Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Linda Brookhart, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan Korach

Fourth Advisor

Roger E. Salters


Background knowledge, Vocabulary, Curriculum narrowing, Integrated curriculum, No Child Left Behind, Social justice, Social studies


Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation made clear the need for increased accountability of U.S. public schools in 2002, there has been a trend toward narrowing curriculum in social studies and other core subjects to focus predominantly on what is tested through state exams. Concerns exist regarding the unintended consequences of curriculum narrowing on low, middle and high socioeconomic status (SES) students in public schools.

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) have been tracking the effects of NCLB since it took effect in 2002 and found that 71 percent of districts nationwide reported increasing instructional time for the tested subjects of reading, writing and math at the expense of other core subjects, especially social studies and science (Jennings, 2006). Though the intention of NCLB has been to raise achievement, the results are less than promising (NCES, 2009; CEP, 2008; NAEP, 2007).

This phenomenological study explores three teachers' perceptions of curriculum narrowing, how these changes are impacting teachers, and teachers' beliefs about their role and responsibilities in light of what is expected by districts in an era of increased accountability.

Findings include teachers' perceptions of lack of time as a major stressor to accomplish all that is required for raising achievement and to meet the standards with students. The district mandated focus of instruction was found to be on tested subjects of reading, writing, math and recently science, while social studies was found to be marginalized--not receiving adequate instruction time or resources. P.E. and music were also found to be narrowed, while art had increased over time.

A recurring theme was the stress experienced by teachers who are required to teach scripted curricula with the pressure to produce high achievement on state tests. Such curricula were not perceived to be meeting student needs or to be successful in raising student achievement in reading. Teachers thought teaching in integrated units would allow them to accomplish more instructional goals in the limited time they have with students. They also felt this approach made more sense for student learning of background knowledge and vocabulary essential to student academic success.

Teachers subjected to scripted curricula and evaluation based on high-stakes testing did not feel trusted and experienced a great deal of stress related to following district directives when they did not coincide with teacher beliefs regarding their role as teachers. They understood the need for scripted programming only to support new teachers in hopes of retaining them in the profession.

Overall, the greatest negative impact was found to be on the social studies which have lost importance in these schools. This marginalization left teachers feeling conflicted, as their stated goal of education was to educate students who would become good citizens.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Donna Kay Newberg-Long


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

210 p.


Elementary Education, Educational Administration, Curriculum Development