35-Plus: The social studies department at Media Line High School, 1965–2007

Michael Edward Karpyn, University of Pennsylvania


Media Line High School, a comprehensive public high school in suburban Philadelphia, is the subject of an organizational history in the model of Duke (1995) and Johanek and Puckett (2007) designed to identify the changes in the school, its surrounding community, and the practice of public education that have carried the most impact on the daily of classroom teaching of its social studies department. This study is focused specifically on historical changes in teachers classroom responsibilities, as defined by Ingersoll (2003), changes in the organizational structure of the department, and the effect of the recent nationwide 'standards and accountability' movement on the classroom teachers in this department. Comprised, in part, of extensive historical data, this study documents many critical changes in the practice of public education, the community surrounding Media Line High School, and the organizational culture of the district itself. Utilizing, in part, Grant's (1984) model of "ethos" in public school systems, it is evident that the organizational culture of the Media Line School District, built in part on a widely recognized reputation of academic excellence and vast community support, changed greatly during the 1980s and 1990s, leading to a period of protracted community turmoil, administrative-level instability, significant changes in the district's organizational structure and the partial loss of district's reputation of academic excellence. In addition to examining the reasons behind the loss of community support for its public schools, this study also examines to what extent these events impacted daily instruction in social studies classrooms at Media Line High School. The historical data collected for this study is supported by qualitative data in the form of targeted interviews with 25 former and current members of the high school's social studies department. This data reveals some intriguing changes in the district's classrooms over the course of the study. The most direct influence of the district's community and administrative turmoil was a negative impact on the school climate and the morale of some the school's social studies faculty, due mostly to the perceived loss of classroom responsibilities and changes in the department organizational structure. The influence of the modern standards and accountability movement is mixed; the interview subjects acknowledge a cursory influence of standards and accountability measures, but consistently cite more influential variables that are unrelated to the movement, such as perceived changes in the school's student body and special education law, among others.

Subject Area

Education history|Secondary education|Social studies education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Karpyn, Michael Edward, "35-Plus: The social studies department at Media Line High School, 1965–2007" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310491.