Teacher turnover has a significant effect on the overall success of schools. Unfortunately, comprehensive turnaround strategies, such as the conservatorship process, has created a problem for high school under study by affecting teachers’ retention rate. This case study is purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates in a small Southeastern high school. The conceptual framework of this study was Bandura’s self-efficacy theory. The research question addressed teachers’ perspectives of morale in a small southeastern high school that has undergone the conservatorship process. Qualitative case study methods were used throughout the research process. A purposeful sample of 8 teachers employed at the high school under study before conservatorship process and were retained by the district throughout the conservatorship process was interviewed. Each interview was coded, and 6 themes emerged related to influencing teachers’ perspectives of morale were powerless, excessive visitations, no confidence, pragmatic instructional practices, stressed and burned out, and ineffective professional development opportunities. Founded on research findings a professional development project was created, to train the school community how to include teachers’ voices, experiences, and expertise to school reform efforts. With an understanding of teachers’ perception of morale, administrative staff members have the ability to increase teachers’ morale and promote a positive social change in the high school by fostering an environment where stakeholders work collaboratively to increase teacher retention rates. The increased teacher retention rates will contribute to the success of the high school and the academic achievement of students.
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List of Tables
During the 2014-2015 school year, a local school district used Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 (Pub. L. No. 114-95 § 114 Stat. 1177) (2015-2016) turnaround strategies such as the conservatorship process as part of a comprehensive school reform effort (Peck & Reitzug, 2014). Under ESSA the school district under study was permitted to apply comprehensive accountability systems to a chronically failing high school with the intent of improving student academic achievement and school performance during the 2014-2015 school year (Insight, 2010). Peck and Retizug stated one of the comprehensive accountability systems was the provision of blanket turnaround strategies such as the turnaround model that required school districts to replace school administrators as well as a minimum of half of school staff members and to implement a new curriculum program. The turnaround model, as reported by Trujillo and Renee (2015), comes from the private sector and is based on unjustified claims, and failed to acknowledge research evidence that asserted mass terminations do not improve organizational performance.
The practice of using comprehensive turnaround strategies, such as the conservatorship process, has created a problem for a small Southeastern high school by adversely affecting the retention rate of teachers within the high school under study. This case study is purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates. Between school years 2012 to 2016, the Office of Public Reporting from the Mississippi Department of Education reported teacher turnover data (Table 1). The displayed data showed declining teacher retention rates each year following the conservatorship process.
A possible contributor to teacher retention rates of the high school under study is teachers’ morale. During the 2014-2015 school year, over half of the teachers employed at the high school took part in a sickout, which the school district considered as false illnesses and subsequently labeled the false illness as the green flu (Clark, 2015). Clark reported that surveyed teachers revealed low teacher morale within the high school under study. An administrator from the high school under study acknowledged that teacher morale is lower within the school due to accountability measures associated with the conservatorship process (Hall, Telephone Interview, 2017).
During the conservatorship process, the district terminated teachers and administrators of a local high school, akin to the turnaround strategies used nationwide (Mississippi Department of Education, 2015). Although the federally mandated accountability measures contained in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 expired in 2014, similar accountability processes exist through the individual states’ departments of education as detailed in ESSA (Ferguson, 2016). Educator Advocates (2015) reported various similarities between NCLB and ESSA accountability measures when comparing the two acts. The necessary accountability measures have resulted in a decrease in teachers’ morale (Vernaza, 2012).
Justification for Research of the Local Problem
In this era of accountability, attempts to improve education using intervention strategies and educational reform initiatives have been the goal of school administrators at the national level as well as at local school levels (Reyes & Garcia, 2014). Broad educational reform initiatives such as turnaround intervention strategies were used at the high school under study to improve academic performance (Corbett, 2014). Under ESSA, Pub. L. No. 114-95 § 114 Stat. 1177 (2015-2016) a school district was permitted to apply comprehensive accountability reforms to the chronically failing high school under study with the intent of improving student academic achievement during the 2014-2015 academic year (Insight, 2010). Although ESSA does not specify school improvement strategies and leaves such strategies to the discretion of local education agencies, school districts must identify and create a corrective action plan for improving low-performing schools through similar accountability measures (Advocates, 2015). Grissom, Nicholson-Crotty, and Harrington (2014) reported that accountability measures, allowed by current educational reform initiatives and intervention strategies, have withered teachers’ morale, which led to higher than normal teacher turnover rates. Grissom et al. claimed teachers felt accountability measures allowed school district officials to unfairly pass judgment without the consideration of circumstances beyond educators’ realm of influence.
