Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


Language & Literacy

First Advisor

Susi Long

Second Advisor

Gloria S Boutte


This three-month qualitative study examined discourse in and around literacy assessment in one second grade classroom to better understand issues of power, privilege and equity. Situated in the southeastern region of the United States, the research site was located in an elementary school with a student population that included 35% Latino/a, 32% European American, 27% African American and 7% Asian and Native American students. The study's focus on equitable literacy assessment was important because (a) literacy learning is foundational to academic success in all other content areas (Calkins, 1997, 2001; Holdaway, 1979; Smith, 1997), (b) literacy assessment results are primary determiners of how students are grouped, tracked, labeled, and taught (Bigelow, 1994; Oakes, 1985/2005), (c) literacy competencies influence other ways of knowing and being in the world (Lindfors, 1999; Rogoff, 2003), and (d) much of current literacy assessment marginalizes children of color, children whose home language is other than English to include Latino and African American (Gay, 2000; Samway & McKeon, 2007).

A history of inequity in literacy assessment and instruction perpetuates a status quo in which children of color, children living in poverty and children whose home language is other than English continue to be assessed in ways that ignore their knowledge, language and other competencies (Basterra, 2011; Ladson-Billings, 2005; Oakes, 2005). As a result, teachers develop incomplete and inaccurate understandings about children's knowledge, leading to inequitable instructional practices and limited opportunities for learning, and schools continue to fail the same children (Freire, 2001; Kincheloe, 2008; Nieto, 1999; Based on

analysis of data collected through observations in the classroom and in grade level faculty meetings; faculty and student interviews; and teacher-researcher reflections, findings of the study show that (a) the language in and around assessments in this classroom was culturally incongruent with that of students of color and English language learners in the same classroom; (b) whether through the scripted program required for use by the district or the teacher's planned balanced literacy component of the day, the language and culture of the dominant European American, English-speaking, Christian students were privileged over other cultural groups; (c) while autonomy was provided which would allow for culturally relevant pedagogies, the lack of teacher opportunity to learn about such practices meant that classroom instruction reflected only dominant culture norms; and (d) contradictions existed between the policies about equitable education and the practices which ignored the home languages and cultures of children of color and English language learners. Implications explore areas of professional development for administrators, teachers and teacher educators in the area of culturally relevant assessment and instruction and imply further research in the development and efficacy of equitable literacy assessment for students of color and students who are English language learners.