Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teacher Education

Major Professor

Susan L. Groenke

Committee Members

Judson C. Laughter, Allison D. Anders, Susan M. Benner


As debates about how to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) continue, educational stakeholders need to consider the impact that No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) accountability policies put on teachers working in low performing schools. Specifically, schools that annually struggle to achieve adequate yearly progress based on student test scores are narrowing the curriculum they offer students down to only teaching testable skills (Crocco & Costigan, 2007). As such, students who attended a school that taught them a narrowed curriculum only learned how to take high stakes tests and not how to compete in the 21st century world (Schoen & Fusarelli, 2007). B ecause of the pressure from high stakes tests, I wanted to understand how teachers who taught an NCLB tested subject at a low performing school were impacted by these accountability policies.

In this study, I investigated how high school English teachers working in an urban high school experienced NCLB’s school restructuring policies. To conduct my study, I identified a low performing high school that was required to restructure according to NCLB. I then interviewed six of the school’s English teachers and the assistant principal, who was selected to lead the school’s restructuring. After analyzing my collected interview data, I created experience-based narratives for each of my participants. I temporally presented the narratives because teachers who taught at the school before and during its early stages of restructuring had a different experience than teachers who taught during the later stages of the school’s restructuring.

My findings confirmed previously conducted research that detailed how NCLB’s accountability policies resulted in the narrowing of the curriculum and English teachers being viewed as solely responsible for students’ writing abilities (Anagnostopoulos & Rutledge, 2007; Darling-Hammond, 2007; Smith & Kovacs, 2011). Moreover, I identified six different ways my participants were impacted by the school’s restructuring and created a term for each. The terms I developed include turnaround, producing results, threats, student behavior, top-down decision making, and sustained and unsustained reforms efforts. I then closed by discussing each term and how it relates back to my participants’ experiences.

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