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Title:Unconscious or unwanted? High School curriculum priorities: leadership perspectives
Author(s):Yacobi, Elizabeth
Director of Research:Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Johnston-Parsons, Marilyn A.; Noffke, Susan E.; Sloat, Linda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):critical consciousness
high stakes testing
high school curriculum
transformative leadership
critical pedagogy
Abstract:While there has been much attention focused on the “effectiveness” of high schools meeting NCLB standards and their ability to produce students who are “college and career ready” as measured by ACT test scores, less attention has been given to how the curriculum teaches students to think critically about the world around them. Critical consciousness is the thinking necessary to participate in a democratic society and provide our students with knowledge to construct personal meaning and purpose in the world (Freire, 1988; Grundy, 1987; Kincheloe, 2008). District curriculum leadership perspectives about curriculum priorities in light of current accountability measures are important to study as curriculum leaders are charged with the responsibility of leading and facilitating educational outcomes for schools and districts. This phenomenological study described how district curriculum leaders conceptualize their roles with respect to how curricular priorities are determined in an era of accountability, and explored to what extent they believe those priorities support the development of critical consciousness for high school students. District high school curriculum leaders’ perspectives were gathered through an online survey, individual interviews, and a focus group. Their answers were analyzed utilizing a theoretical framework informed by scholarly literature related to the importance of critical consciousness in creating cultures of democratic community as a focus for education, rather than that of accountability for school improvement. Transformative leadership was found to assist with fostering a culture of democratic community. This study established that the current curricular priorities for high schools are focusing on creating more “college and career” ready students as determined by curriculum and assessment alignment to Common Core standards, higher enrollments in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and increased enrollments in post-secondary institutions, but lack the dimension of critical consciousness as a curriculum outcome to ensure cultures of democratic community. While thinking skills or “thinking deeply” in the curriculum was valued by the leaders in this study, this aspect of the curriculum was seen to exist only in certain courses or to be associated by individual teachers with elements of Bloom’s taxonomy. This study also established that while some curriculum leaders demonstrated a proclivity toward this vision for democratic schooling, they lacked adequate knowledge of this conceptualization of education to completely address critical consciousness as a curriculum priority. Linking education and social justice is paramount in creating educational experiences where all students have opportunities to succeed. Recommendations emerging from the findings included the need for districts and schools to create a shared vision and definition of curriculum, beyond the national accountability conversation, which does not consider the social aspects of schooling. Another recommendation made by this study was for colleges and universities to include social justice courses for all teacher and administrators in certification programs. Curriculum leaders in this study provided perspectives which demonstrate a technical focus on accountability and consistency in the use of standards and assessments as well as a lack of familiarity with the idea of schooling for democratic community. Curriculum leaders must embrace and lead beyond an efficiency and consistency driven idea of schooling that current accountability reforms endorse, and evolve to creating learning environments of freedom and individual growth.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Elizabeth A. Yacobi
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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