Teacher Beliefs About the Outcomes of High-Stakes Testing and Measurement-Driven Instruction in Virginia's Public Schools

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Virginia Tech

The relationships between teacher opinions about Virginia's Standards of Learning testing program and five variables related to teachers' backgrounds and present working conditions were examined in the context of five dependent variables represented as discrete domains. A systematic sample of 464 members of the Virginia Education Association (VEA) was selected to participate in the study. A 52 item survey was mailed to the members of the sample to gather their opinions about the outcomes they believed were occurring as a result of Virginia's Standards of Learning testing program and the state's Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia. Three hundred fifty-two usable questionnaires were returned, for a 76% return rate. Descriptive statistics were used to portray teacher responses in five domains. Three way ANOVAs were computed to determine if any significant main effects or interactions were evident among the independent variables of tenure status, SOL test grade status, and school socio-economic level. Telephone surveys of twelve randomly selected teachers were conducted to enhance understanding of three dependent variables (domains): student outcomes, instructional outcomes, and teacher outcomes. These data were analyzed using qualitative strategies.

Findings: Teachers' responses to the mailed survey indicated relatively unfavorable opinions about the outcomes of Virginia's Standards of Learning testing program and related regulations. Outcomes for instructional programs and for teachers themselves were rated more unfavorably than outcomes for students, outcomes for schools, or outcomes for public confidence. The ANOVA analyses indicated that teacher opinions did not vary meaningfully by any of the variables studied or by any combination of these variables. In short, even though a systematic sample of VEA members from throughout the state was surveyed, the opinions of this group of teachers were remarkably similar. Interview data confirmed that teachers had many concerns about outcomes associated with SOL testing. The interviews also indicated that teachers attributed several positive outcomes to SOL testing as well. Several rival hypotheses are presented to explain the apparent homogeneity of opinions among this systematic sample of Virginia educators.

teacher satisfaction, teacher autonomy, Virginia, standardized testing, Academic achievement, testing, teacher beliefs, state testing programs, systemic change