Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Craig Douglas


Educator evaluation, student growth data, teacher collaboration, high stakes individual accountability, phenomenological study


With the national focus in education turning to increasing student achievement and closing achievement gaps between demographic groups, federal and state policy has extended responsibility and high stakes accountability for student growth and achievement. Overall, student achievement status and elimination of achievement gaps between demographically defined sub-groups of students remain cornerstones of accountability under ESEA and now ESSA. Under the Obama Administration, however, accountability for academic growth was extended to individual classroom teachers and school and district-level administrators through federal policy provisions tying student growth to performance evaluation. As a result, many states, including Michigan, enacted legislation to mandate high stakes teacher and administrator evaluation be connected to student achievement. With statutory changes to the Michigan School Code enacted July 2011, Michigan came on board with performance ratings tied to student growth with implications for contract renewal, layoff, recall, and even compensation.

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine how teachers responded to the shift to a high stakes individual accountability system and how they are making sense of the changes related to their individual professional practices and collegial collaborative practices. Specifically, I examined how teachers are experiencing the implementation of the legislated evaluation requirements in two areas: (1) influences on individual practice as a classroom teacher; and (2) impact on collegiality and collaboration with peers. I also explored how the teachers who participated in this study think about and take personal meaning from their experiences with the accountability measures embedded in the statutory provisions for teacher performance reviews, as well as the implications of those reviews for job security and compensation related to the student growth component required in the evaluation legislation.

This phenomenological study included 14 practicing teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Participants responded to a criterion-based recruitment from a large pool of teachers in eastern mid-Michigan and participated in an online interview experience. Through an extensive, multi-layered, and recursive data analysis method utilizing open-coding and emergent analysis processes, I discovered and gave voice to four themes from the study participants: (a) teachers adjusted to a rubric system for performance evaluation purposes, (b) teachers adapted their professional practices following the implementation the high stakes accountability evaluations, (c) teachers discovered changes in their collaborative practices, and (d) teachers developed specific views on the inclusion of growth data in the performance evaluation system.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access