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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.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 7, 2019, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22699, Date Accessed: 7/29/2021 5:08:14 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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