and students who speak nonmainstream dialects of English (Godley, Reaser, & Moore, 2015; Haddix, 2017). Furthermore, by broadening the scope of practice in teacher education to include recent graduates practices/beliefs in K12 settings (Goodwin, Roegman, & Reagan, 2016; Jacobs, 2018), this article aims to address how the field of teacher education can help new teachers appreciate the relationships and potential tensions between mindsets and pedagogy as they relate to issues of diversity and inequality. The study centers on the following research questions:


"

How do ECLTs resource-oriented assessment beliefs around linguistic diversity, focusing on students strengths and funds of knowledge (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) that developed during their teacher preparation program, shift, or not, during their first year of teaching?

"

How do ECLTs assessment beliefs translate into practice?


By following a group of ECLTs who were part of a cohort within a masters program and who shared beliefs about the need for literacy assessment to be resource oriented (a concept described in greater detail next), the study allows for a deeper understanding of the policies and frameworks, both individual and institutional, that supported or challenged a resource orientation toward linguistic diversity within assessment practices in literacy classrooms across the United States. Furthermore, this study provides insights into the possibilities of engaging topics around assessment within teacher preparation programs in ways that further promote educational equity for students.


LITERATURE REVIEW


This section provides some discussion of core literatures and bodies of research that guided my study: the nature of linguistic diversity in literacy classroom practices, and the impact of current K12 policiesin this case, high-stakes assessment practiceson the nature of learning in teacher preparation programs.


LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY IN LITERACY CLASSROOM PRACTICES


Linguistic diversity in schools includes both students whose home language is one other than English, and students who speak dialects or varieties of English that are distinct from mainstream or standardized English, such as AAVE. Within this broad community, there are important distinctions to be made regarding the specific linguistic practices and related sociopolitical histories across various groups of students. Reflecting on linguistic diversity as a whole, however, can offer insights into larger trends regarding equity and social justice-oriented education in the United States today. This section describes both the current climate and research in K12 settings, and implications for literacy teacher education.


Policies and Practices in K12 Classrooms


The majority of school districts in the United Statesacross suburban, urban, and rural contextshave an increasing number of students who represent an ever-growing range of linguistically diverse backgrounds (Meyer, Madden, & McGrath, 2004; Stritikus & Varghese, 2010). Yet the experiences and needs of these students are often underrepresented in increasingly standardized and high-stakes assessment and instruction practices (Darling-Hammond, 2015). Students who are identified as ELLs and those who speak routinely deficitized dialects of English, such as AAVE, are chief among those impacted by a lack of inclusionary and supportive practices. Although there is no question that these various student populations have diverse needs and historiesboth within schools and within society more broadlyresearch has shown the importance of considering the role of linguistic diversity more inclusively in K12 and teacher education (Godley & Minnici, 2008; Haddix, 2008; Souto-Manning, 2013). This body of work argues that scholars must look at the linguistic features of students home language practices while also considering the social, political, and historical nature of how these practices are (de)valued in classroom contexts. For example, Wassink and Curzan (2004) found that teachers language ideologies often led them to feel that nonstandardized dialects of English were something to be fixed for their students. Similarly, Poza (2016) found that students classified as ELLs were often excluded from content-specific instruction or classroom participation because of an overemphasis on preparing them for proficiency tests in the English language over supporting them as full, current members of the classroom.


These deficit perspectives can impact schools that, on the surface, appear to be offering a more equality-focused curriculum. In a study of a dual-language program, researchers found that the ideology [of language equality] functions by glossing over these differences through the processes of adequation (Fitts, 2006, p. 349), often unwittingly leading students and teachers to recreate the status quo of English as the dominant language. Other studies have demonstrated the need to build teachers capacity regarding how to promote literacy development with ELLs in ways that build on their linguistic practices (Spencer, Falchi, & Ghiso, 2011). Similarly, schools that work with students who speak what are deemed nonacademic or nonstandardized versions of English, such as AAVE, often face complex questions regarding when and how linguistic diversity is appreciated in the classroom (Chisholm & Godley, 2011; Wheeler, 2016). Ball and Lardner (2005) described the impact that teacher preparation and teacher beliefs can have on students with diverse linguistic backgrounds:


The writing of AAVE speakers, like the writing of any group of students, may indeed contain errorsfeatures of language or organizational patterns that are, from any perspective, mistakes that need to be corrected. But sometimes what seems like an error may be more than that. It may be part of a linguistic code that has considerable social or cultural value. (p. 42)


These issues can have particular impacts in regard to literacy assessment practices. Frequently, teachers of linguistically diverse students misinterpret common dialectical patterns for reading errors or miscues (Wheeler, Cartwright, & Swords, 2012). Similarly, Ball (2006) found that teachers of linguistically diverse students often struggle with equitable writing assessments because teachers are often unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the influences of culture on the teaching and learning of writing (p. 302). Genishi and Dyson (2015) noted that linguistically diverse readers vary along many aspects of literacy that are too often considered universalsuch as phonology, syntax, and semanticsand how this lack of awareness promotes the significant mismatch between student demographics and curricular design, including assessment. For students with diverse linguistic backgrounds to receive beneficial and equitable instruction in literacy classrooms, it is imperative that the field of teacher education consider how teachers are prepared to understand, honor, and make use of diverse linguistic practices in relation to assessment and instruction.


Addressing Linguistic Diversity in Teacher Preparation


Research has demonstrated the importance of linking teacher preparation to the necessary skills and mindsets for novice teachers (Kosnik & Beck, 2009). These connections are particularly important when dealing with complex topics, such as the issues of language and linguistic diversity highlighted in the preceding section (Scott, Straker, & Katz, 2009; Smitherman & Villanueva, 2003). Godley, Sweetland, Wheeler, Minnici, and Carpenter (2006) supported two fundamental considerations to better meet the needs of all students in the classroom: broadly, the need to address these issues more explicitly within teacher education and, more specifically, the need to include linguistic and sociolinguistic content within teacher preparation programs. Other studies also point to the importance and possibilities of including sociolinguistic approachesincluding direct discussion of linguistics, comparative studies, and issues of agencyin teacher education as a way to move teacher candidates toward engaging in equitable linguistic practices in the K12 classroom (Ball & Muhammad, 2003; Smitherman & Villanueva, 2000). Underlying this work in engaging students linguistic repertoires is a belief that critical approaches to teacher education, where power and equity are central topics, are necessary to enact more equitable classroom practicesincluding assessments (Moss, 2008; Orzulak, 2015; Smitherman & Villanueva, 2003).


Although the described growing bodies of literature represent current research within both K12 and teacher education settings, a critical area of study focuses on how teachers shift from teacher preparation to classroom practice. Smagorinsky, Wilson, and Moore (2011) found that a novice teacher had limited success using progressive approaches to grammar instruction as she moved from her teacher preparation into her own classroom. Jones and Enriquez (2009) found that university coursework has the possibility for long-lasting impact on first-year teachers perceptions of their profession, asserting that additional studies are needed to fully understand the relationships and transitions between teacher preparation and teaching practice. Given that K12 contexts influence teachers practices and professional beliefs, those creating teacher education programs need to consider these implications in how they design and enact preparation that is responsive to and engaged with current K12 policies. One of the major policy issues facing teachers is that of accountability measures in U.S. public schools. Research has shown that the testing culture has an impact on both teaching and learning in literacy classrooms, including text selection, instructional focus, and curricular design (Anagnostopoulos, 2003; Schmidt, Jacobs, & Meyer, 2017). The question is how, and in what ways, teacher education programs are responsive to these challenges and to the shifting practices within K12 literacy classrooms.


TEACHER EDUCATION AROUND ASSESSMENT IN THE ERA OF ACCOUNTABILITY


In recent years, considerable research has indicated that high-stakes accountability and state-mandated assessments are impacting the field of education (Au, 2011; Neumann, 2016; Vogler, 2008). Scholarship in the field of teacher education in the last decade has focused on the impacts that these mandates have on who enters the field of teaching (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2005; Selwyn, 2007; Sleeter, 2008); how programs are affected (Altwerger et al., 2004; Cochran-Smith, 2005); and how these policies are addressed within particular courses (Cochran-Smith, 2006; Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009).


Policy issues also impact preservice teachers; as they participate in school-based experiences, the mandate-driven assessment practices they see in the classroom and consequently engage in direct the development of their professional practice (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009; Jacobs, 2015). It is important to also consider that teacher education courses and programs function very differently depending on whether they are framed as sites where students are supposed to learn and apply best practices, or seen as spaces where students can engage deeply in dialogue around the nature of teaching as a profession (Zeichner, 2010; Zeichner, Payne, & Brayko, 2015). Even in programs where there is a long-standing commitment to the social justice aspects of teacher education, there can be a lack of attention paid to how preservice teachers are putting their beliefs and ideas into practice (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2011). Taken together, these areas of research demonstrate the need for a more nuanced understanding, both theoretical and pedagogical, of what we mean by practice in teacher education. These topics are of particular importance when considering the need for greater educational equity, especially for linguistically diverse students.


THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS


This section provides an overview of two of the fundamental underlying approaches that guided this study: the development of resource orientations toward assessment and instruction, and the ways in which assuming a practitioner inquiry stance within teacher preparation can shift how practice is framed within teacher education.


RESOURCE ORIENTATIONS TOWARD ASSESSMENT AND INSTRUCTION


A resource-oriented approach toward literacy instruction and assessment holds that all people are bearers and constructors of knowledge with epistemologies that develop and expand from their cultural, historicized, and personal experiences (Campano, 2007; González et al., 2005; Jacobs, 2014). Beyond understanding students home cultures and linguistic practices as different from those standardized by schools, a resource orientation makes these differences central and critical to the teachers work in the classroom. In other words, educators taking this approach in the classroom must think about the various resources that students and communities offer, and how and when schools either acknowledge or dismiss these cultural and individual ways of knowing and learning. For example, a resource orientation asks educators to consider how and when assessments focus on students linguistic repertoires in ways that honor these abilities. The goal of a resource orientation toward linguistic diversity is to honor, highlight, and draw on linguistic diversity/repertoires in meaningful and systematic ways.


Resource-oriented practice in literacy assessment and instruction draws heavily on the work of literacy scholars who have highlighted the sociocultural nature of literacy practices, both in and out of schools. Instead of viewing literacy as a set of skills from context to context without changewhat Street (1984) referred to as the autonomous model of literacypractices are conceptualized vis-à-vis identity, culture, and purpose. Barton, Hamilton, and Ivanič (2000) also discussed the importance of considering the role of space and place, arguing that literacy practices must be contextualized locally to gain deeper understandings of how participants organize and enact these practices within communities. For teachers to enact resource-oriented approaches in their classroom, their teacher preparation programs must help articulate the need to reflect on how literacy is used by the students and in their broader communities.


Resource-oriented approaches toward assessment do not disregard the need to prepare students for traditionally understood academic discourses; rather, they seek to honor students knowledge and practices as a way to support standardized traditional mainstream literacy practices and to open conversations around critical issues of power and authority within language practices (Ghiso, 2016; Simon & Campano, 2013). A resource orientation means moving from using assessment practices to gauge student deficits to seeking ways that value student strengths (Jacobs, 2015). Within teacher education, this means first deconstructing current literacy assessment practices, and then re-constructing these practices within different frameworks and approaches (a specific pedagogical example of this framework is provided in the methods section).


CRITICAL PRACTICE AND THE ROLE OF PRACTITIONER KNOWLEDGE


Within the field of teacher education, focus has increased on practice-based teacher preparation, with theoretical and programmatic work being done to consider the nature of professional practice and how we can best prepare our early-career teachers. Although practice means many things related to educational contexts, this study focuses on a critical understanding of classroom practice as explicitly explor[ing] the tensions and overlap of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, self-knowledge, and culturally/community knowledge (Jacobs, 2018, p. 24). In other words, this stance widens what counts as practice, centering the importance of context and history. Thus, this theoretical framework informs specific pedagogical and curricular designs during teacher preparation, as well as how ECLTs are positioned both within teacher preparation and during their induction into teaching.


The participants in this study, all teachers, had particular histories and perspectives regarding the ways that larger institutional and national pressures were influencing their own and their students classroom experiences. The work was approached from an inquiry stance (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), honoring practitioners inquiries into assessment and instruction as both valid and substantially important to the potentially transformative work of educational research (S. M. Ravitch, 2014). Within this framework, the work of teacher education and that of literacy teaching are seen as inextricably linked. Furthermore, these connections across policy and practice were made central to better understand the idea that the work of inquiry communities is both social and politicalthat is, it involves making problematic the current arrangements of schooling; the ways knowledge is constructed, evaluated, and used; and teachers individual and collective roles in bringing about change (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 18). This stance, when applied to questions of literacy education and assessment, allows for a closer look at the links and tensions between teacher preparation and teacher induction. This focus supports an approach to designing teacher preparation that is both responsive to current educational contexts and able to offer ECLTs a critical stance from which to consider their own practices.


This theoretical orientation also makes central the ways that individual perspectives and identities are situated within larger social and institutional contexts. To better understand issues of power, authority, and decision making in the classroom, it is important to consider how teachers are being positioned and understood by themselves and others (Lewis, Enciso, & Moje, 2007). Examining issues of power and agency within institutions also builds on the growing recent interest in the tensions and construction of teacher socialization and teacher identity (Akkerman & Meijer, 2011). Taking an inquiry stance toward teacher learning means centralizing links between teacher development, teacher knowledge, and teacher identity. This framework honors and explores the complex, multiple, at times conflicting, and socially embedded ways of knowing and acting within schools, including sites of teacher preparation (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004).


METHODS


This examination of the transition from teacher preparation to classroom practice draws on an in-depth primarily qualitative study that spanned more than a year. This included the second semester of a one-year masters/certification program in literacy education and the following full school year, during which the participants were in their own classrooms. The research focused on the tensions and intersections of belief and practice around literacy assessments. The research was guided by practitioner research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) and studies of epistemic privilege (Campano, 2007; Campano & Damico, 2007; Campano, Ghiso, LeBlanc, & Sánchez, 2016; Janes, 2016). Inherent in these approaches is the belief that identities and positionalities within society promote different ways of knowing (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), which are valued or given validity based on ones standing within particular societal or institutional contexts (Campano, 2007). This study provides an in-depth understanding of how novice teachers made sense of their assessment practices and beliefs within national and local contexts. Their perspectives provide insights into early-career learning as well as potential tensions between teacher preparation and classroom practice. Because this work primarily centered on how ECLTs understood and described their practices and beliefs, the methodsopen-ended survey questions and interviewsfocused primarily on gathering the participants developing professional narratives (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). This qualitative approach was augmented with Likert-scale quantitative responses, both for triangulation and validity and to look for patterns of response across individuals and school contexts.


