Willingness to Use Test Data and Its Impact on Teachers' Relationships

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Charles KIRSCHBAUM, Insper/ CEM-Cebrap, Brazil
The extant research on standardized tests and their effects on educational units has shown that tests’ data is useful to educators if (properly) used (Coburn & Turner, 2011). In contrast, educators’ arguments on the ‘ceremonial’ dimension of external evaluations lead to poor data usage. Recent studies have shown that how test data is used by teachers is guided by institutionalized incentives (Hamilton et al, 2013), organizational culture (Sandholtz, 2012), individuals’ beliefs and practices, and how change is communicated (Coburn, 2004). Further, institutional conflicting signals impose higher  uncertainty, requiring from schools’ leadership a sensemaking role and selective decoupling from stakeholder’s requirements (Crilly et atl, 2012; Haack & Schoeneborn, 2015). As a consequence, the social relationships among teachers and between teachers and principals directly impact reform (Daly et al, 2010) and consequently the odds of successful data usage. Throughout this study, I probe two aspects among these factors. First, I investigate how teachers present and sustain their beliefs related to external tests. Second, I explore how teachers’ relationships are impacted as a result of their willingness to use tests’ data. For these purposes, I conducted in-depth interviews and focus groups at four public schools in São Paulo, Brazil. Findings show that the higher the willingness to use external tests’, the closer the relationship with the school’s leadership. Hence, the causality direction might be inverted, which removes the burden from the school’s leadership towards more systemic design. Second, teachers selectively choose the external tests that will serve as primary institutional guidance, depending on the quasi-market they want to serve. Yet, even when teachers present high willingness to use test data, they express their rejection towards using this data for teachers’ evaluation and assessment of career progress. I conclude this article with a discussion on implications for public policy in São Paulo, Brazil.