Systemic educational reform in Massachusetts: Teacher perspectives on standards, assessment and school-based decision making in underperforming schools
The Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA), which impacts most aspects of K--12 education in the Commonwealth, was officially signed into law in June of 1993. This systemic Act called for changes in funding, curriculum, school governance, teacher licensure, time on learning, as well as district, local and individual accountability. After over a decade of reform there are schools that have not been able to increase academic achievement as measured by the state assessment system. The populations affected most are minority and socio-economic disadvantaged students. If unable to boost academic achievement these low performing schools face sanctions, such as restructuring and state takeover. The purpose of this study is to examine public school elementary teachers about their implementation of, perceptions, and attitudes towards MERA. Specifically, it focuses on curriculum, assessment, and school based decision-making within low performing schools. Qualitative research methods are used in this study. The major data source are interviews with teachers focusing on curriculum, assessment and school-based decision-making. Grounded Theory methods developed by Strauss and Corbin (1998) are employed to manage and analyze data. The study examines how key pieces of reform efforts are implemented in schools that are struggling increase the academic performance of students. Analysis shows that some components of the reform effort are not implemented adequately and may explain low academic achievement in the schools under examination.