The state department of education determined the success or failure of the high school under study through students’ standardized assessment results (Mississippi Department of Education, 2015). The use of standardized assessment is the leading method to assess school and educators and was determined by Morgan (2016) as ineffective as well as damaging towards the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Morgan declared teachers encountered daily pressure to improve standardized assessment scores of disadvantaged students who commonly underachieve on statewide and district-wide standardized assessments. Mausethagen (2013) asserted increased standardized testing and analysis of performance measures have altered teacher-student relationships and decreased teachers’ abilities to develop caring relationships with students. Alt (2015) associated teachers’ sense of morale with students’ outcomes and educational results, results which affect teachers’ levels of passion and commitment. Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2016) research studies clarified teachers’ morale predicts job performance and influences the teachers’ goals, principles, and conduct. The practice of using the comprehensive turnaround strategy known as the conservatorship process has created a problem for high school under study by affecting teachers’ retention rate. This case study is purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates. Grissom et al. (2014) reported that accountability measures which are allowed by current educational reform initiatives and intervention strategies had withered teachers’ sense of morale.
The State Department of Education posted the school’s report card, during the school years between 2012-2016, the high school under study did not meet growth status, possessed low proficiency in reading and mathematics, and possessed low graduation rates, as determined by results on standardized assessments (Mississippi Department of Education, 2016). The State Department of Education reported the graduation rate of the school under study, as listed in Table 2, ranged between 59.7 percent and 73.8 percent, between 2012-2016 (Education M. D., 2012). The school district considered graduation rates and academic achievement data a reflection of students’ classroom performance in addition to students’ standardized assessment scores (Mississippi Department of Education, 2013).
The state department of education advised the district to turn the local high school over to conservatorship reflecting the need to address the high school under study’s low academic performance (Mississippi Department of Education, 2015). Similar districts’ use of turnaround strategies such as conservatorship has caused the problem of lowering the morale of teachers within various school districts. Mader (2014), mentioned that teachers within the high school under study perceived conservatorship as a method which encouraged nepotism and favoritism as well as a system used to harass and intimidate teachers.
This study purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to teacher retention rates in a small Southeastern high school that has undergone the conservatorship process. This research may assist in developing an understanding of how accountability measures associated with turnaround strategies such as the conservatorship process affect teachers in similar schools. This case study may assist in developing an understanding of teachers’ morale as a possible contributing factor in teacher retention.
The Educational Community View of the Local Problem
Research conducted by Vernaza (2012) documented teachers’ perceptions related to pressures to improve student achievement on state and district mandated assessments. Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2016) revealed teachers’ perceptions of stressors might be a factor in altering teachers’ perceptions of morale, in immediate as well as ancillary environments. The local education agency used the assessment results of the high school under study in determining whether the district would subject the school to comprehensive turnaround strategies. The practice of using the comprehensive turnaround strategy known as the conservatorship process has created a problem for high school under study by affecting teachers’ retention rate. This case study is purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates.
Chronically low-performing schools. Chronically low-performing schools are schools whose students failed to make adequate yearly progress for five or more years (Partnerships, 2015). School districts that list schools in the lower 10 percent of overall schools within a state based on academic performance are also known as low-performing schools.
Relevant research studies. Relevant research studies are studies that provide pertinent information to the researcher related to the high school under study, educational reform policies, self-esteem, and academic achievement. Relevant research studies include scholarly articles, articles related to conservatorship, and articles involving turnaround strategies (Kim, 2015).
State interventions. States or their designees whose actions directly impact chronically low-performing schools that require school districts to take over chronically low-performing schools with the intent to improve designated chronically low-performing schools (Partnerships, 2015).
Turnaround model: A turnaround model is where local school districts must replace school administration and grant newly appointed school administration the operational flexibility to enact wide-ranging approaches with the intent of improving student academic achievement and increasing graduation rates (Department, 2010).
Conservatorship: When the governor declares a school district as being in a state of emergency, the State Board of Education may appoint an intervening conservator to the local school district (Mississippi Department of Education, 2012).
Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is defined as one’s conceptualization about their capabilities to perform at designated levels of performance (Bandura, Human Agency in Social Cognitive Theory, 1989). These designated levels of performance influence other events that affect individuals’ lives. Self-efficacy beliefs regulate how people perceive events, reason about events, and motivate themselves when events become challenging.
Transformational Leadership Style: Transformational leadership is a leadership approach that inspires change within individuals and social systems (Odumeru, 2013). The transformational leadership style creates positive change with the intent of developing future leaders.
Every Student Succeeds Act: ESSA is a reauthorization of the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (Education U. D., Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 2015). ESSA is a recommitment to equal opportunity for students. ESSA seeks to ensure academic achievement by requiring school districts to expose students to quality academic standards that prepare students for academic success, college, and careers.
No Child Left Behind: NCLD was an educational reform act created to improve student academic achievement (Education U. D., NCLB/Overview Standards, Assessments, and Accountability, 2016). NCLB is the re-administration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which affected education from primary school through high school.
Job Satisfaction: The feeling of contentment and achievement that one experiences in their job when they know their work is worthwhile is known as job satisfaction as defined by Grissom et al. (2014).
Standardized Assessment: A standardized test is any test that involves students answering similar questions, from common repositories of questions, the same way (Partnerships, 2015). Standardized assessments are scored in a “standard” manner, making results of assessments and relative achievement performances of individual students or groups comparable to a baseline achievement level or other students or groups taking similar assessments.
Study of the problem may support positive social change within the local high school under study, by fostering an environment where stakeholders work collaboratively to increase teacher retention rates. Through interviewing teachers who have experienced the conservatorship process, identifying concerns related to teachers’ sense of morale may assist the high school under study in providing support and guidance to teachers in low-performing schools. Providing such support and direction to teachers in low-performing schools may better enable schools to increase teacher retention rate, provide high-quality educational experiences for their children and promote positive social change. Increased teacher retention rates will contribute to the success of the high school and the academic achievement of students.
Through pattern identification and systematic analysis, this case study may assist in the sharing of information, guidance, and support for the high school under study. This research case study may provide valuable information to the high school under study as a practical alternative strategy that may improve teacher retention rates and thus increase students’ academic achievement. The high school under study may use results of this case study to inform administrative staff members on how improved teachers’ morale affects teacher retention rates, school culture, and school climate. The opportunity to provide teachers within the high school under study with ongoing guidance and continued support through professional development and through professional improvement plans which target specific teacher improvement efforts may result from this case study. Through the provision of ongoing professional development courses and professional improvement plans, the high school under study may promote improved teachers’ morale, improved teacher retention rates, and support students within the general education population as well as within ancillary education populations. Implementing school reform that is supportive, as opposed to punitive, addresses the gap in practice that exists between the adoption of the transformational change in education and its implementation, which McCrickerd (2012) attributed to teachers’ and staff members’ lack of knowledge or willingness to make the change. The research case study may also add to the limited existing literature that may be used by researchers as a reference on how teachers’ sense of morale is affected during the turnaround process. Additionally, this research may educate the district appointed conservator of the high school under study in deciding on whether the turnaround process is fulfilling its objective of increasing academic achievement of low-performing schools.
Research Question Relationship to Local Problem and Research Purpose
The research question used to guide the interview process also served as the foundation for this case study. Sub-questions were used to categorize teachers’ perceptions of the different aspects of the conservatorship process. The high school under study underwent the conservatorship process during the 2014-2015 school year (Mississippi Department of Education, 2015). The intent of the conservatorship process is the improvement of students’ academic achievement. Due to lowered teacher retention rate, there is a need to evaluate the teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates within the high school under study. The research question focused on teachers’ morale within the high school under study. Reasons associated with working in a low-performing school environment, lack of support from administration, assessment load, and a full workload performed by school staff members may have altered teachers’ perceptions of morale. (Janke, Nitsche, & DickHauser, 2015). Beeri (2012) claimed there are many facets to turnaround strategies and different school districts employed turnaround strategies differently, which may have caused teachers’ different perceptions towards turnaround strategies. Johnson (2013) asserted teachers’ professional understanding of different facets of the conservatorship process might have affected their perceptions of turnaround strategies differently. Johnson stated teachers’ different perceptions might have added complexity outside of common reasons associated with turnaround strategies such as low morale of school staff members.
Research Question: What are teachers’ perspectives of morale in a small southeastern high school that has undergone the conservatorship process?
The three sub-questions stemming from the research question attending to the various facets were:
- What are teachers’ perspectives of the conservatorship process?
- What are teachers’ experiences with the conservatorship process?
- What are teachers’ perspectives of the conservatorship’s process effect on their levels of morale?
The self-efficacy theory as explained by Bandura (1989) provided the conceptual background for this case study. Bandura founded the self-efficacy theory on the hypothesis that psychological events were catalysts for the creation and the strengthening of expectations of efficacy. According to Bandura, individuals based their expectations of self-efficacy on information received from four sources of information: performance events, second-hand experiences, verbal influence and psychological events. Individuals processed and analyzed information from long-term observations of performance events, second-hand experiences, verbal influences and psychological events, as opposed to momentary effects. An individual’s morale directly influenced behavior choices, how much effort an individual exerted and how long an individual persisted in a challenging task. Individuals processed response consequences, whether articulated or unarticulated, as consequences that provided beneficial outcomes or consequences that provided punishing outcomes. Perceived response consequences affected individuals’ behavioral patterns through the influence of thought, beneficial outcomes act as reinforcements in individuals’ influence of thought and punishing outcomes served as deterrents in individuals’ influence of thought. Once established, an individual’s perceived sense of morale was shared or generalized to similar situations and similar activities.
Conceptual Framework Resulting from Literature Review
With a heightened sense of self-efficacy of abilities, an individual will possess a firm sense of commitment to achieving conceived goals as well as personal goals (Bandura, Human Agency in Social Cognitive Theory, 1989). Bandura explained the stronger a person’s sense of self-efficacy of their abilities, the more likely a person would strive for conceived goals and personal goals beyond their capabilities. Likewise, when a person has a lowered sense of self-efficacy of his capabilities, a firm sense of commitment to completing a goal was less likely to occur. As explained by Bandura, a person’s perception of self-efficacy influenced and created anticipatory scenarios, which provided valuable guides for performances or failure scenarios that compromised an individual’s performance. According to Bandura when encountering complex events or circumstances, a person who possessed a lowered sense of self-efficacy of their capabilities lessened their efforts, abruptly aborted their attempts or settled for unexceptional solutions to complex events or circumstances. A person with a heightened perception of self-efficacy of their capabilities, as suggested by Bandura, expended a more significant amount of effort to overcome and master the complex events or circumstances.
Caprara, Barbaranelli, Steca, & Malone, (2006) stated teachers with a heightened perception of self-efficacy might have a heightened level of influence in students’ academic achievement. According to Caprara et al. teachers possessing positive perceptions of self-efficacy had tendencies to employ innovative educational practices throughout the school environment as opposed to teachers possessing negative perceptions of self-efficacy. Caprara et al. claimed teachers who possessed a cynical sense of self-efficacy often used poor classroom management practices which did not encourage critical thinking skills and did not encourage students to develop autonomous educational and social behaviors.
Rashidi and Moghadam (2014) indicated teachers’ levels of self-efficacy monitored, manipulated and interpreted new information and new experiences. Teachers, stated Rashidi and Moghadam, within educational environments vary, and as there are multitudes of teachers, there are also multitudes of perceptions of self-efficacy. Rashidi and Moghadam reported that teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy about their instructional practices, classroom management, and teacher-student relationships affected teachers’ input of effort, and as a result of lowered or heightened levels of teacher input. Rashidi and Moghadam also stated academic outcome results were affected. Multiple studies within a study conducted by Rashidi and Moghadam correlated the perceived levels of morale to academic performance, motivation, and academic learning. Rashidi and Moghadam also associated students’ academic performance to the influence of students’ satisfaction with teachers’ instructional practices. Rashidi and Moghadam also suggested when teachers’ instructional practices were affected by turnaround strategies, so were their levels of morale which subsequently affected students’ levels of academic achievement.
Conceptual Framework, Research Questions, Approach, Instrument, and Analysis
Cherian and Jacob (2013) conducted a quantitative study to understand how individuals’ sense of self-efficacy levels affected levels of motivation, engagement, and performance. The results of Cherian’s and Jacob’s study revealed an individual’s sense of self-efficacy mediated the relationship between employer ratings and employee motivation, performance, and levels of engagement. Cherian’s and Jacob’s study provided evidence that confirmed the existence of a significant relationship between an individual’s sense of self-efficacy and an individual’s engagement. Cherian’s and Jacob’s study listed motivation, engagement, and performance, as precursors to levels of employees’ levels of morale and associated precursors with employees’ levels of self-efficacy. Cherian and Jacob further listed job performance levels, levels of motivation, and organizational engagement levels as self-efficacy motivational factors for employees.
Overview of Topics Covered and Search Terms
The search for relevant literature for this case study has been an ongoing process since June 2012. Initial searches that began in June 2012 centered on educational reform and turnaround strategies. Resources uncovered during that time were updated to include new references that reflected the changing educational landscape. As time progressed, search terms expanded to include morale, self-efficacy, state interventions, chronically low-performing schools, turnaround models, conservatorship, transformations leadership style, NCLB, job satisfaction, and standardized assessments. Google Scholar, Proquest, Elsevier, ERIC were used to locate and identify articles that were relevant to this case study. Presented resources derived from a search through relevant scholarly literature based on search term categories in isolation as well as in combinations such as but not limited to: teacher satisfaction, teacher morale, teacher self-efficacy, teacher accountability, market-based accountability measures as well teacher professional development. The use of keywords such as self-efficacy, turnaround strategies, school improvement grants, school improvement, struggling schools, teacher motivation, educational policies as well as ESSA was influential in locating relevant scholarly articles. The literature review purposed to obtain relevant literature that added a depth of understanding about teachers’ morale due to turnaround strategies. Searching limitations included a set search parameters only included peer-reviewed articles between the years of 2012 to 2017. In the process to eliminate articles, this case study does not include articles that were biased or subjectively written. Over the course of time, more than 200 articles were reviewed and analyzed. Of the 200 reviewed articles, a selection of more than 75 articles was relevant for this case study. The articles chosen included reviews, book chapters, and dissertations.
Review of Broad Educational Problem Association to Local Problem
Amy (2015) reported during the 2014-2015 school year, over half of the teachers employed at the high school demonstrated their disdain of the school district’s attempt at school reform. According to Clark’s (2015) statement, many teachers took part in a sickout, which the school district considered as false illnesses and subsequently labeled the false illness as the green flu. Clark reported that surveyed teachers revealed low teacher morale within the high school under study. The Office of Public Reporting from the Mississippi Department of Education (2012-2016) reported higher than average teacher turnover data by displaying declining teacher retention each year following the conservatorship process. Lee and Nie (2014) suggested that constant turnover rates increased the likelihood that local school systems will suffer damages both academically as well as professionally. The Office of Public Reporting was not reporting or did not make available teacher turnover data for academic years before the conservatorship process. The Office of Public Reporting also does not keep a record of district-mandated teacher satisfaction surveys. The problem explored in this case study may encourage positive social change within the local high school under study. Through interviewing teachers who have experienced the conservatorship process, identified concerns related to teachers’ sense of morale may assist the high school under study in providing support and guidance to teachers in low-performing schools. Providing such support and direction to teachers in low-performing schools may better enable schools to provide high-quality educational experiences for the student population and promote positive social change.
Bandura (1989) suggested four wide-ranging sources of efficacy which serve in building information within a person’s perception of self-efficacy. Verbal persuasion was one source where teachers received information that assisted in regulating self-efficacy. Verbal persuasion helped define a person’s perception of their capabilities; inasmuch, Bandura suggested that others may have positively or negatively influenced teachers’ behaviors depending on the received feedback from others. Vicarious experiences were another source where teachers received information that affected or changed perceptions of self-efficacy, as teachers observed groups and others who had performed similar tasks. Bandura also listed physiological stimulation such as fatigue and anxiety as informational sources that might alter teachers’ perception of self-efficacy. Mastery experiences or tasked performances, when interpreted by teachers, affected teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, as well. When teachers perceived their tasked performances as successful or as achieving successful outcomes, increased perceptions of self-efficacy were evident. However, when teachers perceived their tasked performances as unsuccessful or as receiving less than favorable outcomes, decreased perceptions of self-efficacy were evident. From Bandura’s listed four sources, that might affect self-efficacy, information gathered from mastery experiences provided a significant bearing on affecting self-efficacy.
A wide range of educational research literature exists that relates academic performances and self-efficacy beliefs. Research literature from Holzberger, Philipp, and Kunter (2013) suggested that teachers with a heightened perception of self-efficacy were believed to perform complex tasks through completion, were believed to have more input on learning activities, and were thought to have a more profound persistence than teachers with a lowered perception of self-efficacy. Thus, teacher’s perceptions of self-efficacy were tentatively believed to affect teachers’ levels of performance. The research of Holzberger et al. research also has shown positive associations between a teacher’s perception of self-efficacy and students’ academic achievement. Bandura’s (1989) research suggested teachers’ sense of self-efficacy was based or judged on their abilities in achieving acceptable outcomes of student academic achievement, regardless of students’ level of motivation and prior achievement status. Relevant research literature from Holzberger’s et al. also confirmed teacher’s perception of self-efficacy had a substantial effect on students’ academic achievement as well as teaching staff’s levels of instructional performance in educational settings.
Bandura’s (1989) literature suggested external stimulants such as an authoritative figure provided essential information to a teacher or cohort about their levels of performance. Bandura stated when essential information was counterintuitive to preexisting beliefs or disbeliefs in abilities, preexisting perceptions of self-efficacy were affected. Bandura’s literature also stated although external stimulants provided persuasive information to teachers, changes in self-efficacy were prevalent in less experienced teachers than in teachers with experience. Evidence within Bandura’s literature provided information that external stimulants affected preservice teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy more than in teachers’ latter years of teaching. Experienced teachers with a heightened perception of self-efficacy tended to be resistant to change in efficacy when presented with information that was counterintuitive to their current belief in their capabilities. Bandura reported teachers with heightened, or lowered perceptions of self-efficacy were reflective of expressed information from multiple sources through social observation as well as through direct personal or professional experience.
Students who were either not graduating from high school or students who were graduating from high school lacking skills and knowledge required for success in college or careers created a stark reality for the educational community which in turn created the need for comprehensive education reform (Hamilton, Stecher, & Yuan, 2012). Hamilton et al. stated low graduation rates and graduates lacking necessary post-secondary academic skill, motivated the need to create the standards-based accountability policy that developed, measured and incentivized student academic performance. Hamilton et al. claimed the standards-based accountability plan sought to connect consequences and student academic performance to students’ standardized assessment scores.
According to Hamilton et al. (2012) various state departments used educational accountability synonymously as education reform within their educational policies; however, education accountability had a different meaning to those who used the term in educational settings. Hamilton et al. reported although those in educational settings, who used the term education accountability used the term differently, three universal principles existed in the various education accountability meanings. Hamilton et al. acknowledged those who used the term educational accountability shared a similar term with those who used the term academic expectations. Hamilton et al. suggested both terms emphasized academic achievement and academic mastery for students at different stages in education. Hamilton et al. stated the adoption of academic standards and performance standards were subprinciples of setting academic expectations for students, which school districts reported as determining factors of the varying levels of academic achievement within different content standards. Hamilton et al. noted another mutual principle among those who use the term education accountability was the alignment of district administrators’ mandated essential elements of the school system. According to Hamilton et al. district administrators dictated standardized assessments, and state standards, and ensured the alignment of these items, as the district presented one source (district standardized assessment) to students that were comparable in representation to the other source (state assessed standard). Hamilton et al. reported some educators had reported the adverse effects of narrowing their instruction to mirror assessed contents.
According to Levin’s and Datnow’s (2012) research, one of the tenets of education reform is to measure academic outcomes and processes while managing educational resources in the pursuit of improving academic achievement for all students. In this pursuit of improved academic achievement students and teachers were aware of the importance of grades and other assessments. As explained in Levin’s and Datnow’s research, the expectation that data from standardized assessments will be of use to educators and school administrators in the service of improving academic achievement as well as teacher instructional planning. Levin and Datnow stated assessments served a dual role in education reform; one role was to provide educators and students with educational feedback on how well students were performing on specific content standards through an analytical review of standardized assessment conversation. Another role of standardized assessment in school reform, according to Levin and Datnow was to communicate to school administration the effectiveness of teachers’ instructional practices through an annual yearly progress report of students related to specific teachers. School administration viewed data received from assessments as an indicator of how well students demonstrate academic achievement in content leveled skills; improved assessment scores were associated with effective teacher instructional practices while assessment scores that showed no academic growth or regression of growth were indications of ineffective teacher instructional practices.
Levin & Datnow (2012) stated the use of data-driven decisions had become a central feature of educational reform agenda. Levin and Datnow stated although identifying knowledge gaps, attitudes, and educational skills that are necessary for success in the 21st century, non-assessable factors such as critical thinking, integrity, and the ability to utilize technology, which educators teach in schools often go undetected, unreported, and unacknowledged. Therefore, Levin and Datnow suggested acknowledging standardized assessments are only one scale from many by which school districts can determine the development of students.
President Barak Obama added the Race to the Top Competition (RttT) as a component of NCLB of 2002 (Tanner, 2013). NCLB, as reported by Hamilton et al. (2012) required states to either adopt or create content standards that align student academic achievement tests in content subject areas and provide escalating sanction plans to address chronically low-performing schools. The research of Hamilton et al. stressed the NCLB law had influenced educational decisions as well as educational policies at the state, the district as well as at local levels. Educator Advocates (2015) reported the successor of NCLB is ESSA, which former President Barak Obama signed into law in 2015 mimics its predecessor in requirements and influence. Educator Advocates also reported the educational community anticipation for ESSA accountability reforms to differ from NCLB met the realization that ESSA maintained a similar focus on standards and standardized assessments akin to NCLB’s focus on standards and standardized assessments.
Hamilton et al. (2012) stated the standard approach to NCLB and ESSA was education accountability through the promotion of school governance that relied on student academic achievement outcomes, using standardized assessments. Educator Advocates (2015) reported with both the NCLB and ESSA promotion of educational accountability and emphasis on student academic achievement, states along with districts in response adopted a multitude of curricular and structural reforms and graduation requirements. According to Hamilton et al., states and districts purchased new textbooks, focused on increasing technology exposure, provided advanced courses, and adopted curricular materials with the intent of improving instructional practices and raising students’ academic achievement. The research of Hamilton et al. contained an analysis of changes during the onset of NCLB and asserted that NCLB reforms did not produce longstanding improvement, due to the obscure language contained in the educational reform policy.
Wolters (2015) said that education is undeniably vital for supporting and promoting any advanced society. However, Wolters asserted educational reform initiatives have not been successful, due to education reformers’ disregarding of the complex history of education reform. Wolters’ research detailed how the complex history of education reform continued to provide years of various educational reform initiatives that often either failed to produce improved academic achievement or shifted the blame for failed educational reforms on teacher quality. According to Wolters’s research, there was sufficient proof that teachers’ behaviors and classroom management had affected student academic achievement; nonetheless, teachers’ behaviors and classroom management were not an exclusive condition of promoting academic achievement within an educational environment.
Johnson (2013) explained school districts used the business sector’s turnaround strategies with the intent of turning around chronically failing schools. School districts used comprehensive turnaround strategy as a response to the accountability movement. Strunk, Marsh, Hashim, and Bush-Mecanas (2016) said comprehensive turnaround strategies focused on human resources of schools by removing instructional staff members, administrators, and support and replacing removed staff members with newly hired staff members. Johnson described the turnaround strategy movement as the marketization of education. Johnson asserted that marketing educational reforms involved a broader reform strategy that involved deregulation, defunding, and promoting privatizing public education. Kirshner and Jefferson (2015) claimed school turnaround strategies negatively affected those whom education reforms attempted to service. According to Kirshner & Jefferson, turnaround strategies identified, and targeted schools situated in poverty-stricken neighborhoods with low academic performance. In most cases, Kirshner and Jefferson asserted school districts used charter schools as an intervention strategy in the turnaround process, where school districts closed traditional schools, and privately-owned education management organizations opened charter schools in their stead.
