Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
The purpose of this study is to describe changes that led to the revision of the Grade Four Literacy Test in Jamaica from a classroom-based assessment to a national high-stakes examination in 2009. Educators and researchers in Jamaica have observed and examined the less-than-desired student performance in English literacy exams over several decades. My research continues the tradition and adds to the investigation of literacy challenges in Jamaica. The overarching research question for this study was to understand how the Grade Four Literacy Test, originally a classroom-based assessment for a decade, became a national high-stakes exam in 2009? I used Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as the main theoretical and methodological framework while analyzing key education government documents and newspaper articles related to the Grade Four Literacy Test. Using qualitative case study methods, I conducted classroom observations and interviews at two public elementary schools located in inner-city settings. Using CDA, I traced the changing discourse within four education policy documents and newspaper articles that promoted a test-taking accountability agenda during the revision of the literacy test. School observations and interviews enabled me to observe how faculty and administrators responded to the amended literacy test. Through interviews with key research participants I examined stakeholders' assumptions regarding literacy identity. One of the implications of this study is the importance of enhanced teacher training in comprehension and bilingual strategies, and effective use of classroom-based literacy assessments within the Jamaican language context. Future research might focus on efforts to ensure that students who eventually pass supplementary literacy tests are assisted in moving beyond learning to read to a position where they are reading to learn key content needed to succeed within the academic setting of school.
Copyright 2010 Yewande Eleene Lewis