CONTEXT


The literacy education masters program, which also offered state certification as a reading specialist, had a strong focus on teaching from inquiry and engaging students in their own practitioner research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, 2009; Fecho, 2004). Students were involved in field experiences connected to almost all their core classes; these experiences varied from structured observations to two full semesters of practicum work. The specific course involved in this study, with 26 students, was a required class on literacy assessments. This class not only covered traditional topicssuch as formal and informal reading assessments, using assessment data to direct instruction, and response to intervention (RTI) planningbut also addressed issues of equity and diversity in relation to literacy assessment. In addition to providing a historical overview of assessment practices in the United States, the course had a module that specifically addressed issues of linguistic diversity and ELLs in relation to literacy assessment tools and approaches. This unit covered issues related to dialect diversity within English, such as AAVE, as well as second language acquisition, and discussed the similarities and differences in how to appreciate, utilize, and support the linguistic development of these two populations. The course also had an ongoing focus on discussion of the relationship between assessment and instruction, emphasizing the possibility for a symbiotic relationship.


To give a specific example of how a resource orientation was enacted, one assignment asked ECLTs to work in groups to evaluate an assessment that was used in their placements, such as DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) or DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment)common assessments that measure students fluency, comprehension, and/or reading level (Jacobs, 2014). The preservice teachers presented to the class an overview of the assessment practices that included a critique of what kinds of knowledge or literacy practices these assessments failed to take into account. The candidates were then asked to describe how they might reframe these practices, many of which are required, in ways that both encouraged the use of the data gathered and developed a more holistic and strengths-based understanding of the students literacies, in and out of school. The culminating project for the course was a holistic literacy assessment of a child, complete with parent/teacher interviews, a series of formal and informal assessments, and suggestions for supporting the childs literacy learning through various instructional approaches.


It is important to note here my dual role in this study; as both the course instructor and the principal researcher, I engaged with the participants in a number of different ways. Although this provided certain affordances, such as a rich understanding of the course content and design, it also is important to note some of the potential limitations. Most significant is the possibility that participants answered interview and survey questions in ways they felt matched what they knew of my frameworks and perspectives. As I discuss further in the findings section, although I feel the participants were answering as truthfully and openly as possible, I also acknowledge that apparent tensions in their reflections could stem from an effort to provide what they felt were the right answers to their former instructor.


PARTICIPANT SELECTION, AND DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS


At the conclusion of the course, all students were administered an online survey that asked a series of 5-point Likert-scale questions regarding their approaches to or beliefs around literacy assessments. To avoid any sense of coercion or confusion, this survey was administered by a colleague and was not included as a grade or credit for the course. The survey was given during instructional time toward the end of the semester. However, I left the room while it was given by a colleague, who answered any questions; the colleague had also revised the survey. I did not examine the survey responses until after the course was completed.


The survey questions were created by the author, who was also the instructor of the course, and were designed along two lines of inquiry: (a) relationships of assessment and instruction, and (b) resource-oriented approaches toward literacy assessment. The subtopics related to assessment and instruction were: the development of classroom-based assessments; balancing criterion- and norm-referenced assessments; and designing instruction in response to assessment data. The subtopics related to resource-oriented approaches included general beliefs about community-based education; linguistic diversity and ELLs literacy learning; and perspectives on inclusive classroom design. All these topics related directly to material covered in the course. See Appendix A for the survey instrument.


Before administering the survey, the author had two colleagues review the questions for both content and predictive validity (Creswell, 2013) by having them independently code the questions for topic and clarity. The median score for a participants total responses were presented on X and Y axes for resource orientation and assessment/instruction links, respectively; responses across the two lines of inquiry were tallied and marked as either positive (mean response > 2.5) or negative (mean response < 2.5). This round of analysis placed students in one of four quadrants, as can be seen in Figure 1.


[39_22699.htm_g/00001.jpg]



Figure 1. Postcourse breakdown of students perceptions


Because the goal of this study was to explore the ways that students who shared a resource-oriented and practice-linked approach to assessment enacted their practice as literacy instructors in the year following their teacher preparation program, the 16 students identified as having a positive stance toward asset-based assessment and strong links between assessment and practice were seen as the possible pool of participants for this study. Although there certainly could have been interesting findings from the other quadrants, one of the main goals for this study was to better understand the tension identified within the literature regarding social justice advocacy in teacher education versus low implementation of these beliefs in classrooms (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2011). Therefore, the decision was made to focus on the students who most identified with the stated goals and mission of the program. Across these 16 students, the mean score for resource-oriented beliefs about assessment was 4.25, while the mean score for assessment/instruction links was 4.67.


Following the completion of the course, these 16 students were invited to participate in the ongoing study over the course of the following year. Eleven agreed, although one had to drop out after the first interview for personal reasons. The 10 participants who completed the study represent a range of diverse attributes, including both personal characteristics and their school settings. Participants were asked to self-identify in terms of gender and race. Table 1 provides a basic overview of the group.


Table 1. Participants by Gender, Race, and Teaching Context


Name

Gender

Race

School Type

Grade

Christine

Woman

White

Urban Public

5th grade ELA

Dylan

Man

White

Urban Public

8th grade ELA

Kallie

Woman

White

Urban Charter

6th grade ELA

Lily

Woman

White

Suburban Public

9th grade ELA

Lisa

Woman

White

Urban Public

2nd grade (all subjects)

Melanie

Woman

Black

Urban Charter

Reading specialist K-5

Thomas

Man

White

Suburban Public

7th grade ELA

Tonya

Woman

White

Suburban Public

5th grade ELA

Yolanda

Woman

Cambodian American

Urban Charter

10th grade ELA

Zoey

Woman

White

Rural Public

10th/11th ELA



For nine of the 10 participants, the year of the study represented their first year of teaching; the other participant had spent one year as a long-term building substitute between her initial certification and returning for the masters/reading specialist certification. The 10 participants were interviewed by phone three times over the course of the school year. The first interview took place in September, the second in January/February, and the final interview in May. The interviews, ranging from 35 to 65 minutes, were semistructured, following an interview protocol that asked broad questions regarding assessment beliefs and practices and followed up with questions more specific to the participants experiences and perspectives, as can be seen in Table 2.


Table 2. Interview Questions Organized by Theme


Research Questions

Theme: Assessment Beliefs

Theme: Assessment Practices

Theme: School/Classroom Context

"

How do ECLTs resource-oriented assessment beliefs around linguistic diversity, focusing on students strengths, developed during their teacher preparation program, shift during their first year of teaching?


"

How do ECLTs assessment beliefs translate into practice?

First Interview

"

How would you define literacy assessment?

"

Tell me about how you see the relationship between assessment and instruction.

"

Tell me about your decision to become a teacher.


Second Interview

"

Ideally, who do you see as involved in the creation and administration of assessment?

"

What do you see as the goals for assessment in your classroom?




Third Interview

"

What do you now see as the goal or purpose for assessment?

"

How should assessments balance measuring strengths and areas of challenge?

First Interview

"

Did you discuss assessment practices in your job interview? What are the expectations?

"

Tell me about assessment practices in your classroom.




Second Interview

"

Tell me about the specific assessment practices you use. How are they created, and for what purpose?

"

Who do you work with to design, implement, or make sense of reading and writing assessment in your classroom?


Third Interview

"

What would you change about assessment in your current position, if you could?

"

How much control do you have over assessment in your practice?

First Interview

"

Tell me about your current work context.

"

Describe the community context that you work in.







