Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Wenfan Yan

Second Advisor

Francine Menashy

Third Advisor

Patricia Paugh


The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe urban public high school social studies teachers’ perceptions of social studies curriculum narrowing and its influence on their professional identity within the context of Massachusetts’ school accountability policies. This study gave nuance to larger quantitative studies by allowing policy and school leaders to hear directly from teachers who mediate the influence of accountability policies on students. It examined these questions: What were public school teachers’ understandings of the influence of testing pressure in their school? What were high school teachers’ experiences with social studies curriculum narrowing? How did teachers perceive their own professional identity in the context of accountability pressure? Earlier research indicated that social studies curriculum narrowing influenced high school teachers through reduced time and emphasis on social studies, shifts in how social studies was taught, and de-valuing of social studies teachers’ professional identity.

This was important because high school social studies education was where students learn the knowledge, skills, and mindsets to become engaged, democratic citizens and global economic leaders. If urban students were not learning these necessary skills and knowledge then these communities maybe more likely to continue to be marginalized in the future. My theoretical framework drew on the theories of neoliberalism and hidden curriculum to understand the context this curriculum narrowing occurred in. I also used theories of teacher identity to understand teachers’ professional identities. High school social studies teachers were in a unique position to describe the influence of secondary social studies curriculum narrowing in the context of accountability systems. This study used a phenomenological approach to collect and analyze teachers’ accounts of how curriculum narrowing affected their autonomy as professionals and the opportunities urban students have to be prepared to be democratic citizens.