Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Second Advisor

Anne DiPardo

Third Advisor

Kris Gutierrez

Fourth Advisor

Susan Jurow

Fifth Advisor

Bianca Williams


This dissertation addresses questions about the impact and consequences of current school reforms by examining how mandated packaged reading programs contribute to a commodification of knowledge that is changing conceptualizations of literacy, teaching, and learning. Grounded in cultural-historical theories of literacy and learning, this work draws also on inter-disciplinary theories of race, language, and power in order to empirically examine how mandated reading curricula shape teaching and learning. This classroom-based, qualitative study is important as few studies have closely examined how market-driven reforms that purport to bolster teacher effectiveness and provide greater support to students of color and those from economically struggling families actually function for children and teachers in classrooms. My analysis provides evidence that mandated reading curricula, teachers, and students are inextricably linked in an all-encompassing web of reform. I argue that the defining feature of this web is a narrow notion of “proficiency” that is infused into all aspects of literacy teaching and learning from the macro levels of federal, state, and district policy to the micro level of classroom interactions. To support this argument, I marshal evidence to illustrate how ideas and assumptions surrounding “reading proficiency” matter in the everyday teaching and learning lives of teachers and students. This study contributes to critical literacy studies of classroom practice, policy analysis that speaks within and beyond the literacy studies field, and investigations into the complex relationship between teaching and learning pointing to the need for teacher education that prepares novice teachers to successfully navigate the current climate of schooling in ways that connect with, rather than detract from, a focus on deep literacy learning.