Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Heather Schugar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pauline Schmidt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Merry Staulters, Ph.D.


States administer standardized tests such as the PSSAs to students each year to assess student mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Many argued the CCSS and close reading are reincarnations of new criticism (Tampio, 2018), but CCSS creators did not cite empirical research showing students approached literary analysis through close reading or new criticism (Dewitz & Graves, 2021; Hinchman & Moore, 2013). In opposition of new criticism, Rosenblatt (1978) argued for transactional reading with her reader response theory. In order to examine how students make meaning of texts, this study used a simultaneous mixed-methods QUAL-QUAL design (Morse, 2010) to examine the research question, How does the literary analysis approach of eighth-grade students compare to the reading paradigm utilized on the (PSSA)? The first qualitative component was a document analysis of PSSA released items from 2015, 2021, and 2022 to examine the question, What reading paradigm do the text-dependent analysis questions align with on the eighth-grade PSSA? The second qualitative component was a case study of nine eighth-grade students attending a suburban middle school reading and responding to texts from the 2021 PSSA released items to examine the question, How do eighth-grade students in a Pennsylvania middle school approach literary analysis? I concluded the PSSA text dependent analysis questions do not directly align with new criticism but approach analysis as task driven and text-based, while students begin their analysis with concrete text references but later shift to transactional analysis.