Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Major Professor

E. Grady Bogue

Committee Members

Vincent Anfara, Pat Freeland, Glennon Rowell


Critics of government policies that expand the use of high-stakes tests in public schools claim that these tests have a negative impact on student learning. At the building level, these policies have resulted in a great deal of pressure for educators to raise student performance on these tests.

The purpose of this study was to explore secondary school principals' perceptions of the value and impact of state-mandated tests on content and mode of instruction. The entire population of 541 middle and high school principals from public schools in Tennessee was selected to participate in this study.

Secondary school principals reported agreement on the following issues: (a) highstakes tests are not an accurate measure of what ESL students know and can do, (b) media coverage of the results of high-stakes tests is unfair to teachers, (c) high-stakes tests are worth the investment of time and money, (d) high-stakes tests have brought· attention to education issues, and (e) score differences on high-stakes tests from year to year reflect changes in characteristics in students and not school effectiveness. The principals involved in this study disagreed with the following statements: (a) media coverage of the results of high-stakes tests adequately reflects the quality of education, (b) high-stakes tests motivate unmotivated students, and (c) media coverage adequately reflects the complexity of teaching.

Secondary school principals reported an increase in the amount of time spent on subjects that are part of the state-mandated testing program. In contrast, principals reported a decrease in the amount of time spent on non tested subjects and classroom and student activities.

Significant differences were found in principals' responses when examined by school level. Results indicated that high school principals agreed more than middle school principals did that (a) high-stakes tests motivate previously unmotivated students, (b) high-stakes tests are a fad, and (c) high-stakes tests are not an accurate measure of what ESL students know and can do. Additionally, high school principals across all categories (i.e., urban, suburban, and rural) indicated that their schools spent more time on areas not covered on the state-mandated tests, while middle school principals did not indicate this.

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