In an effort to understand how teachers read, interpret, and implement academic standards a series of case studies was conducted with 10 middle level educators in the Midwest. This group, though ethnically homogeneous, represents a cross-sample of educators in terms of age, experience, and content area focus. The intent of this research was to investigate the manner in which teachers engage with the academic curriculum standards that regulate the content and instruction in their disciplines.
CASE STUDY METHODOLOGY
To address teachers' readings and interpretations of academic standards, case studies examined teachers as they planned, implemented, and reflected upon individual lessons. The teachers were all from the same state but they differed in their level of experience, the duration of their teaching placement, context (public or parochial), and their planning responsibilities. Each teacher who volunteered to participate in the study was selected on the basis of their openness to reflective practice and self study. Table 15.1 provides the demographic data for the sample of participants in this study.
In this study, I developed an intertextual perspective that specifies the textual forms through which academic standards enter into the tasks and dialogue about grade level and content area curriculum. An intertextual approach combines a multilevel, implementation approach with discourse-analytic methods to identify the discursive processes through which intertextual chains are produced and through which curriculum implementation strategies are determined within the classroom (Anagnostopoulos, 2005). This study identified the discursive structures that develop as teachers attempt to align their classroom curricula to the state mandated standards (Strong-Wilson, 2008).
This focus grew out of an effort to conduct an intertextual analysis of the materials that teachers accessed as they implemented standards-based curricula in middle school classrooms. As the data collection began it became evident that how teachers read the academic standards was as significant as the materials that teachers accessed. As the issue of reading and interpretation emerged in the course of the study, adjustments to the analysis and interpretation were made to accommodate the reading of academic standards. In particular, material use seems to be a consequence of the reading orientation of the teacher.
A series of interviews and observations focusing on how teachers in the middle school context (Grades 6, 7, & 8) understand, respond to, and implement state curriculum standards served as data sources. The standardization of the curriculum for the middle level schools from which the sample interviews and observations were taken made it possible to examine how these standards shape the planned classroom tasks and the discussion of curriculum across classrooms and school settings. Academic standards provided one of the curricular texts that could be held constant across settings. Observations of teachers as they implemented "aligned" lessons were video recorded and transcribed. These texts were also utilized to develop debriefing conferences in which the teacher was prompted to discuss their alignment of the lesson to state standards. The instructional materials utilized by the teachers and provided to the students were also collected and analyzed as yet another aligned curricular text.
Data analyses focused upon identifying the forms (strategies and tactics) of curricular alignment that teachers utilized as they implement "standards-based" lessons. A systematic analysis of how the academic standards entered into classroom instruction, the teachers' dialogue concerning lesson content, and the consequences for student experience demonstrated the style and type of responses to state academic standards. Four levels of analysis were used to identify the processes at work in curriculum alignment: