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How data use for accountability undermines equitable science education

Melissa Braaten (School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA)
Chris Bradford (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Kathryn L. Kirchgasler (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Sadie Fox Barocas (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 3 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

When school leaders advance strategic plans focused on improving educational equity through data-driven decision making, how do policies-as-practiced unfold in the daily work of science teachers? The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

This ethnographic study examines how data-centric accountability and improvement efforts surface as practices for 36 science teachers in three secondary schools. For two years, researchers were embedded in schools alongside teachers moving through daily classroom practice, meetings with colleagues and leaders, data-centric meetings, and professional development days.

Findings

Bundled initiatives created consequences for science educators including missed opportunities to capitalize on student-generated ideas, to foster science sensemaking, and to pursue meaningful and equitable science learning. Problematic policy-practice intersections arose, in part, because of school leaders’ framing of district and school initiatives in ways that undermined equity in science education.

Practical implications

From the perspective of science education, this paper raises an alarming problem for equitable science teaching. Lessons learned from missteps seen in this study have practical implications for others attempting similar work. The paper suggests alternatives for supporting meaningful and equitable science education.

Originality/value

Seeing leaders’ framing of policy initiatives, their bundling of performance goals, equity and accountability efforts, and their instructional coaching activities from the point of view of teachers affords unique insight into how leadership activities mediate policies in schools.

Keywords

Citation

Braaten, M., Bradford, C., Kirchgasler, K.L. and Barocas, S.F. (2017), "How data use for accountability undermines equitable science education", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 55 No. 4, pp. 427-446. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-09-2016-0099

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited