Teacher "talk back": Exploring the dynamics between practice and value-added evaluation policy

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Astor, Emily
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Middle Tennessee State University
ABSTRACT The accountability movement in education since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has produced value-added evaluation policies in the United States that have resulted in discord and undesirable responses among many teachers. Despite investigations into the validity of value-added evaluation policies and descriptive reports of teachers’ responses to value-added evaluation, education research has shed little light on the effects of implementation processes of value-added teacher evaluation policy. The study draws from inhabited institutionalism and sensemaking research that suggests teachers and other actors within schools incorporate institutional values and norms into their own practices based on their understanding of the goals or tasks dictated by the policy, their organizational contexts and their professional identity. This study addresses the central question: What theoretical model can explain how teachers have adapted their practices in response to teacher value-added evaluation policy implementation? This qualitative study investigates how teachers adapt their practices in response to value-added teacher evaluation policy by discovering and documenting the self-reported beliefs, perceptions, experiences, and practices related to value-added teacher evaluation among a theoretical sample of teachers (n=19) across a single public-school district in Tennessee. In-depth interviews, member checks, and a process framework was used for analysis. A grounded theoretical model was constructed to describe and relate how (a) the macro-level, structural conditions of teacher evaluation, (b) the phenomena that arose from the structural conditions, and (c) the particular contextual conditions and components of teachers’ personal histories interact to influence teachers’ adaptations. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications for practice and policy, specifically how teachers, schools and school districts exercise agency in how policy is implemented and how value-added evaluation policy creates a tension between cultural ideologies of accountability and teachers’ lived experiences of vulnerability.