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13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: Politics, Policy, and Power of Technology in No Child Left Behind
Barnett, Jeanene Yocham
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The objective of this research is to uncover what underlying values and assumptions about technology drive recent federal legislation, how education policy constitutes technology, and what effects such policies have on schools. The recent implementation of No Child Left Behind with its beginning affects on schools necessitates such a theoretical study as it has unleashed cascading forces upon U.S. schools. This Act has the potential to change, and, in some cases, is already changing, pedagogy, student assessment, classroom organization, local control, and teacher training, among other education practices and issues. To be able to study the ensuing consequences requires a thorough analysis of the law's theoretical biases, a necessary underpinning for empirical studies. This first step, a theoretical analysis, will then serve as groundwork for future exploration and study of state, school, and individual student responses to the mandates of NCLB. Using Bowe and Ball with Gold's (1992) framework for analyzing policy as discourse played out within the "context of influence," this study sets up a qualitative discourse analysis, using hermeneutics to broaden the complexity of corresponding terms. Not seeing the values and assumptions embedded in the language of reform narrows the discussion about and implementation of education. Findings and Conclusions: This discourse analysis of No Child Left Behind (2001) does not provide any conclusive answers, but it does enable the exploration of the ontological and epistemological assumptions that lie behind policy decision making. Discourse analysis provides a methodological and analytical tool that redirects the focus from prediction, efficiency, and control to complexity and chaos. This study does not provide definitive answers to educational problems but is designed to generate dialogue about the complexities of policy and change and to promote greater awareness of policy as discourse among those involved in policy creation and implementation. While such textual analysis does not include the actions that create consequences in local schools, it does provide the necessary analytic and theoretical foundation upon which to base such an investigation.
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