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This book examines the recent convergence of the courts' growing role in education and the standards-based reform movement, which is one of the most important forces in education policy today. This book argues that the courts have thus far addressed standards-based reform and related accountability policies in an ineffective and sometimes problematic fashion, but that there may be a more effective role for the courts to assume.

The courts have examine The courts have examined standards-based reform through a variety of legal frameworks, including those traditionally used in the context of high-stakes testing cases and school finance reform litigation, and in cases directly addressing the legality of No Child Left Behind. Relaying on insights from educational and legal research, this book examines and critiques the major areas in which courts have addressed standards-based reform and the ways in which the courts have employed these frameworks. This book specifically highlights how well the courts are positioned — given the law, their institutional characteristics, and standards-based reform policies themselves — to craft effective rulings in cases involving standards-based reforms.

Building on this analysis, this book outlines a broad approach that the courts could take to address standard-based reform policies more effectively in the future. Keywords: law , education , education policy , standards-based reform , accountability , testing , No Child Left Behind. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use for details see www.

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University Press Scholarship Online. Sign in. Not registered? Kentucky, for example, has four performance levels, with the second-highest representing the proficient level that the state expects all students to attain within 20 years. The proficient level is meant to indicate that a student understands the major concepts embodied in the state standards or "academic expectations," and that he or she can perform almost all of a task that requires application of those concepts and can communicate the concepts clearly. Other states, for example Delaware and Illinois, report assessment results in terms of the proportion of students who exceed state goals, who meet them, and who do not meet them.

In most states, the unit of accountability is the school, the individual student, or both. Assessment results are used as school accountability measures in 40 states, and in 27 of them results may have consequences for schools, including potential rewards in the form of additional funding and recognition or sanctions such as funding losses, probation, reduced autonomy, and loss of accreditation.

In all, 30 states have made students accountable: 18 require that they receive a passing score on a state assessment as a condition for high school graduation; 6 5 base student promotion decisions on the state assessment; and 12 use their assessment system to provide students with awards or recognition National Education Goals Panels, ; Bond et al. Despite the innovations in state assessments over the past decade, there is some indication that even these changes do not sufficiently address the expectations in federal policy or the requirement to include students with disabilities in state assessments.

Consistent with this lack of clear guidance,. Until recently, most of the assessments that states have used to test students for high school graduation measure their mastery of basic literacy and numeracy skills, with the tests often calibrated to measure the skill levels expected of eighth graders. However, some states, for example Maryland and New York, are now in the process of implementing high school graduation assessments tied to the state standards and requiring higher mastery levels of more complex skills. As this brief overview of state policies illustrates, the notion of standards-based reform is likely to have a wide range of meanings and to be implemented in very different ways across the 50 states.

As with most education policies, arguments in favor of standards reforms rest on a combination of value appeals, inferences derived from research, and lessons learned from the implementation of prior reform initiatives. The policy framework for standards-based reform is at once a straightforward and a complicated one. The major idea animating it is a simple belief that all students can meet high standards if those standards are clearly articulated and if teachers teach to them.

The tangible inducements for change are modest. Although the refocusing of Title I funds represents a sizable financial incentive for states and localities, the Goals funding represents only a small catalyst. With a few notable exceptions, for example Kentucky, most states have not accompanied their foray into standards-based reform with either significant new funding or a redirection of existing monies.

As a result, the capacity-building costs associated with a major new initiative, such as staff retraining and planning time, have been largely pushed down to local districts and schools. In some sense, the major incentive to buy into standards-based reform may not be the financial resources provided by higher levels of government, but rather the intangible one represented by a vision of teachers teaching to and students learning to common standards.

Behind that vision are a host of other values that include the quest for a new "common school," a belief that American students should be the equal of or better than those around the world, a hope that opportu-. As examples of the variation among states, two states Connecticut and Georgia require students with disabilities to take tests without accommodations; 41 states currently allow students with IEPs to be excluded from state assessments; and 39 permit some type of accommodations.

The most common adaptations permitted for students with disabilities are large print 34 states and braille or sign language 33 states Bond et al. Goertz and Friedman summarize the different ways that the content of state standards differs as one illustration of the extent of state variation. Some states have chosen to concentrate on a set of generic skills, such as listening actively, organizing information, and applying knowledge in new situations.

Other states emphasize student outcomes in specific disciplines, such as mathematics and language arts, whereas others have included both generic and disciplinary-specific outcomes in their standards. Still others have also included outcomes that are not strictly academic, such as physical fitness and a sense of personal competence. Any or all of these values may serve as a stronger incentive for standards-based change than the nominal resources that have been offered as incentives.

But the power of values to shape policy outcomes depends not on their veracity, but on how widely they are accepted by educators, parents, students, and the public. In addition to a call on shared values, standards-based reforms have also been justified by evidence from both research and practice. The empirical basis for assuming that a focus on content standards will improve student outcomes is an indirect one.