Second Interview

"

When, if ever, are you invited into curriculum design, larger planning projects, or school/districtwide initiatives?

"

Are there any schoolwide assessment initiatives or requirements?


Third Interview

"

Do you think your current school context impacts assessment practices in your own classroom?

"

Tell me about the history of your school, especially as regards assessment decisions.



All 30 interviews were transcribed verbatim and then coded within NVivo. The interviews were transcribed following codes that I developed from the interview questions in Table 2. Subcodes and additional codes were added based on the narratives and themes that emerged. After the third round of interviews, the 10 participants were administered a second survey. This survey again asked questions regarding beliefs and approaches but also included a second section that asked them to reflect on the implementation of these practices during the previous school year, both in Likert-scale questions and open-answer responses. See Appendix B for additional questions used for this survey.


Analysis of the survey data and interviews took place during two phases. The first phase was conducted during the school year and involved the development of emergent codes and following a priori codes and questions informed by research in the field (as described in Table 3). After each round of interviews, I analyzed the data individually and across the participant group to gain a sense of how their perspectives were developing both in relation to their current school context and more broadly across the cohort. This analysis focused heavily on how they defined literacy assessment, implemented literacy assessment, and viewed their role as agentive (or not) in the development of equitable literacy assessment practices.


In the second round of coding, I looked across the data sources and analyzed the interviews and open-ended survey data using the constant comparative method, with an emphasis on selective coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), to gain a deeper and more complex image of the ways participants were framing and contextualizing their decisions and beliefs around literacy assessment. See Appendix C for an example of a coded transcription. In examining the data, I attended to the specific tensions and/or topics addressed by the participants and further clarified the codes and subcodes. During this work, I drew heavily on the work of practitioner inquiry within teacher preparation in an effort to make visible some of the many personal, professional and political decisions and struggles practitioners face every day in their work in classrooms, schools, and other educational contexts (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009, p. 344). This analysis led to the development of eight categories and six subcategories for the data (Table 3).


Table 3. Codes and Data Examples


Codes

Examples from Data

Assessment Beliefs (AB)

Student Strengths (ABss)





Links to Instruction (ABli)




Need for Multiple Data Points (ABmdp)


When I think about my students, I thinkI think about how powerful they were as readers and writers, using so many different codes and forms of communication. And I think assessments should display that.


This year of teaching I realized how much of my instruction really is a form of assessment and I want that to match what goes in the grade book.


What we talked about at [grad school], and its so trueno one test will tell me that much about a learner. So I think its important to get a range of scores, assessments, impressions before making any, you know, diagnostic decisions.

Assessment Practices (AP)

Lack of Teacher Control (APltc)



Teacher Control (APtc)



Links to Instruction (APli)


I have to follow the benchmarks, because those follow the [state test]. It guides it all.


I make sure that I am making assessments that show I know my kids, that show the world what they can do.


Those kinds of assessments, they really impact how I modify lessons for particular kids.

Issues of Equity (IE)

I know that the tests arent fair, that they are biased. I cant change the tests, but I am honest with my students.

Standardized Assessments (SA)

Right now assessment is test prep, test prep, test prep. Its giving kids prompts about stuff they never even experienced.

Language Diversity (LD)

Standard English, including correct grammar, is essential in order for students to obtain complete credit on the designated writing and literacy rubrics created by teacher coaches and grade level leaders.

School Context (SC)

My department headI know shes got my back. I know she takes seriously the same issues of equity and language that I do and questions the tests as the end-all-be-all. So Im not alone in my school.

Literacy Instruction (LI)

The purpose of teaching reading, teaching literacy, is to help kids communicate in lots of ways.

Teacher Self (TS)

I went into teaching because I love kids, love watching them learn, watching them talk and write.



During both rounds of coding, I met with a colleague who independently analyzed a sample of the data. We then discussed our findings and further refined the categories. After the final coding round, a doctoral student analyzed approximately 30% of the data, which demonstrated 78% interrater reliability, which is within the accepted standard. All the participants were given an opportunity to see the coded data and offer insights, as a form of member check (Marshall & Rossman, 2016). Quantitative data were pulled from the final survey to look for individual changes over time around beliefs or practices and to triangulate the data and categories that emerged from the qualitative sources.


FINDINGS


This section describes two themes from the analysis of the data in this study. First, although the participants maintained strong beliefs around resource-oriented practices and the importance of honoring linguistic diversity both in the interviews and in the final survey, the majority of ECLTs reported difficulty integrating these approaches into their regular practice. The following section highlights some of the contextual reasons that the ECLTs gave for this apparent disconnect, as well as some of their own emotional and developing professional responses to the tension between beliefs and practices.


A related and pronounced trend in the data was that standardized assessments became the primary topic of discussion when questions around linguistic and/or cultural diversity were used in the interview protocols. This finding links to the second theme that emerged: an increasing focus on standardized assessments and accountability measures despite the participants defining assessment practices as inclusive of both classroom-based and standardized approaches. This emphasis increased over the course of the interview rounds, with a spike during the second interview sessionsthe specific time when test preparation and standardized state testing were taking place, especially for the upper elementary and secondary teachers in the study.


MISMATCH OF BELIEFS AND PRACTICES AROUND HONORING LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY


Based on the end-of-year survey about beliefs and practices, the results of which are shown in Table 4, the students retained a strong affirmation of the initial survey immediately after completing the course on literacy assessments, with a mean score of 4.25 around resource-oriented beliefs regarding literacy assessment purposes. This trend was also evident in how they viewed the role of childrens home language practices and dialectic diversity in the classroom.


Table 4. Mean Scores Around Resource-Oriented Beliefs After Teaching

 

Assessments should focus on highlighting students assets

Assessments should utilize linguistic diversity as an asset

Assessments should take into account language and dialect diversity

Assessments are an important and integral part of instruction

Mean Score Postteaching Survey (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree

4.33

4.67

4.50

4.35



These results suggest that after a year of teaching, the ECLTs still maintained the same beliefs and goals for their practice regarding the implementation of resource-oriented assessment practices, particularly around language and dialect diversity in the classroom. Their responses to the open-ended questions in the survey also demonstrated the strength of these beliefs:


Kallie: When I think about my students, I thinkI think about how powerful they were as readers and writers, using so many different codes and forms of communication. And I think assessments should display that.


Dylan: My students have so many amazing talents. They code-switch, they use digital tools, they say such amazing things about books. Assessments should represent that, somehow.


Zoey: Even though were in a rural area, language diversity is still a huge thing. Most of my kids speak what I call a Southern form of AAVE. And its is not only a powerful tool for their writing and speaking. They really talked about it when we were discussing the use of dialect in writing. Especially with Zora Neal Hurstonit can be such a powerful tool. They have such amazing knowledge that they shared with me in their analysis and essays.


Furthermore, the participants also maintained a strong sense of the relationship between assessment and instruction, as was evident in their interview responses:


Lily: More than ever I think assessments and instruction need to go hand-in-hand, need to be developed together and thought about as two sides of a coin. This year of teaching I realized how much of my instruction really is a form of assessment and I want that to match what goes in the grade book.


Thomas: Assessment is just a part of good instruction. They are inseparable.


Christine: This year, my colleagues and I did backwards planning. So, when I planned, I planned from the main goal to the assessment to the instruction. When I could do that and design it all together the classroom really flowed.


