The Inequitable Influence that Varying Accountability Contexts in the United States have on Teacher Professional Development

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educational context, accountability, teacher professional learning

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Teachers today operate in highly politicized accountability environments where quick results, typically measured by K–12 test scores, are demanded. Although focusing on student learning outcomes is critical, equally essential is assuring that teacher learning opportunities which can strengthen instruction are available to teachers. A decade ago, Boardman and Woodruff found that teaching in a ‘high-stakes’ environment led to more assessments, scripted curriculum decisions and a shift in professional development that emphasized preparation for and enhancing results on tests. This exploratory, descriptive case study sought to understand how teachers described professional development a decade later. We used purposeful sampling and qualitative methodology to better understand educator perceptions of professional learning within two different accountability environments in the United States. Using the insights of educators working in these environments, the research explored ‘How do teachers describe the influence of accountability on their professional learning?’ We achieved this by asking teachers directly about their professional learning opportunities. This article points to the potential inequitable influence various sanctions have on teacher professional learning. Findings illustrate that although job-embedded professional development opportunities existed in both contexts, the nature, quality and outcomes of the professional learning differed.

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Professional Development in Education, v. 41, issue 5, p. 849-872