A tale of two city schools: Leaders' perceptions of change in a high-stakes testing environment

Jill A Proulx, University of Rhode Island


This study focused on two urban, Massachusetts high schools and the question of how the practices of school leaders related to the level of performance. Specifically, it attempted to provide specifics as to perceptions educational leaders held with regards to high-stakes environments and how they responded to state mandates. The study examined how leaders in both schools define successful reform, perceive high-stakes testing, perceive a need to raise student achievement, and implement reforms in response to high-stakes testing. For the purpose of this study, a leader was defined as anyone within the school system who has the power/ability to facilitate, implement, or lead change. The study combined qualitative interview data and survey methodology to examine differing perceptions and to identify the factors most strongly associated with different levels of reform success The findings from the scales, surveys, and interview data suggest that in a state with high-stakes testing, successful reform was defined by strategies that get “results,”— i.e. achievement on the high-stakes exam. Results help schools measure their progress and also appear to influence teacher support. The findings also show that success in a high-stakes environment is predicated on setting high standards for all students and being consistently aware of student achievement, which includes monitoring and guiding those students who struggle.

Subject Area

Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Jill A Proulx, "A tale of two city schools: Leaders' perceptions of change in a high-stakes testing environment" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3449956.