AERA - High-Stakes Testing and Curricular Control: A...

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High-Stakes Testing and Curricular Control: A Qualitative Metasynthesis by Wayne Au Using the method of qualitative metasynthesis, this study analyzes 49 qualitative studies to interrogate how high-stakes testing affects cur- riculum, defined here as embodying content, knowledge form, and pedagogy. The findings from this study complicate the understanding of the relationship between high-stakes testing and classroom prac- tice by identifying contradictory trends. The primary effect of high- stakes testing is that curricular content is narrowed to tested subjects, subject area knowledge is fragmented into test-related pieces, and teachers increase the use of teacher-centered pedago- gies. However, this study also finds that, in a significant minority of cases, certain types of high-stakes tests have led to curricular con- tent expansion, the integration of knowledge, and more student- centered, cooperative pedagogies. Thus the findings of the study suggest that the nature of high-stakes-test-induced curricular control is highly dependent on the structures of the tests themselves. Keywords: curriculum theory; high-stakes testing; qualitative metasynthesis; template analysis. W ith the advent of federally mandated high-stakes test- ing since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, many important questions have been raised regarding the implementation of this policy tool at the classroom level. In this article, I focus on one such question: What, if any, is the effect of high-stakes testing on curriculum? To answer this question, I begin by exploring the meanings of two key terms, “curriculum” and “high-stakes testing,” and by offering a brief review of some of the lit- erature regarding the relationship between the two. Then, using the method of qualitative metasynthesis, I undertake a comparative study of 49 qualitative studies of high-stakes testing to better under- stand testing’s impact on curriculum. Curriculum There exists a wide range of definitions of the term “curriculum” (Beauchamp, 1982; Jackson, 1996; Kliebard, 1989). Historically, the word has its roots in the Latin word currere , which means a course to be run (Eisner, 1994), and was first used at the University of Glasgow in the 17th century to describe “a formal course of study that the students completed” (Harden, 2001, p. 335). This defini- tion is perhaps the simplest and easiest for most to recognize because it is evident in the way schools are generally organized around a course of predetermined, required subject matter classes that stu- dents must pass to graduate. Thus most scholars and educators would at least recognize that curriculum encompasses a body of con- tent knowledge to be learned in some way, shape, or form. However, to stop at the level of content obscures other crucial
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This note was uploaded on 10/07/2009 for the course EDP 351 taught by Professor East during the Spring '09 term at West Chester.

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AERA - High-Stakes Testing and Curricular Control: A...

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