de la Torre, Allensworth, Jagesic, Sebastian, & Salmonowicz (2013) suggested the turnaround reform movement affected student and teacher populations as well as student academic achievement. The research of Strunk et al. (2016) claimed the turnaround reform movement produced mixed results on student achievement; however, turnaround reforms might have produced adverse and unintended consequences for teachers. de la Torre et al. pointed out the turnaround model is comparable to the national transformational model. de la Torre et al. acknowledged turnaround schools demonstrated improved testing scores four years after the turnaround process, due to a change in student population before and after the turnaround process. However, de la Torre et al. contended improved standardized assessment scores could not determine whether academic achievement occurred due to a change in students or a change in staff members or a combination of both events during the process. Kirshner and Jefferson (2015) cited the Institute for Education Sciences acknowledgment of weak evidence of turnaround’s success, which was in opposition to research data from de la Torre et al.. As reported by Kirshner and Jefferson, no more than 15 percent of turnaround schools sustained academic increases beyond three years after the turnaround process. Hansen (2012) said school-level data were unreliable because school dynamics changed from year to year, school-leveled data did not adequately address the issue of student mobility and did not account for classroom-level achievement gaps. Research results from de la Torre et al. suggested the turnaround model is a process and not an event.
de la Torre et al. (2013) proposed the turnaround process should begin with strong leadership focused on the effort of improving the school culture, school climate, strengthening instructional practices, and the many facets needed in developing a successful school. Cosner and Jones (2016) suggested organizational coupled with leadership problems impeded schools’ ability to improve. Stein (2012) also suggested that schools performed poorly due to poor leadership. Stein suggested acquiring motivated, qualified teachers and administrators were needed to turn around failing schools. Stein rejected notions that individual teachers or administrators, lack of resources, or NCLB as accountability factors for poor school performance. Likewise, Donnell and Gettinger (2015) suggested school districts attributed a school’s poor performance to teachers’ attitudes towards the success or failure of education reforms, along with teacher’ knowledge and skills. In a study of academic transformation using turnaround strategies, Yatsko, Lake, Nelson, and Bowen (2012) revealed state level, district level, and school level inadequacies in employing comprehensive turnaround strategies. Research from Yatsko et al. revealed numerous school districts instituted turnaround strategies as part of ongoing activities instead of instituting turnaround strategies as a tool to transform academic achievement. Yatsko et al. indicated district level rigid timelines, poor communication, limited support for school-level efforts, and loss of school autonomy were causes for school districts’ inability to reinvent schools and reimaging academic achievement. Yatsko et al. stated school districts employed “Kitchen sink” improvement strategies as substitutes and as focused turnaround strategies at the school level. The cumbersome process to remove ineffective instructors stated Yatsko et al., provided incremental academic improvement. Stein (2012) stated although schools faced different problems, commonalities such as nonspecific direction, demoralized teachers, demoralized staff members, and apathetic students accounted for the destabilization of schools, ultimately leading to their failures.
Donnell and Gettinger (2015) hypothesized that school reforms did not occur because teachers did not accept reform efforts or school districts misaligned reform efforts with the culture of the school and teachers’ instructional practices. Lee and Nie (2014) suggested during the turnaround process; issues beyond customary instructional practices and entities such as local school boards hindered meaningful school change. Lee and Nie claimed school boards exerted less time and energies on instructional issues and plans for relevant academic goals and diverted time and energies to district compliance procedures.
Stein (2012) suggested using a sense of urgency, visibility, and strong leadership as successful strategies for turning around failing schools. Stein also asserted that leaders should create strategic plans, clearly communicate plans to staff members and teachers and analyze data to inform decision making as foundations to sustain turnaround effects. Stein also suggested the removal of poor performing teachers and educators who do not support the turnaround efforts. Yatsko et al. (2012) provided four suggestions to sustain turnaround effects. The research of Yatsko et al. recommend states shift their role of managing turnaround compliance to a role of partnering with turnaround entities. Yatsko et al. also suggested states build pipelines of leaders and teachers as part of their comprehensive turnaround strategies. The second recommendation from Yatsko et al. suggested states assist districts, schools, and turnaround partners in communicating turnaround expectations and results to teachers. The third recommendation from Yatsko et al. was the provision of regulatory and policy assistance for school districts that desire autonomy and flexibility. The fourth recommendation from Yatsko et al. was for school districts to create a turnaround department whose function is to recognize and remove barriers that hinder academic achievement transformation. Lee and Nie (2014) stated many school districts were inconsistent in developing high-quality instructional goals, leading to inconsistent student learning and pockets of academic achievement within school districts. Yatsko et al. suggested the turnaround department would also assume responsibility for executing a comprehensive plan of transformation for schools.
