Making Sense of Common Core Aligned Mathematics: Familiar Obstacles and New Incentives
thesisposted on 01.07.2016, 00:00 by Anne H. Kelly
Recent legislation linked new Common Core State standards and accountability policies to focus mathematics instruction in certain ways. Adopting a situated perspective, this single case study explored the premise that linked policies would foster a more uniform policy convergence experience for teachers, that directs them toward instruction aligned with how new assessments measure students’ mathematical proficiency. Purposefully chosen for exemplary professional learning conditions and a district history of high achievement, this middle school team of mathematics educators experienced the new policies separately rather than convergently. Analysis of observed opportunities to learn, interview data, and documents revealed how these educators prioritized the implementation of standards-aligned instruction and minimized the effects of new accountability measures. Shared instructional values and coherent leader messages mediated how team members experienced policy convergence, shaped their opportunities to learn, and flowed through to the selective sense they made about new practice demands. In fact, strong collaborative learning supports insulated teachers from full policy effects. Findings confirm the continued importance of local context to the process of making new meaning about practice, even in an accountability driven policy environment designed to minimize such variability. By bringing forward an empirical counterexample to policymakers’ prevailing implementation logic, the study extends prior research about policy convergence, teachers’ opportunities to learn, and sensemaking as a critical mechanism for practice change.