However, despite these strong convictions, when asked to self-rate their own classroom practices along the same criteria, the participants had a very different perspective. The additional questions asked the ECLTs to describe their practices from the previous year, considering both their own classroom practices and those of the broader school context. This distinction was an effort to better understand the role that the larger context might play in how these teachers implemented their assessment practices.


Table 5. Postteaching Survey Results for Assessment Practices


 

Assessments focused on highlighting students strengths

Assessments took into account students language diversity and dialects

Assessments used linguistic diversity as an asset

Assessments were clearly linked to instruction

Self/Classroom Context

Mean Score Postteaching Survey (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree

2.83

3.33

3.00

3.65

Schoolwide Context

Mean Score Postteaching Survey (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree

3.00

2.00

2.25

3.25



Table 5 demonstrates a significant mismatch between the participants beliefs around literacy assessments and linguistic diversity and their ability to put these frameworks into practice. Although on average, the participants felt they were doing more than the schoolwide community to support linguistic diversity as a resource, overall, their sense of efficacy fell far below their desires and beliefs regarding the importance of taking a linguistic resource-oriented approach to assessment practices.


Interestingly, it was in this section of the survey and subsequent coding where school contextin terms of urban, suburban, and ruralhad a significant impact. Although the participants beliefs across these contexts were consistent, their actionsand, perhaps more important, their reactions to their practicesvaried significantly. Of the 10 participants, three were in suburban public schools. All three of these teachers defined their schools as serving upper-middle class, primarily English speaking, mostly White students. Six of the ECLTs were in urban schools, both traditional public and charter. Although these populations did vary, all the participants teaching in urban schools reported having a majority of students who qualified for free/reduced lunch and a majority of students who came from historically marginalized communitiesAfrican American and Latino being the majority. All six of these ECLTs had at least one student who was identified as an ELL in the classroom, and two reported a majority of ELLs in their classrooms. The remaining participant was in a rural area in a Southern state. She reported that all but one of her students were African American and that all of her students qualified for free/reduced lunch. She did not have any identified ELL students in her class but did report a significant amount of AAVE dialect use in her class and the wider community.


Although all 10 of the ECLTs agreed that it was difficult to honor and use linguistic diversity in the classroom within the era of accountability and high-stakes testing, their reactions to these concerns varied across contexts. All three of the suburban-based ECLTs expressed some form of relief at not having to address linguistic diversity within their assessment or instruction:


Lily: My assessment practices do not take linguistic diversity into account because 100% of my students speak English as their first and only language. So I dont need to worry about linguistic diversity and AAVE, which is good. Because the test scores need to be my focus.


Thomas: I wish I could teach them more about language and dialect, but as an early-career teacher Im glad I dont have to talk about it, because its hard to get them ready for tests and have them questioning language.


Tonya: While I miss the diversity, its a blessing as a first-year teacher trying to meet AYP3 to not have to think about kids languages as an issue.


This finding demonstrates a persistent and problematic aspect of addressing linguistic diversity in schoolsthe question of Who is it for? As other scholars have addressed (Nieto, 2015; Tyler, 2016; Warren-Grice, 2017), there has historically been a color-blind approach to education in suburban schools, with both research and practice focusing primarily on the need for discussions of cultural and linguistic diversity in urban settings. However, as the data from this study show, this approach often promotes teachers avoidance of difficult discussions and larger issues of power and privilege in society in suburban, mainly White schools.


For the remaining seven participants, the difficulty they faced in deeply engaging their students lives and linguistic practices was a significant frustration. All seven of them reported that neither the required assessment approaches nor official curricula encouraged or supported a resource orientation toward linguistic diversity. Of these ECLTs, five reported that they were overwhelmed or unsure of how to address this tension, so they simply focused on test prep oras Kallie described in the opening vignettecreated distinct and separate spaces within the classroom to draw on linguistic diversity as a resource. But this tension was a significant one for these teachers:


Yolanda: I dont know. Its just so discouraging. I mean, I went into teaching because I love kids, love watching them learn, watching them talk and write. And they can. And they do. But the state tests dont show thatdont show how they just, create and play with language and words. And my job, and their futureits all about the test. So most of my assessments just had that in mind.



As noted in the preceding quotation, it is possible that Yolandas comments regarding her reasons for entering teaching were impacted by the fact that she was speaking to her former instructor, who she knew espoused a resource orientation. That said, the consistency of these responses and the specific examples given for each teacher suggest that it was indeed a difficult and true tension for them in their practice.


The remaining two ECLTs, both in urban schools, took a critical literacy (Janks, 2000, 2009; Kinloch, 2011) approach toward this tension. Drawing explicitly on tools and approaches that had been discussed in their teacher preparation program, these participants found ways to actively discuss the issues of power, identity, and authority that impacted language use in the classroom and in the mandated tests:


Christine: I cant do anything about the standardized tests themselves, so instead I talk about it with my kidswe talk about language assumptions on the tests and translate for the test makers. Like we did in your class. Its fun, and I think it helps prepare them for the tests and shows the ways that language can be unfair. I dont ever want to make them feel they should be ashamed of how they talk, and their families talk, so I need to address it in my assessments and instruction.


In both of these cases, the participants reported a noticeably higher score for their schoolwide approach to language diversity and assessment (3.80 and 3.92, respectively). When asked if this context made a difference, both ECLTs vigorously agreed. They both stated that they felt safe doing critical literacy work because they had senior colleagues and administrators who supported and even modeled those approaches for them. These responses suggest that having a supportive environment can make a significant difference for early-career educators in creating more equitable practices in their classrooms. However, given the low percentage of schools where these goals are espoused and put into practice, it is critical to reflect on how teacher preparation programs can more effectively address the tensions between beliefs and practices in ways that help ECLTs develop concrete tools and approaches in their own classrooms and schools.


FOCUS ON STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENT MEASURES


One of the questions that was asked in both the initial survey and as an initial question for all three interviews was how the participants defined assessment. As was expected, given the results of the Likert-scale data from the initial survey, the participants focused on both the need for strong links between assessment and instruction and the goal for assessments to begin with recognizing and highlighting students strengths. Table 6 shows the frequency with which these codes emerged over the three interview sessions.


Table 6. Percentage of Interview Responses With Specific Codes Over Time


 

Code: Assessment Practice: Link to Instruction (APli)

Code: Assessment Belief: Student Strengths (ABss)

Code: Standardized Assessments (SA)

Interview 1 (September)

87% of responses

75% of responses

54% of responses

Interview 2 (January/February)

72% of responses

53% of responses

95% of responses

Interview 3 (May/June)

74% of responses

65% of responses

70% of responses




As can be seen in Table 6, participants remained fairly focused on the nature of how assessment and instruction were linked across all three of the interviews, although there was a decline in this focus over time. Subsequent analysis of the interview data demonstrated that the participants were focused on the importance of linking assessment and instruction through formative assessment, across a range of positions and grades:


Lisa: Um, so what do I mean by assessment? For me, first and foremost, its gotta be what I do in the classroom, to learn my students, to see what they can do and where I need to boost them with my lesson plans and goals. I want to know their language, their practices, their loves.



Dylan: Well, since I work with adolescents, I want to make sure I know them. So when I think about assessment I think about learning my kids, what they do and dont do, through formal and informal assessments. I like to start with formative stuff, like a reading inventory interview, when I can listen to their language too, so I know how to get them energized to actually work on their literacy skills.


When discussing links between assessment and practice, participants also focused on the need to make sure that their instructional practices also prepared students for school-, district-, or state-mandated assessments:


Thomas: So, when I think about assessment, I have to think about the district-wide required tests that come at the end of the units. I have control over how I assess during the unit, but there is a required benchmark assessment at the end of each unit, so I need to make sure I cover that material during my lessons.


Yolanda: My kidsthey dont come from families where people went to college, at least not mostly. And a lot of them are immigrants, so their parents dont really know the state test systems, and some of them are ELLs. So, when Im thinking about instruction, I know I have to provide them test prep, to make sure they have a context, a framework for the required assessments coming up.


These perspectives on the need to prepare students for standardized assessment increased drastically toward the middle of the school year before falling off again toward the end of the year, as can be seen in Table 6. As Yolandas words demonstrate, often when the ECLTs did consider students home lives, it was from a deficit orientation rather than focused on community resourcesan interesting point of friction in relationship to their overall survey responses. In fact, one of the most striking aspects of the analysis was the significant spike in defining assessment as standardized/mandated assessments during the second round of interviews. This correlated with a significant drop in including students strengths as part of defining assessment, as well as a much smaller drop in discussing the connections between assessment and instruction during this round of interviews. The preceding quotations demonstrate how the approaching standardized assessments both narrowed how the ECLTs discussed assessment in their literacy classroom, and how they conceptualized and positioned family and linguistic diversity. As Dylan noted earlier, although he has control, that control is highly mitigated by the required benchmark that serves to demonstrate learning within his district.


During the second round of interviews, all but one participant included standardized assessment measures in their response to how they would define assessmentas opposed to only four who directly referenced it in the first round. In terms of thinking about the school calendar, this shift makes sense; most of the high-stakes standardized assessments take place in March and/or April. This reality was made clear in many of the participants responses during the second round of interviews:


Kallie: So how do I define assessment now? Well, weve started the death march toward

the [state test], so thats basically on my mind all the time.


Dylan: So, Im sure you know that with state tests coming up, all eyes are on AYP.3 Weve even got this countdown thing in the teachers room. So, yeah, I would say when I think about assessment that really jumps to mind.


Christine: Any teacher who teaches in a public urban school and doesnt mention the [state test] this time of year when asked about assessment? Well, either shes lying or in denial [laughs].


Taken together, the spike in the frequency of the code and the nature of the participants interviews makes it clear that there was an increasing focus and concern on standardized assessments toward the middle of the academic year. In particular, the participants shared a cynical or darkly humorous way of talking about these assessments, such as referring to them as a death march or joking about teacher denial. Through this form of discourse, the ECLTs signified both their own discomfort with these assessments and their awareness that their own thoughts and practices were deeply impacted by the approaching tests. What makes this fact more concerning is the correlative drop in how participants discussed using students home languages and dialects during this round of interviews. One participant clearly highlighted this theme when she stated,


Melanie: So, the question is how I define assessment? Its funny, I didnt think of this before, but Ill be honest. Right now that question just makes me feel angry. Like, do I say what I want to say, which is that it is a way to celebrate and build on student learning, and literacy, and language? Yeah, but thats not true right now. Right now assessment is test prep, test prep, test prep. Its giving kids prompts about stuff they never even experienced. This week, I had to take share in your own words off the morning warm-up instructions, because I realized I had to get my kids used to standard English. So right now assessment feels like another thing thats out of my control.


In her response, Melanie highlights a tension around what counts as true right now about how she feels she is able to honestly define assessment. She directly addresses a shared concern that was evident throughout the interviews, and increasingly true toward the end of yearthat whatever their personal beliefs, in reality, assessment is test prep, test prep, test prep. In fact, during the second and third interviews, when the ECLTs were asked specifically about honoring linguistic diversity in the classroom, they almost always (over 90% of the time) framed their responses within their difficulty in taking this stance in the era of high-stakes testing:


Dylan: Standard English, including correct grammar, are essential in order for students to obtain complete credit on the designated writing and literacy rubrics created by teacher coaches and grade level leaders, which are directly related to the state test. It makes me so frustrated. I know my kids, but I cant use that knowledge.


Yolanda: When you ask about linguistic diversity, it makes me feel kinda bad. Because I made a big deal in the beginning of the year that I was an ELL kid when I was little, that I wanted to talk about language and culture and their homes. But nowsince winter break I just cant find the time with the test prep. So I feel like I let them down.


This tension did not go unnoticed by the ECLTs themselves; over time, most participants began to note significant divides between their beliefs and goals around assessment, and their actual practicesboth those in their control and those designated or mandated for them.


DISCUSSION/IMPLICATIONS


The findings from this study made clear that although the ECLTs experiences in their literacy preparation program gave them a strong theoretical framework to develop equitable beliefs around assessment, they needed substantially more to put these beliefs into practice during this time of high-stakes accountability in K12 schools. Despite appearing to maintain strong beliefs about the importance of resource-oriented assessment and instructional practices, ECLTs typically felt unable to put these goals into practiceand at times, their discourse in interviews demonstrated a growing deficit orientation toward their linguistically diverse students. As mentioned earlier, it is also possible that, particularly during survey responses, participants were influenced by a desire to reiterate what they had learned in my class. Either way, simply put, beliefs were not enough to create equitable instructional spaces for students who have historically been marginalized and underserved by schools. The distal pressures of AYP and the related impacts on local assessments and approaches to education hampered these teachers in the implementation of critical, resource-oriented assessment practices. These findings demonstrate the need to reconsider the role that teacher preparation programs might play in breaking down apparent divides between theory/beliefs and practice/pedagogy in order to better connect teacher preparation and induction.


One area of change needed in literacy teacher education programs, as evidenced in the findings, is the critical need for concrete, specific approaches to assessment instruction in how to translate beliefs into action within a policy environment that emphasizes testing as central to the idea of assessment practices. This involves not only developing a repertoire of pedagogical practices that teachers can use, but also focusing explicitly on the relationships between beliefs, practices, history, and context and how these determine classroom assessment enactment. Historically, teacher education programs frequently focus on what they perceive as best practices, with little to no specific work addressing the current realities of K12 classrooms (Darling-Hammond, 2016). Although the university course did try to address current assessments and policies in specific assignments, these activities focused less on helping ECLTs actively think through how to navigate the tensions they described in the interviews than they did on presenting them with research-based equity-driven practices less frequently used in schools.


The current study reflects the importance of addressing explicitly the different tensions, pressures, or passions teachers may face early in their careers. Literacy teacher preparation programs need to find spaces within coursework and school-based learning to support developing teachers in reading, analyzing, and, where possible, remixing standard curricular and assessment practices in order to bring in social justice- and equity-oriented approaches. For example, as described earlier, the assessment course discussed in this study offered candidates a chance to analyze frequently used standardized assessments and provide a critique of the assessment. However, this assignment could be expanded to include a direct discussion of what additional assessments or discussions could be used to promote more equity-oriented practices. Furthermore, similar assignments could include reading and discussing assessment policies and considering the impact they may have on practices, and discussing ways of addressing these within classroom routines and test prep design. In addition, programs could invite current teachers to come in to discuss how they work within and against these systems (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) as a way to both provide concrete examples and promote practitioner knowledge within teacher preparation programs.