Public Data Relevant to Research Study
As stated earlier, the school district considered graduation rates and academic achievement data a reflection of students’ classroom performance in addition to students’ standardized assessment scores. During the 2013 school year, the school under study did not meet growth status with a graduation rate of 57.3 percent; the graduation rate was two percent lower than the previous year (Mississippi Department of Education, 2013). During the 2014 school year, the school under study did not meet growth status with a graduation rate of 68 percent; the graduation rate was two percent lower than that of the previous year (Mississippi Department of Education, 2014). The state department of education recommended the small southeastern school district turn the local high school over to conservatorship, reflecting the need to address and improve the low academic performance of the high school under study. The practice of using the comprehensive turnaround strategy known as the conservatorship process has created a problem for high school under study by affecting teachers’ retention rate. This case study is purposed to understand teachers’ morale as a possible contributor to lower than average teacher retention rates.
Critical Analysis of Body of Literature
Results of Cherian’s and Jacob’s (2013) study also indicated the direct effect the collective efficacy had on task performance and career development.Teachers’ levels of self-efficacy were also accountable for varying degrees of differences in teaching efficiencies, instructional practices, and student learning, as well as student academic performances. Multiple studies recorded teachers’ levels of self-efficacy association to student levels of academic performance, student scores and student behaviors. Relevant studies maintained teachers with elevated levels of self-efficacy enhanced students’ autonomy and enhanced students’ levels of self-efficacy. Teacher perceived levels of self-efficacy also influenced teachers’ levels of enthusiasm for the teaching profession, a strong commitment to students and a commitment to life-long learning. Cherian and Jacob stated teachers who showed a commitment to life-long learning, consistently attempted to improve upon his instructional practices by developing their skills, motivating, and promoting self-efficacy belief in others.
In a review of the presented literature: precursors of school reform and policies written in NCLB, ESSA, Race to the Top, as well turnaround strategies resulted from chronically low-performing students and the widening of the achievement gap in local schools. There may be a relationship connecting these factors to teachers’ perceived levels of self-efficacy. The effects of the actions of NCLB, ESSA, RttT, and turnaround strategies may have led a weakening of teachers’ perceived levels of self-esteem. Erwin’s (2012) study focused on NCLB and teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy and revealed a significant relationship between NCLB and teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy. In the effort to understand how teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy affected the learning environment, Mojavezi and Tamiz (2012) studied the relationship between teachers’ perceived levels of self-efficacy and perceived levels of students’ self-efficacy. The study of Mojavezi and Tamiz indicated that students of teachers who retained a heightened sense of self-efficacy demonstrated higher educational levels than students of teachers who possessed a lowered sense of self-efficacy.
Case Study Path Based on Projected Findings of Data Processes
After reviewing the case study’s contents, teacher professional development courses designed to distribute leadership responsibilities throughout the educational environment may help teachers develop heightened levels of perceived self-efficacy. Professional learning opportunities provided by the high school under study may afford teachers the opportunity to improve instructional as well as leadership strategies specific to their instructional practice needs, without losing engagement time or instructional time with students.
Tentative Directions for Case Study Deliverables
The reoccurring nature of professional development courses ensures teacher instructional practices and 21st-century skills consistently align. Providing teachers with professional development courses might assist teachers in forming professional learning communities (PLCs) that support and develop fellow teachers’ perceived levels of morale. Professional development courses might also assist in the alignment of teacher instructional practices and 21st-century skills that may improve low-performing students’ academic achievement and perceived levels of morale of educators and students alike.
Turnaround strategies have frustrated families, school leaders as well as policymakers (Aragon, & Workman, 2015). Efforts to improve academic achievement with dramatic and comprehensive interventions such as turnaround strategies have yielded limited improvements, according to Aragon and Workman. The effects of turnaround strategies may have impacted teachers, students, and school staff members during the turnaround process, but it is also possible that the conservatorship process may remain significant years after its conclusion. Turnaround strategies, as mentioned by Trujillo and Renee (2015), intended to improve student learning, raising graduation rates, and reducing dropout rates. However, turnaround strategy reforms may have had the unintentional consequence of deconstructing school infrastructures, not providing proper resources as suggested by Johnson (2013) and creating environments which strained and demoralized teachers and staff members. Since the onset of NCLB, there has been a reported elevation of stress and teacher burnout, which have led to a higher than the average teacher turnover rate as detailed by Grissom et al. (2014). Despite various factors and variables which caused schools to succeed or fail, Donnell and Gettinger (2015) stated that educational reform mostly occurred at the teacher level, thus altering teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy.
Overview of Remaining Sections
Section 2 of this case study describes the methodology used in response to research questions and sub-questions posed in Section 1. Case study methodology was used in this Case Study to interview teachers from the high school under study. This information was analyzed and coded for relevant themes that generated researchable solutions in response to the research question.
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