Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational Policy and Leadership
This case study investigated the organizational structure, assessment philosophy, and instructional practices of one Wisconsin public school district in order to learn about the ways in which the district used assessment data to inform reading instruction. The study was situated within the context of the high-stakes testing environment created by No Child Left Behind legislation.
Data from multiple sources informed the study, including documents, interviews, and classroom observations. Participants included three district administrators, three elementary building principals, three elementary reading specialists and seven elementary classroom teachers. A within and cross-case analysis was conducted to determine the interrelationships between perceptions about assessment and the ways in which this translated into action.
At the time of the study, the district was in the process of transforming itself from a 'district of schools' with strong site autonomy to a 'school district ' with uniform expectations for goal-setting, testing, and professional collaboration focused on data. A long range strategic plan established systematic expectations for the top-down change process. These initiatives included the use of test data to inform building goals, the implementation of a new district-wide assessment program, and the implementation of Professional Learning Communities, a staff development structure that fostered collaboration focused on data-driven instruction. These initiatives were implemented within a culture where teachers used data to inform instruction in varying ways. Thus, existing district and classroom assessment practices were taking place at the same time that principals, reading specialists, and classroom teachers were being exposed new ways of using assessment data to inform reading instruction.
A model of Assessment Categories in Public Education accompanies the study. The model was developed to illustrate the ways in which data might be used to inform decisions within a high stakes environment.