The Tension Between Teacher Accountability and Flexibility: The Paradox of Standards-Based Reform

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


The anticipated constraints imposed by the accountability process associated with standards-based reform on teachers' practice suggest a tension between teachers' desire for flexibility and the accountability mandates associated with reform initiatives. In particular, we posited that the teachers would negatively perceive the influence of standards-based reform on their professional autonomy, opportunities for creative expression, classroom effectiveness, and work environment. To collect our data, we used the extant literature as a guide and developed a 41-item instrument, with items nearly evenly distributed along four subscales representing our four areas of interest. We recruited a sample of 70 preservice and 169 in-service teachers as participants. Our results revealed negative perceptions of the influence of standards-based reform on autonomy, creativity, and work environment and significant correlations (p < .01) for the composite scores for all four subscales. Our research failed to expose generational differences, but it did reveal significant differences in perceptions of effectiveness between preservice and in-service teachers (p < .05). The implications and directions for future study are discussed.

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