Stressed Out: Federal Education Policy, Teacher Stress, and Classroom Instruction Orientation Open Access

Hinnant-Crawford, Brandi Nicole (2014)

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Educational policy has reflected the understanding that good teachers are essential to an educated populace, and the most important factor in a classroom to affect student achievement is the teacher. Despite the government's recognition of the need for teachers, there has been a failure to acknowledge the expertise of teachers when deciding and implementing policies for education (Darling-Hammond, 1996; Hargreaves, 1996; Olson, 2002). Teachers are constantly asked to implement educational policies they did not create nor endorse causing cognitive dissonance and affecting their motivation (Ball, 2003; Kelchtermans, 2005). Utilizing Social Cognitive Theory as a theoretical lens, this study sought to uncover the effects of education policy (environment) on teacher stress (affective characteristic) and teacher instructional practices (behavior). This study sought to answer the following questions:

1. What are teachers' perceptions of their knowledge of federal education policy, specifically key elements of IDEA, ESEA, Common Core, and RT3? From what sources is that knowledge derived?

2. Is teacher perceived knowledge/consciousness of education policies related to teacher stress?

3. Is teacher perceived knowledge/consciousness of policies related to classroom instruction (goal structures)? Does stress have any mediating effects on the relationship between teacher perceived policy knowledge and classroom instruction?

4. What are teachers' perceptions about their ability to influence education policy? How does knowledge of education policy (or lack thereof) affect teachers' perceptions about their ability to influence education policy?

Utilizing mixed methods, in a sequential explanatory design, 264 teachers in two districts in a southeastern metropolitan area were surveyed. Following the survey, interviews were held collecting qualitative responses from 7 teachers.

Findings reveal consciousness of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top lead to performance oriented teaching, whereas Common Core and IDEA lead to mastery oriented teaching behaviors. Furthermore, while consciousness of policies does not affect stress level, one's belief in their ability to influence policy decreases stress as well as increased knowledge about education policy. Recommendations for increasing mastery oriented teaching are presented as well as suggestions for increasing policy knowledge.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Stressed Out---p.1

Chapter 2 Literature Review---p.5

Definitions: Educational Policy---p.5

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB)---p.5

Individual with Disabilities Education Act---p.6

Common Core State Standards Initiative---p.7

Race to the Top (RT3)---p.8

Theoretical Framework---p.8

Climate Change: Educational Policy and Teachers---p.11

Reigning Down from on High: The Hierarchy in US Education Policy---p.12

Dancing in the Reign: Teacher Power in a Top-Down Structure---p.17

Stuck in the Mud: Teachers Limited Autonomy Post Standards-Based Reform---p.20

Cloudy Days: Psychological Impact of Educational Policy on Teachers---p.22

Chapter 3 Methodology---p.28




Measuring Environmental Influences---p.31

Measuring Personal/Psychological Factors---p.32

Measuring Teacher Behaviors---p.34

Demographic/School Information---p.37

Data Collection---p.38


Interviews & Focus Group---p.39

Data Analysis---p.41

Instrument Validation---p.41

Quantitative Data Analysis Procedures---p.42

Qualitative Data Analysis Procedures---p.45

Data Integration---p.46

Chapter 4 What Teachers Know and Think About Education Policy---p.48

What Teachers Know---p.49

Where the Knowledge Comes From---p.57

Professional Development and Teacher Preparation---p.58

Hindrances to Policy Knowledge---p.60

Chapter 5 Policy, Stress, and Instruction---p.62

Teacher Stress---p.62

Undervalued as a Profession as a Source of Stress---p.64

Time Constraints and Excessive Workload as Sources of Stress---p.67

Lack of Resources as a Source of Stress---p.68

Lack of Support from Administration as a Source of Stress---p.69

Student Behavior as a Source of Stress---p.70

Policy and Stress---p.71

Policy and Instruction---p.75

Policy Influences My Teaching---p.77

Policy Doesn't Influence My Teaching---p.78

Teaching for Evaluation---p.80

Chapter 6 Policy Creation and Implementation from the Perspective of Teachers---p.82

Educational Policy Influence Efficacy: Micro and Overtly Political---p.83

Contributors to Educational Policy Influence Efficacy---p.87

No Role in Creation, Full Role in Implementation---p.89

Teachers' Views of Policy Makers---p.91

Disconnect & Distrust---p.-91

Ill Informed---p.92

Chapter 7 Rock Out or Stress Out---p.94

The Imperative for Increasing Policy Knowledge and Mastery Instruction---p.94

Psychometric Findings and Implications---p.102

We Need Teachers to Rock Out in the Classroom, Speak Out in the Boardroom---p.104


Appendix A---p.117

Appendix B---p.132

Figures, Tables, and Diagrams


Figure 2-1: Triadic Reciprocality---p.11

Figure 2-2: Technical and Moral View of Teachers---p.12

Figure 3-1: Social Cognitive Theory and SEM Model---p.43

Figure 3-2 Social Cognitive Theory and SEM Model with Control Variables---p.44

Figure 3-3 Social Cognitive Theory and SEM Model with Educational Policy Influence Efficacy ---p.45

Chart 4-1 Policy Knowledge and Consciousness Averages---p.50

Figure 5-1 Distribution of Stress---p.63

Figure 5-2 Stress Distribution of Interviewees---p.63

Figure 5-3: Sources of Teacher Stress---p.64


Table 3-1: Survey Instrument Scales---p.37

Table 3-2 Scale Validation---p.41

Table 3-3: Interviewees at a Glance---p.46

Table 4-1: Policy Knowledge Descriptive Statistics---p.51

Table 4-2 Paired Sample T-Test on Policy Knowledge---p.51

Table 4-3: Cohen's D Effect Sizes---p.51

Table 4-4 Ranked Sources of Policy Knowledge---p.58

Table 6-1: Correlations between EPIE and Demographics---p.88

Path Analysis Diagrams
Path Analysis 1: Policy, Stress, and Instruction---p.71
Path Analysis 2: Policy, Stress, Instruction & EPIE---p.84

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