Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Christine D. Thomas

Second Advisor

Patrick Enderle

Third Advisor

Kathryn Kozaitis

Fourth Advisor

Gholnecsar Muhammad

Fifth Advisor

Pamela Seda


Overemphasis on high-stakes testing in mathematics, particularly in schools with economically disadvantaged students, has led to the formation of a culture of blame (Lau, 2009) and inconsistent instructional practices (Kitchen, Ridder, & Bolz, 2016). However, there are teachers who have been successful at ensuring deep mathematics learning takes place in spite of the demands of high-stakes testing instruction (Ladson-Billings, 2009; Leonard & Martin, 2013). The purpose of this study was to explore how high school mathematics teachers position themselves within the culture of blame that is manifested in the high-stakes testing environment. This qualitative holistic, multiple-case study was guided by the following research questions: In what ways do mathematics teachers position themselves within a culture of blame in ways that they can support student learning? The sub-questions that supported the overarching research question are: How do high school mathematics teachers position themselves within a culture of teacher blame and how does the culture of blame affect the creation and attainment of student learning goals? Data collection included surveys, a two-hour group interview of four participants, six, hour-long individual interviews, the collection of participant-provided artifacts, and artifacts collected from DuBois High Schools and Clinton County Public Schools. Positioning theory was used as the lens through which I examined the data. Findings suggest that teachers’ instructional decisions are highly influenced by high-stakes testing and that the culture of blame created by the overemphasis on test scores. Although the DuBois High School mathematics department fosters a community of care for their students, it is not enough to overcome the misalignment with the school administrators’ goals for their students.


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