23 SES 14 A, Education Reforms and Teachers' Work Experiences
The past three decades have brought about a significant increase in numbers-based accountability systems that contribute to a (re)articulation of education in the image of the market (Anagnostopoulos, Rutledge, and Jacobsen 2013; Lingard, Martino, and Rezai-Rashti, 2013; Lingard, Martino, Rezai-Rashti, and Sellar, 2015). Teachers, in particular, have been subjected to high-stakes accountability policies and practices that rely on calculating tools (e.g., value-added models, performance rubrics) and punitive actions (e.g., merit pay, termination) that have fundamentally reshaped teacher subjectivities (Ball, 2003; Furlong, Cochran-Smith, and Brennan, 2009). This paper investigates the discursive conditions of this movement and the possibilities that have resulted in its legitimation. While this is a global phenomenon, the USA has been a leader in developing and implementing high-stakes, market-based mechanisms for teacher accountability.
Employing Bacchi’s (2000) notion of policy-as-discourse, the purpose of this paper is to unpack and understand the ways in which contemporary teacher evaluation policies operate as a “regime of truth” (Foucault, 1980), and thus “make up” (Hacking, 1999) the contemporary “teacher”. As a post-structural critique of policy, this paper aims to disrupt accepted conceptualizations of teachers by: (1) identifying discursive constructions of teachers in political talk, action, and legislation; (2) unpacking the ways in which these “truths” have conditioned the possibilities for punitive accountability policies and practices; and (3) mapping the accountability policies and practices used by one school district to understand how they function to manage teacher behavior accordingly. Drawing on data that include official federal- and state-level policy documents (e.g., legislation related to teacher accountability), policy supplemental materials (e.g., press releases and political speeches about teacher accountability policy), and local teacher accountability policy enactment materials (e.g., evaluation protocols and instruments), this analysis demonstrates how teachers have been discursively positioned as risky subjects. In doing so, high-stakes accountability policies and practices that can help mitigate the “risk” are rationalized as necessary mechanisms for protecting the wellbeing of the country. This has enabled a set of intrusive and punitive mechanisms that monitor, assess, and discipline teachers to behave as “docile subjects” (Foucault, 1984).
Working from a Foucauldian perspective, I am defining discourse as frameworks of thought that make and define possibilities; discourse is that which constitutes the knowable and the imaginable; it is a “regime of truth” (Foucault, 1980, p. 131), rather than truth itself (McWilliams & Jones, 2005). In other words, discourse is the language, practices, and fields of knowledge that operate to construct our reality. As discourse is historically, socially, and politically situated, “reality” is constantly being negotiated and renegotiated in any given moment and space. Accordingly, the analyst attempts to understand how language, over time, has worked to shape reality and constitute particular ways of knowing, doing, and being. Foremost, the analyst assumes that “no one stands [or can stand] outside discourse” (Bacchi, 2000, p. 45). Foucault, specifically, was interested in how discourses work to produce docile subjects (Foucault, 1984). For example, “a post-structural analytical framework provides a tool to question our taken-for-granted assumptions about the dominant messages we hear about teachers, and to be aware of ‘how language works to both constrain and open up the everyday lived experiences of those working in education’” (St. Pierre, 2000, p. 484). To this end, this paper seeks to understand how high-stakes teacher accountability policies and practices have been made to “make sense” and then operationalized to produce docile teachers.
Anagnostopoulos, D., Rutledge, S. A., & Jacobsen, R. (2013). The infrastructure of accountability: Data use and the transformation of American education. Bacchi, C. (2000). Policy as discourse: What does it mean? Where does it get us?. Discourse, 21(1), 45-57. Ball, S. J. (Ed.). (1990). Foucault and education: Disciplines and knowledge. Routledge. Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of education policy, 18(2), 215-228. Davies, B., & Bansel, P. (2010). Governmentality and academic work: Shaping the hearts and minds of academic workers. JCT (Online), 26(3), 5. Dean, M. (2002). Critical and effective histories: Foucault's methods and historical sociology. Routledge. Fenwick, T. (2003) The 'good' teacher in a neo-liberal risk society: a Foucaultian analysis of professional growth plans. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 35:3, 335-354. DOI: 10.1080/00220270210151089 Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Vintage. Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977. Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1984). The foucault reader. Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1985). The use of pleasure: The history of sexuality (vol. 2). R. Hurley, Trans. London, Penguin. Foucault, M. (1991) Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 87–104. Graham, C., & Neu, D. (2004). Standardized testing and the construction of governable persons. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(3), 295-319. Hacking, I. (1999). Making up people. The science studies reader, 18, 590. Lingard, B., Martino, W., & Rezai-Rashti, G. (2013). Testing regimes, accountabilities and education policy: Commensurate global and national developments. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5), 539-556. Lingard, B., Martino, W., Rezai-Rashti, G., & Sellar, S. (2015). Globalizing Educational Accountabilities. Routledge. McWilliam, E. (2002). Against Professional Development. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 34(3), 289-299. doi:10.1080/00131850220150246 McWilliam, E., & Jones, A. (2005). An unprotected species? On teachers as risky subjects. British Educational Research Journal, 31(1), 109-120. Miller, P., & Rose, N. (2008). Governing the present. Polity Press. Rabinow, P. (1984). The Foucault reader. Pantheon Ransom, J. (1997). Foucault’s discipline: The politics of subjectivity. Duke University Press. Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge university press. Saldaña, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage. Saul, J. R. (2005). The collapse of globalism and the reinvention of the world. Camberwell: Viking. St. Pierre, E. A. (2000). Poststructural feminism in education: An overview. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 13(5), 477-515.
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