Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Teacher and Policy Alignment: A Phenomenological Study Highlighting Title I High School Teachers' Professional Development Experiences

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Teacher and Policy Alignment: A Phenomenological Study Highlighting Title I High School Teachers' Professional Development Experiences

Article excerpt

In education, professional development (PD) is the continuing education of teachers and administrators. Many studies have described PD as a conventional, top-down type of training that teachers experience in schools (Colbert, Brown, Choi, & Thomas, 2008; Hawley & Valli, 1999; Little, 1992; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006). Commonly known as the "institutional model," this type of PD is isolated from classroom practice and occurs as mandatory workshops, courses, seminars, and brief trainings by experts (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Desimone, Smith, Baker, & Ueno, 2005; Guskey, 2003; Hargreaves, 2011; Hawley & Valli, 1999; Phillips, Desimone, & Smith, 2011). Researchers (Darling-Hammond, 2012; Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Oakes & Lipton, 2003; Tarc, 2012; Van Veen, Zwart, & Meirink, 2011) argue that institutionalized one-day models of PD are often not applicable to teachers' needs, do not have any follow-up, and are expensive.

Researchers (Buysse, Winton, & Rous, 2009; Desimone, 2009; Guskey, 2003) have pointed to a lack of clarity and consensus about the meaning of PD, and much of the research focuses on building a common conceptual framework for researchers to understand and better measure the construct. Such research (Buysse et al., 2009; Desimone, 2009; Guskey, 2003) has provided insight into the fragmented nature of PD; however, it has not provided a deeper understanding of how teachers perceive and describe their PD experiences and what teachers deem as best for themselves and their students. Thus, the purpose of this study is to describe and explain three Title I high school teachers' experiences of PD, while capturing their perceptions of its meaning.

Background: NCLB, Title I, and New Mexico's Three-Tiered Licensure System

In addition to requiring all states to adopt a standards and testing regime to ensure that no child, regardless of native language or income level, is "left behind," the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act greatly underscores the need for "highly qualified" teachers and "high quality" PD (NCLB, 2002). NCLB is a major legislative reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), originally established in 1965 to improve educational equity for students from low-income families by providing federal funds to states through the Title I program. Through the federal program, Title I schools are defined as schools that have student body populations for which at least 40% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (Jennings, 2001). Title I is the oldest and largest federally funded program in the United States, and its purpose is to narrow the achievement gap that exists between middle- and lowincome children by providing extra resources to help improve instruction in high-poverty schools (Jennings, 2001). Unlike previous versions of federal policy, NCLB mandates that all states that receive federal funds (i.e., Title I schools) must adopt academic standards to guide their curricula and implement a testing and accountability system that is aligned with those standards (McGuinn, 2006).

NCLB (2002) also requires all public schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) so that no child is "left behind" in the progression toward 100% state proficiency by the 2014 deadline. Because they receive federal dollars, if Title I schools fail to make AYP, these schools must take a number of corrective actions with potential consequences that include the loss of funding, intensive PD for teachers, the replacement of school staff, the adoption of new curricula, and/or reopening as a charter school (McGuinn, 2006). Unless given a flexibility waiver by the Obama Administration, if Congress passes no reauthorization of the ESEA, Title I schools throughout the United States could be subject to federal sanctions if they fail to meet the 100% proficiency goal in reading and math for all students by 2014. …

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