And then comes testing: How schools reallocate classroom time when high-stakes testing begins in 3rd grade


Abstract: Bassok, Latham, and Rorem (2016) document that kindergarten has become more academic from the pre- to post-NCLB eras. For instance, they note that the percentage of kindergarten teachers who report teaching mathematics daily increased from 83% to 91% between 1998 and 2011. The findings from their paper suggest that accountability pressure has driven classroom time-use to become more academic in students’ earliest elementary experiences. As the enthusiasm for test-based accountability wanes, the field must reflect on whether those policies had the power to affect what happens in schools and classrooms and—if so—whether those responses exacerbated or ameliorated outcome inequality. Existing research indicates that certain aspects of schooling do respond to accountability pressure, such as how teachers are assigned to tested and untested grades, teachers’ pedagogical practices, and their (narrowed) curricular focus (Grissom, Kalogrides, & Loeb, 2017; Jacob, 2005; Koretz, 2017). Other researchers find that schools with low-performing students often enact policy changes, specifically in regards to time allocation, and these changes are associated with achievement gains (Dee, Jacob, & Schwartz, 2013; Rouse, Hannaway, Goldhaber, & Figlio, 2007). We bring together these two lines of inquiry—the academization of time-use for young children and responses to accountability testing—by examining the shift in time-use between second and third grade (the earliest tested grade). We explore whether there is any apparent discontinuity in the allocation of classroom time from second to third grade that can be linked to testing for accountability purposes. To do so, we analyze ECLS-K:2011 teacher-reported time-use in all available elementary grades. Preliminary analyses suggest that the second-to-third grade shift in time spent on academics varies by subject in perhaps surprising ways. Moreover, this pattern differs between schools that did and did not make AYP the previous year. However, we also find that, among schools failing to make AYP, second-to-third grade time-use shifts are quite different in high poverty/minority schools than in their low poverty/minority counterparts. This differential response to accountability pressure may exacerbate existing opportunity gaps for young children.

Authors: Hannah Denker, Dr. Allison Atteberry, Dr. Mimi Engel

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