A focus only on beliefs or theoretical orientations without providing scaffolding for ECLTs to resist and recognize the power of constrictive policies asks novice teachers to do too much of the work themselves in their early years of teaching. Instead, teacher preparation programs need to provide pathways to action within K12 literacy classrooms. These should include taking a critical stance with a focus toward specific approaches, modeling successful teaching and pedagogy, and taking research-based asset-oriented pedagogical stances. Without such scaffolds, many ECLTs may lose their initial resource-oriented approach, which has a direct impact on the education of historically marginalized linguistically diverse students. In addition, as the findings demonstrate, there is also a need in teacher preparation programs to directly address the need for such discussions and topics in all classroom settings, including those that are majority White, middle-class, and standardized-English-speaking. Rather than focusing solely on the needs of linguistically diverse students, there must be explicit conversations within coursework about the need to address these concerns in various contexts, as well as particular practices or approaches for a variety of classroom and community contexts.


The mentioned findings demonstrate the palpable tensions and concerns that ECLTs face in their work in classrooms. These issues are of critical importance when thinking about the nature of linguistic diversity and its role in assessment practices. Currently, teacher education programs offer very little in terms of linguistic and/or sociolinguistic preparation for their students (Godley et al., 2015). Without a strong functional background in language systems and linguistic diversity, ECLTs are likely to feel even more overwhelmed in how to address these issues in the classroom. Courses on assessment, particularly literacy assessment, need to provide students with this kind of background knowledge so that they can feel more confident in their ability to make informed and effective decisions regarding how to integrate these approaches into their work as educators. Godley and colleagues (2015) have demonstrated the potential of using online modules that specifically address linguistic diversity and critical language awareness for preservice literacy teachers. Embedding modules such as these into teacher preparation programs could promote not only deeper content knowledge of these topics but also increased awareness of these issues within ELA classrooms.  


In addition, this study offers insights for ways that teacher educators, by seeing themselves as practitioners, can design programs embedded within frameworks that honor practitioner knowledge and expertise in clear and precise ways. Recent scholarship in the field of teacher education has documented how work in creating hybrid spaces in teacher education where academic and practitioner knowledge and knowledge that exists in communities come together in new less hierarchical ways in the service of teacher learning represents a paradigm shift in the epistemology of teacher education programs (Zeichner, 2010, p. 89). The present findings demonstrate the specific need for these hybrid spaces surrounding assessment instruction in teacher education. The field can address this shift by reconsidering how practice is defined, seeing it as more deeply linked to K12 contexts and the nature of early-career teachers work. In addition to helping early-career teachers develop an inquiry stance (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), shifts such as these can help practitioners in teacher education honor teacher knowledge and shift discourse around literacy education by focalizing issues of context. Further research is needed into the ways that these paradigm shifts can productively be in tension with inequitable policies, such as the emphasis on high-stakes testing. Specifically, studies are needed that address how policies, both local and federal, impact assessment practices and how these policies are discussed within teacher preparation programs. From the findings of this study, issues of accountability metrics and state standardized testingincluding who designs the tests and how test prep becomes a part of classroom practiceare among the topics that most impact ECLTs.


CONCLUSION


This one-year study into assessment beliefs and practices of early-career teachers demonstrates both the importance and limitations of focusing on teacher beliefs within teacher preparation programs. Although the findings demonstrated the ability to cultivate an awareness and understanding of issues of equity and power around language practices, they also demonstrated the difficulty that ECLTs faced in translating these beliefs into classroom assessment practices. These findings point toward the need for further research into how teacher preparation programsparticularly those focused on literacycan use this framework to more explicitly cultivate assessment practices that honor linguistic diversity within todays schools. By combining a focus on functional linguistics with work reflecting on and designing pedagogical practices, and by reflecting on their own work as practitioner centered and deeply connected to K12 contexts, literacy teacher preparation programs can provide a stronger framework from which ECLTs can develop equitable assessment practices. These changes can help to both prepare students for accountability measures, and honor and support their community-based linguistic practices. Furthermore, these approaches can also shift teacher preparation practices in ways that actively acknowledge and work to disrupt inequalities currently impacting many of our students in todays K12 classrooms. The goal is that, by better preparing new teachers to actively engage in the tensions that persist between high-stakes accountability and honoring individual students strengths and resources, we as teacher educators can help more equitable, asset-oriented approaches to assessment thrive in early-career teachers classrooms.


Notes


1. All names of people and places used in this article are pseudonyms.

2. I use the term marginalized or historically marginalized in this work, drawing on Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995). This phrase emphasizes the need to recognize the political and systemic ways that certain communities, racial identities, and linguistic identities are othered in ways that curtail educational opportunities and equity in school contexts.

3. AYP stands for adequate yearly progress, a common measurement of success under No Child Left Behind policies


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Appendix A

Initial Survey Instrument


I believe effective literacy assessments &

 

Strongly Disagree (1)

Disagree (2)

Neither Agree nor Disagree (3)

Agree (4)

Strongly Agree (5)

Are developed in connection with the curriculum (1)

o

o

o

o

o

Are developed with specific students in mind (2)

o

o

o

o

o

Focused on specific skills or content knowledge (3)

o

o

o

o

o

Are an important part of instruction (4)

o

o

o

o

o

Take into account language diversity and linguistic dialects (5)

o

o

o

o

o

Are a meaningful part of inquiry-based teaching (6)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students assets (7)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students challenges/areas for improvement (8)

o

o

o

o

o

Are primarily designed/structured with state-required testing in mind (9)

o

o

o

o

o















This course emphasized assessments&

 

Strongly Disagree (1)

Disagree (2)

Neither Agree nor Disagree (3)

Agree (4)

Strongly Agree (5)

Should be developed in connection with the curriculum (1)

o

o

o

o

o

Should be developed with specific students in mind (2)

o

o

o

o

o

Should be focused on specific skills or content knowledge (3)

o

o

o

o

o

Are an important part of instruction (4)

o

o

o

o

o

Should take into account language diversity and linguistic dialects (5)

o

o

o

o

o

Are a meaningful part of inquiry-based teaching (6)

o

o

o

o

o

Should focus on highlighting students assets (7)

o

o

o

o

o

Should focus on highlighting students challenges/areas for improvement (8)

o

o

o

o

o

Should be focused on state- required tests (9)

o

o

o

o

o

Should allow students to use their linguistic resources and diversity as an asset (10)

o

o

o

o

o



Appendix B

Additional Questions for Final Survey (in addition to initial survey instrument)


In my classroom context, the majority of literacy assessments are...

 

Strongly Disagree (1)

Disagree (2)

Neither Agree nor Disagree (3)

Agree (4)

Strongly Agree (5)

Developed in connection with the curriculum (1)

o

o

o

o

o

Developed with specific students in mind (2)

o

o

o

o

o

Focused on specific skills or content knowledge (3)

o

o

o

o

o

Are an important part of instruction (4)

o

o

o

o

o

Take into account language diversity and linguistic dialects (5)

o

o

o

o

o

Are a meaningful part of inquiry-based teaching (6)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students assets (7)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students challenges/areas for improvement (8)

o

o

o

o

o

Are primarily designed/structured with state-required testing in mind (9)

o

o

o

o

o

Utilize linguistic diversity as an asset (10)

o

o

o

o

o





Please describe how your assessment practices take linguistic diversity into account

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________




Please describe why you do not feel that your assessment practices take linguistic diversity into account

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________


In my school context, across classes and colleagues, the majority of literacy assessments are...

 

Strongly Disagree (1)

Disagree (2)

Neither Agree nor Disagree (3)

Agree (4)

Strongly Agree (5)

Developed in connection with the curriculum (1)

o

o

o

o

o

Developed with specific students in mind (2)

o

o

o

o

o

Focused on specific skills or content knowledge (3)

o

o

o

o

o

Are an important part of instruction (4)

o

o

o

o

o

Take into account language diversity and linguistic dialects (5)

o

o

o

o

o

Are a meaningful part of inquiry-based teaching (6)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students assets (7)

o

o

o

o

o

Focus on highlighting students challenges/areas for improvement (8)

o

o

o

o

o

Are primarily created/structured with state-required testing in mind (9)

o

o

o

o

o

View linguistic diversity as an asset (10)

o

o

o

o

o




When thinking about literacy assessments in my classroom, please pull the slider over to the percentage of your total assessment practices that are made up of the following:

 _______ Standardized/state-required assessments (1)

 _______ Teacher-created tests and quizzes (2)

 _______ Teacher-created formative assessments (3)

 _______ Schoolwide assessments (4)

 _______ Assessments that are part of a purchased curriculum (5)

 _______ Teacher-created summative assessments (6)

 _______ Predesigned assessments that you opt to use in your class (7)



Appendix C

Sample Coded Transcript

Data Codes as Follows:

Assessment Beliefs = AB (Student Strengths = ABss; Links to Instruction = ABli; Need for Multiple Data Points = ABmdp); Assessment Practices = AP (Lack of Teacher Control = APltc; Teacher Controlled = APtc; Link to Instruction = APli); Issues of Equity = IE; Standardized Assessments = SA; Language Diversity = LD; School Context = SC; Literacy Instruction = LI; Teacher Self = TS


R: So tell me about specific assessments in your classroom, how those are created. So it sounds like, to some extent youre planning on your own, and to some extent its collaborative and youre trying to design kind of, across disciplines. But what kinds of assessments do you use? Are there any standardized ones in the classroom? How is it working?

K: Um, so the whole school, so all of the kids have the um, this suggested SRI that youre familiar with? Scholastic Reading Inventory? [SC; SA]

R: Yep

K: So they all had it in August, and theyre going to have it again, like, January. And thats a whole school thing. My boss wants to have some data. [SA]

R: Did he pick that assessment?

K: Uh, he did. And so, thats like, thats something that happens, that something like, to be honest, I didnt even look at the data for. [APtc] Maybe Im terrible. But I didnt bother to look at the data because like, I have a much better picture of each kid. I know what they are capable of. I didnt want to like, pigeonhole them because of one test? [ABss; ABmdp]

R: Ok.

K: I definitely take, like, some, definitely mentally think and then will write down notes for kids that I focus on. [APtc] And I gained that from the classes at grad school. The Descriptive Review stuff. I have not systematized those notes that I take, which is something that I want to do next year, into anything like, that would make sense in terms of like, sharing it I think. Like it informs my instruction for what a kid might need in my room, [APli] but its not the assessment piece that I share with like, John my boss.

R: Gotcha.

K: That assessment, the piece that I share, is much more so, um, to be honest like a lot of exit ticketsI hate that word, but yeah, exit tickets. They are a big thing at my school. [SC] When a new skill is taught, we need to be able to pull the data that that skill has been learned or not, based on, you know, multiple choice or short answer at the end of class [APli]. I recognize that my peers give a lot of exit tickets. I did get pressure from my boss [APltc] to like, use them regularly because we do upload that online, through the Kickboard platform, which allows you to, well we have to assign a standard thats been uploaded to whatever assessment item. Say that exit ticket, and the point value, so that you can theoretically look at if the skill, or to what degree the skill has been mastered, percentage-wise.

R: Based on the state standards?

K: Yes. We have the option of the state standards or the common core standards we can select. Which was an intentional choice, like, you have lots of options in terms of tying it to a standard. And like, you have to do it, thats how the system is set up. I usually pick the state standards, because they are the state test as well. [SA] Its not a major pressure that has been imposed on me as much as I assumed. I got into my head a lot at the start. I was uploading five fewer exit tickets and it freaked me out, than my peers. And to be honest, I pushed back a lot with my boss, at the beginning of the year, especially with parts of speech stuff. [LI] To be honest, I dont think its having low expectations to think that all of our kids at the start of the year arent going to have the little green dot of mastery, which is like, 80% or above on this measure [ABss]. Like, recognizing and identifying the correct adjective in contextwhy? Because there are infinite contexts. And, many are English language learners. [LD] Not only would it be false to say they have mastered adjectives, or using prepositions correctly all the time, ever, because thats an ongoing skill and they are learning it through this year and beyond, but also, like, I was kind of honest like, saying, I dontit doesnt seem realistic to me to expect that Im going to have all these green, like 80% or above, unless I have to make it easier than it is. Something about it just felt off. So, that was the one area of sensitivity and pushback that Ive had to talk about with my boss, because it is an expectation. [APltc] He definitely does believe that kind of data gives a picture of what kids know or dont know. [SC] Um, I think that hed like it a lot more if I would upload more assessment items that showed that data. And to be honest, its much . . . I dont know. Its like apples and oranges. Its much easier in the content classes to show a student has quote-unquote mastered a skill. Like, they can show on a quiz or a test that they know the fact about the Hong Dynasty. So theyve mastered it. But like, for my standards with the writing class, some of theselike, I have one here: [reading aloud] use context clues and prior knowledge to determine the meaning of multi-meaning word. Identify correctly and incorrectly spelled words in context. [laughs] Like, I have to laugh because, like, there are endless possibilities. Its just not, it just doesnt make sense to me. Like, yeah, all of the content classes are pursuing mastery, but this is writing instruction. [LI]

R: So you said that you feel like John really relies on data and youve done some pushing back. Do you feel like, no data gives you an accurate representation of your student, or you disagree with the kinds of data being valued?

K: Mmmm. The latter. I think the latter. Now that I really think about it. Because. I think data is important. It is important I think to hold yourself accountable to like, teaching a particular literacy skill and having something come of it, if the kids are completely lost, or mostly grasp it, or really grasp the concept. To help you know what to teach [APli] But those are modifying words, unlike master. Because like, the idea of, like, mastery being the goal, over 80% correctness, at our school. I mean, I still believe that thats like really tied into the charter world, our being a charter school, to needing to have results. [SC] And I think my boss knows that. He values that to be, like, the most relevant. Or perhaps best. Like I said, I have shied away from wanting to share notes about kids or moments where they write something amazing. [APtc] I havent been able to really think through how I would begin to bridge with this other assessment thats so valued here. [SC] The idea of a whole picture of a child. What they are capable of, all they know, even when struggling. [ABss] How a specific kid, and what I know about them, informs instruction and changes I make. [APli] Even within giving most of the kids the same thing. I would like to systematize that, like the other systematized data that we are required to have, because maybe that would make it look more valid. But, I mean, Ive been so tired. Its my first year. Im still figuring out who I am in the classroom. [TS]




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 7, 2019, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22699, Date Accessed: 3/12/2022 7:54:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Katrina Jacobs
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    KATRINA BARTOW JACOBS is an assistant professor of practice in Language, Literacy, and Culture within the Department of Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a former elementary school teacher, and her work centers on approaching literacy education and teacher education from a critical, equity, practice-based framework. Her current research focuses on the intersections of practice, theory, and policy; the ways that children are invited (or not) to demonstrate critical knowledge of texts; and the ways that teachers develop, make sense of, and enact reading and writing assessments of their students. Recent publications include “The (Untold) Drama of the Turning Page: The Role of Page Breaks in Understanding Picture Books” in Children’s Literature in Education, and “‘So why is it ok here?’: Literacy Candidates Grappling With Culture/Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in Urban Fieldsites” in Urban Education.
 
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