Graduate Student Dissertations, Theses, Capstones, and Portfolios

Date of Award


Document Type


Granting Institution

Lynn University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Global Leadership - with a specialization in Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Joan Scialli

Second Advisor

Cheryl Serrano

Third Advisor

Richard Allington


High stakes testing and accountability has become a hotly debated topic among politicians and educators since the bipartisan passing of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002. With the goal of having all students reading at or above grade level by the end of the 2013-2014 school year Reading First was developed as part of NCLB, to provide schools and teachers with scientific research-based reading instruction.

More than districts or schools, it is the classroom teacher that bears the ultimate responsibility for increasing reading performance. Effective teachers of reading must face the demands and challenges of NCLB while meeting the individual needs of the students in the classroom. A theoretical framework for reading methodologies is presented that reflects phonics/skills, whole language, and balanced literacy methods, as well as the characteristics of effective reading teachers.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship among teacher, student, and school characteristics, theoretical orientation to reading, attitudes toward high stakes testing, and reading performance of K-6 students. The study examines teacher perspectives of theoretical beliefs about reading instruction and teacher beliefs about high stakes testing.

In this study, an exploratory (comparative) and explanatory (correlational) online survey was conducted with one specific descriptive purpose, five exploratory purposes and two explanatory purposes. A simple random sample of 10,000 K-6 public school teachers were invited to participate in the study resulting in a final data producing sample of 102 (1.02% response rate). Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, independent t tests, Chi Squares tests, and hierarchical multiple regression analysis.

Exploratory factor analysis resulted in modification of two reliable and valid scales: The modified 18 -Item Theoretical Orientation to Reading Scale and subscales and the modified 36 - Item Attitudes Toward High Stakes Testing Scale and subscales. In this study, (skills and phonics), student characteristic (ese), and school characteristic (urban) explained 19.6% to 24.8% of the variance in attitudes toward high stakes testing. In this study, 70.4% to 81.0% of the variance in reading performance was explained by school characteristics (school grade, Title I, non-high stakes testing, Reading First), attitudes toward high stakes testing (school climate, impact on mode of instruction, impact on content, and pressure on teachers), student characteristics (non-Hispanic, Hispanic, American Indian race, black race, and white race), and teacher demographics (non-ESOL certification and non-reading certification). There are fewer white students, a greater number of Hispanic, LEPJESOL, and ESE student, and lower reading performance in Title I schools. Teachers' theoretical beliefs in an age of accountability need to be examined to see if teachers have become apathetic about reading instruction or if they have strong philosophical beliefs which impact reading achievement, as effective teachers of reading are flexible in meeting the needs of all of their students. Additional variables to incorporate into the present model and test in additional studies to further explain reading performance include student motivation, ability, parent involvement, tutoring, and teacher professional development.

Some implications are that teachers at Title I schools have had the content of their instruction impacted as a result of state mandated testing and teachers are feeling pressure associated with high stakes testing which is having a negative impact on school climate. Teachers need to be highly trained, skilled, and flexible in their approach at delivering reading instruction to meet the diverse needs of all of their students, especially in urban school settings.

Reading First schools in this study did not score as high as non-Reading First schools on reading performance. Teachers in Reading First schools favored a more phonics approach to reading instruction. Schools with more Black/African American students that were Title I and Reading First had a higher incidence of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Teachers at schools not making AYP had more negative feelings toward high stakes testing. The instruction at Reading First schools needs to be examined to ensure it is meeting the needs of diverse students and to guarantee its effectiveness in helping schools make AYP. The sanctions being imposed on schools not meeting AYP should be examined for their effectiveness in creating a positive work environment where teachers and students can thrive. This study found that there were more ESOL students in schools involved in high stakes testing and yet there were fewer teachers in schools involved in high stakes testing with their ESOL certification/endorsement. Teachers with reading certification/endorsement had a whole language orientation toward reading while teachers without had a more phonics orientation toward reading. Teachers without ESOL certification/endorsement favored a whole language orientation toward reading while teachers with ESOL certification/endorsement experienced more pressure associated with state mandated assessments. The content of reading certification/endorsement and ESOL certification/endorsement subject area tests needs to be evaluated.

This study also found that teachers with ESE students had negative attitudes toward state mandated testing and found the state test was of little value. Teachers of ESE students indicated greater pressure for their students to achieve on state mandated assessments. Teachers need to learn more strategies to use to ensure the academic success of ESE students and the differing types of ESE student disabilities should be taken into account when setting standards for the passing of state mandated tests.

Finally, student race was found to impact pressure on teachers, school climate, impact on content, and impact on mode of instruction. Procedures for ensuring that teachers have the proper qualifications for meeting the diversity needs of their students need to be investigated. Students of diversity should be given more high quality tutoring, aftercare, and preschool opportunities for additional instruction support.



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