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Teacher Identity and Reform: Intersections Within School Culture


In the era of school accountability, school reform programs aimed at shifting school culture are often implemented in an attempt to increase student achievement as measured by standardized test scores. This ethnographic case study was conducted in Hawk Elementary, a low-performing, high-poverty school. Quantitative and qualitative data collected were analyzed for the purposes of investigating the intersection among school culture, teacher identity, and this type of education reform. Three composite teacher identities in relation to reform emerged from the data: the Believer, the Hopeful, and the Opposer. The influence of each of these identities on school reform is discussed.

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Correspondence to Heather Ann Bower.


Appendix 1: Focus Group Guides

Session 1 Guide

I noticed in the survey results that the perceived level of collegial leadership (principal advocacy, fairness, effectiveness) is high, but the level of trust in the principal is low. Why do you think these two scores are opposite?

Possible Probes: Interim Principal, Levels of Leadership

The survey results suggest that teachers don’t feel as though they receive the necessary resources or support. Do you think that is true? What resources are lacking? Why?

Possible Probes: District Resources/Mandates, Parental Support

The survey results also suggest that academics are not valued by students. Can you tell me more about that. Why do you think that is?

Possible Probes: Parental Support, How are Efforts to Increase Rigor Received?

The survey results also indicate that teachers trust each other and each teacher’s commitment to the school. However, the faculty as a whole does not feel effective. Is that true? Why do you think that is?

Possible Probes: PLCs, Accountability

Focus Group Session 2 Guide

Over and over, I’ve heard that this school is different than any other school—even those with similar demographics. What do you think makes this school so unique?

Possible Prompts: Identity? Reform? Culture?

What does it take to be a teacher in this school?

Possible Prompts: Collaboration? Strategies? Flexibility?

What do you think about the role of the district and accountability in general?

Possible Prompts: Necessity? Misguided? Functionality?

Appendix 2: Selected Images

See Figs. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Appendix 3: Sample Pacing Guides

See Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1 Third grade math pacing guide
Table 2 Fourth grade pacing guide

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Bower, H.A., Parsons, E.R.C. Teacher Identity and Reform: Intersections Within School Culture. Urban Rev 48, 743–765 (2016).

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  • School culture
  • School reform
  • Teacher identity