Martin, A.E., Fisher-Ari, T.R., Kavanagh, K.M.
“Our Schools Turned Into Literal Police States.”: Disciplinary Power and Novice Teachers Enduring a Cheating Scandal
(2020) Educational Studies – AESA, 56 (3), pp. 306-329.
The voices of teachers experiencing and reacting to highly-publicized testing scandals are rarely heard, despite high-levels of criticism and blame from many stakeholders. Drawing on Foucault’s conception of disciplinary power (hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and examination) (1975/1995), we analyzed 5,897 written reflections from 38 novice teachers working in 26 different elementary schools in an urban school district as teachers wrote about their experiences of teaching during a high-profile, high-stakes standardized test cheating scandal. Reflections depicted chronic manifestations of student and teacher stress and pressure, rigid testing procedures, mandated fear-based training, miscommunications, disrupted routines, developmentally inappropriate practices, and surveillance. These findings complicate dominant narratives about the cheating scandal and call all stakeholders to disrupt current discourses of accountability in order to recreate schools as liberatory and ethical spaces. In an era where accountability policies claim to work toward the goals of equal education for all and social justice, the effects of said policies must be critically examined by policymakers at all levels.