Tales from the script: A qualitative study of early elementary teachers' perceptions and use of mandated and scripted ELA curricula
Sturm, Susan A.
MetadataShow full item record
The adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by forty-five states in the U.S. has ushered in a new era of educational reform. For many states, this has taken the form of curricular mandates with an intended goal of meeting the new standards set forth by CCSS. This dissertation will highlight the findings of a study in which three early elementary teachers were interviewed and observed teaching with Common Core-aligned scripted English language arts (ELA) curricula mandated by their large urban school district in Western New York. Each teacher was observed for fifteen ninety-minute ELA lessons and was interviewed at least three times. The materials of each teacher's ELA curriculum were also considered in qualitative analysis, which included both micro- and macro-level analysis of the discourse and identity of each teacher within the larger school system. While teachers were the focal participants, the classroom as a whole was considered in order to decipher contextual meanings that occurred situationally. Likewise, district-wide policies and mandates were examined as well as state-level changes to educational law. Findings include the perceptions of one kindergarten and two first grade teachers and the moments in which the voices of their students were stifled or ignored to make room for the discourse of the script. Each teacher expressed both an appreciation for and concern with the scripted curriculum and an overall sense of complacency was found among all three. While the teachers undoubtedly had the success of their students at heart, the scripted curriculum acted as a third party (students-teacher-script) exerting control over the discourse of the classroom, something that each teacher acknowledged yet did nothing to change. The teachers relied on the script to help them unfold the ELA curriculum and their students understood that there was an expectation of answerability placed upon them when their teachers held the spiral-bound curriculum guide. It was especially clear in this study that the mandated curriculum did not welcome a culturally relevant pedagogy, but instead, established norms of marginalization. The teachers seemed to lack the critical literacy stance required to recognize the injustice of their curriculum, and the school district appeared to construct the teachers' identities within a larger system of oppression and control. While the CCSS effort is certainly not all problematic, the curricular mandates and scripted programs that have followed rob early elementary classrooms of culture, personal experience, and identity and in the place of these, a discourse of right and wrong is being offered. The scripted curricula in this study left room for one voice to stand as authority, usurping even the teacher's power--the voice of the script.