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Yet there is a widespread belief among standards advocates that this strategy is consistent with research documenting a relationship between student achievement and the types, content, and level of courses taken. In their view, some of the most compelling evidence about the link between achievement and curricular content comes from the Second International Mathematics Study SIMS , which documented national differences in the intensity of curricula and content coverage and its relationship to student achievement.

One finding that helped explain the poor showing of U. The U. Low-intensity coverage means that individual topics are treated in only a few class periods, and concepts and topics are quite fragmented McKnight et al. Research focused solely on U. These studies show a correlation between the number and level of mathematics courses taken and student achievement, even when background variables such as home and community environment and previous mathematics learning are taken into account Hoffer et al.

For advocates of content standards, the implication of this research is that a set of curricular standards that applies to all students will increase their opportunity to learn and hence their achievement. Although this evidence is suggestive, the inferences that can be drawn from it are limited by significant data constraints. With few exceptions, studies of content coverage are confined to samples of high school students; most of the research focuses on mathematics courses and primarily considers content coverage.

It does not focus on the type or quality of instruction or the effects of different curriculum requirements on students' achievement, and it does not look specifically at students with disabilities. Although analyses of the relationship between content coverage and student achievement are not yet available from the recently released Third International Mathematics and Science Study TIMSS , the initial findings indicate that the eighth grade mathematics curriculum in the United States is less focused that that of other countries.

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Department of Education, c. The argument that standards-based reform addresses the identified shortcomings of past education policies may be a stronger rationale than arguing that it is derived from research on student achievement. One of the primary reasons that Smith and O'Day and others advocate comprehensive or systemic reform, with curriculum standards at the core, is because they view it as a way to address a major disadvantage of the United States' decentralized approach to educational governance and policy making: "We argue that a fundamental barrier to developing and sustaining successful schools in the USA is the fragmented, complex, multi-layered educational policy system in which they are embedded….

Indeed, the fragmented policy system creates, exacerbates, and prevents the solution of the serious long-term problems in educational content, pedagogy, and support services that have become endemic to the system" p. Systemic reform, with its emphasis on curriculum standards, is portrayed as a solution that "seeks to combine the vitality and creativity of bottom-up change at the school site with an enabling and supportive structure at more centralized levels of the system" Smith and O'Day, From this perspective, standards are viewed as a way to avoid the dilemma of past top-down reform policies, which failed to reach far enough into the classroom to change the teaching and learning process, and bottom-up reforms, which had a limited impact because they never influenced more than a few schools or local districts at a time.

Even though standards-based reform was conceived as a way to compensate for the fragmented system that governs education in the United States, the institutional arrangements it espouses still reflect that fragmentation. All three levels of government are involved, with the federal government essentially serving as a "bully pulpit," exhorting states and localities to move in a new direction, states choosing to play roles that range from strict regulator of local behavior to cheer-leader for reform, and local communities responding to federal and state initiatives while still trying to maintain their own agendas.

But standards-based reform includes more than just the three levels of government. Its prominence on the national education policy agenda means that it has also involved the two political parties, major education interest groups such as the teacher unions, groups representing professional disciplines such as mathematics teachers, and organizations representing business interests such as the Business Roundtable.

For example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics framed and published voluntary national mathematics standards National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, The National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association for the Advancement of Science, developed materials and ideas that influenced the eventual development of voluntary national science standards by the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council, Both these efforts have served as models for standard setting at the state and local levels Lewis, ; McLaughlin and Shepard, Its reliance on new curricular approaches and forms of assessments has involved testing companies and textbook publishers.

Consequently, to talk about the institutional arrangements assumed in the standards-based policy framework is to pose a question about who has authority to define and implement standards and to ask whether consensus is possible among all these different interests. New forms of assessment are also seen as a solution to the shortcomings of past policies.

Largely in response to the growing state use of minimum competency tests for high school graduation, beginning in the s, a number of testing and measurement experts analyzed the problems associated with the policy uses of assessment e. Their critiques of traditional multiple-choice tests are now well known. They questioned the disjuncture between the actual curriculum in schools and what was being tested, the assessment's emphasis on basic skills at the expense of more challenging content, the lack of opportunity for some students to gain even the basic knowledge and skills needed to score well on these tests, and the corruption of the tests as valid and reliable measuring devices because of the strong sanctions keyed to their results.

Experts argued that tests whose results determined whether students graduated from high school or whether schools received extra resources would change school behavior and, in the process, the tests themselves would be altered as valid measures of student achievement.

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To a large extent, new forms of assessment were developed in response to the identified shortcomings of multiple-choice tests. In fact, if one looks at some of the recommendations coming from critics of traditional tests, one finds an almost direct correspondence between those recommendations and the goals of alternative assessments. For example, Haertel recommends that other kinds of learning outcomes be recognized, including ''not only better tests of critical thinking and higher order skills, but also ways to recognize students' exceptional individual accomplishments, from written works or science fair projects to artistic creations.

In contrast to analysts such as Smith and O'Day , who assume that systemic standards policies can overcome the effects of fragmentation, others such as Cohen argue that distinctive features of the U. He points out that our history of fragmented governance and contentious education politics creates many opportunities to oppose policies, a particular problem for standards-based reform in which political divisions are overlaid with cultural differences.

In other words, fragmented structures create a political climate that makes implementation of centralizing policies, especially those grounded in contested social values, very difficult. The idea that common standards will serve as a powerful catalyst for improved educational outcomes can work as intended only if a number of key assumptions are true.

In this section, we analyze five assumptions that undergird the standards policy framework. We consider available evidence as a basis for determining whether these assumptions are likely to prove valid as standards policies are implemented in a variety of forms across states and local communities. Unfortunately, we cannot determine at this point whether any of the standards movement's guiding assumptions are correct, nor can we say whether these policies will produce their expected effects.

Even early implementers, for example Kentucky and Maryland, have had their programs fully in place for less than five years, and, in the case of standards-based reform, the implementation process is longer than for most education policies. For example, Goertz and Friedman report that, in the 18 states they studied, the standards-setting process took between 2 and 4 years from the time that legislation was enacted to final approval of the standards.

Additional time was then needed for states to develop curriculum frameworks.


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Similarly, the initial development and subsequent modifications of new state assessments can also consume several years. Our analysis indicates that, unless the first four of the five assumptions discussed below are valid, standards-based reforms are likely to encounter serious implementation problems or perhaps even fail to achieve their purpose. The disparities in achievement among students of different demographic and socioeconomic groups represent one of the most significant problems in American education.

The concept of high standards for all is viewed as one solution to this problem Ravitch, The assumption is that, by clearly communicating the notion "all students can learn to high standards," teachers and students alike will understand what is expected of them and schools will move to equalize students' opportunities to learn. Consequently, the Goals legisla-. The difficulties associated with making premature judgments about the effects of standards-based reforms is illustrated by the case of Kentucky.

Department of Education notes in its recent report on Goals U. Department of Education, b that comprehensive reform in Kentucky is beginning to pay off, with the percentage of students in tested grades scoring at the proficient or distinguished levels having increased significantly between and However, a panel of testing experts who evaluated the Kentucky assessment concluded that, among other technical problems, errors in equating across assessments make year-to-year comparisons of test results of questionable validity Hambleton et al.

Nevertheless, moving from the rhetoric of "all children can learn" to everyday classroom practice poses serious political challenges—including the need to equalize instructional resources—as well as philosophical and logistical issues, such as balancing high, uniform standards with students' unique educational needs and abilities. The assumption that standards should and can apply to all students is of particular relevance to students with disabilities.

Unfortunately, the information available on how students with disabilities are being addressed in standards policies is minimal. One research project, currently under way, is using state and local case studies to examine the interaction between general and special education policies and their impact on students with disabilities Goertz and Friedman, Some information is also available from general studies of state systemic reforms e. In addition, the committee reviewed a small sample of state standards documents.

The picture that emerges from these limited and nonrepresentative sources is of states acknowledging their responsibility to include students with disabilities in standards-based reforms, but unsure of exactly what that means or how to accomplish it. Most of the state Goals plans that we reviewed specifically mention students with disabilities, and a number list special support services for these students, such as preschool programs.

Some states, for example Vermont, have changed the way they fund and regulate services for students with disabilities as a way of creating incentives for local schools to serve them in regular classrooms with appropriate instructional support systems, and to do so without labeling or classification.

States that are developing new forms of assessment are paying greater attention to ensuring that students with disabilities are included in assessments and that reasonable accommodations are provided. Kentucky and North Carolina are two states that have created strong incentives to minimize local exclusion of students with disabilities from the state assessment. For example, in North Carolina, schools must test 95 percent of the students eligible for state testing or face having "chance scores" added to their performance reports.

Those scores represent what a student would receive if he or she answered test questions at random. In Kentucky, only students with severe disabilities who do not follow the regular curriculum are included in an alternate portfolio assessment system, and the state estimates that only 1 percent of Kentucky students take this alternate test Schnaiberg, b.

In both states, the assumption is that, if local schools have to include students with disabilities in the state assessment, they will also include them in the curriculum on which they are tested. Implementing appropriate support services and creating incentives for including students with disabilities in the mainstream curriculum and assessment will continue to challenge states and local districts. But what seem to be an even. Part of the problem seems to stem from the historical divide between general and special education personnel.

Goertz and Friedman report: "based on our interviews with state special education directors and state directors of curriculum and instruction, it appears that special education has not played a major role in the development of either state content standards or specific curriculum frameworks in most states.

Rather, special education's involvement has generally been limited to a review of standards and curriculum documents prepared by other educators—if that. For example, in Missouri, state special education staff have developed sample instructional activities to illustrate how state performance standards can be applied to students with cognitive disabilities.

Leaders of interest groups representing students with disabilities, professional educators, and policy makers have also expressed uncertainty about the specifics of standards-based reform. At an October workshop sponsored by the committee as part of its information-gathering activities, groups that advocate on behalf of students with disabilities argued that standards-based reforms embody a potentially effective strategy for improving educational opportunities for the students they represent see Appendix B. Representatives from groups including the Council for Exceptional Children, the United Cerebral Palsy Association, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education argued that educators and the public often hold low expectations for students with disabilities; including them in standards-based reform would raise expectations and allow these students to accomplish more in school.

They also maintained that placing students with disabilities in a state's or local community's standards framework would require school systems to be more explicitly and publicly accountable for them. Those making workshop presentations on behalf of groups representing educators and policy makers, such as the National Education Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors' Association, concurred in the view that standards-based reform could serve as a vehicle for improving the educational opportunities of students with disabilities.

However, their clarity about the potential benefits of standards-based reform was not matched by equal precision about how the standards framework might be implemented for students with disabilities. Most presenters acknowledged that they and their constituents lack sufficient experience with the reform to suggest concrete strategies for how students with disabilities might effectively participate in curricular standards and the accompanying assessments.

There was general uncertainty about the extent to which standards would need to be individualized; whether this individualization should apply to the content standards or just to. Presenters from groups representing state and local policy makers also questioned whether special education policy has created a dual system that makes integrating students with disabilities into the common standards more difficult. The interest groups' lack of specificity about the relationship between special education and standards-based reform further illustrates a central fact about standards policies at this time: systematic efforts to determine whether state content standards are appropriate for all or most students with disabilities and to identify the conditions under which these students might be taught and assessed according to those standards are not yet an integral part of state policy frameworks.

Consequently, even with the limited data available, it seems reasonable to conclude that the assumption "all children can learn to high standards" has not yet been adequately defined in policy, much less implemented. Two recent surveys of Kentucky and Maryland teachers suggest that translating the call for high standards for all students into classroom practice will also require that teachers first be persuaded of the veracity of that claim.

The Kentucky teachers surveyed were evenly divided about whether or not they agreed with the tenet "all children can learn to a high level. However, very few 9 percent agreed that all students can reach the same high level of performance, with most teachers in the sample 90 percent saying that novice, the lowest performance level in the Kentucky system, is a high level for some students Koretz et al.

The results from the Maryland sample are essentially similar, except that a slightly higher proportion of teachers 21 percent felt that students could learn to the same high level Koretz et al. The effectiveness of a standards approach to school reform initially depends on a clear definition of exactly what is important for students to learn. The definitional process is likely to be both a technical, professional one—translating rhetorical goals into specific curricular objectives—and a political one, because a broad consensus on the standards is needed among policy makers, educators, parents, and the public.

Ravitch outlines the criteria that content standards should meet:. A content standard should be measurable, so that students can demonstrate their mastery of the skills or knowledge; if mastery of the standard is neither measurable nor demonstrable, then it is probably so vague that it has little meaning or. Content standards should be specific enough to be readily understood by teachers, parents, students, and others.

They should be clear enough so that teachers know what students are supposed to learn and can design lessons to help them learn what is expected. Once content standards are defined, then standards must be set for what constitutes inadequate, acceptable, and outstanding performance in demonstrating mastery.

The traditional approach to large-scale assessments in the United States requires that students' general knowledge be assessed across some broadly defined areas of achievement and their performance ranked and compared on numeric scales. In contrast, the new performance standards require that student performance be evaluated in relation to absolute standards Taylor, Promulgating clear and precise content standards depends on the ability of policy makers, educators, subject-matter experts, and the public to reach a consensus on what those standards ought to include.

Basically, the relevant community needs to agree on what constitutes the valuable knowledge that students should learn. However, the data on which to draw inferences about the degree of public and elite support for the concept of standards and for specific types of standards show a mixed picture.

An overwhelming majority of the American public supports having local schools conform to a set of national achievement goals and standards and requiring that standardized tests be used to measure student achievement on those standards Elam et al. A majority also sees raised standards as a way to encourage students, including ones from low-income backgrounds, to do better in school Elam and Rose, Similarly, based on the initial response to the mathematics standards, a sample of federal and state policy makers interviewed in thought that a broad-based consensus could be reached on curriculum standards McDonnell, A few acknowledged that agreement might be considerably more difficult to reach in subjects such as science, English literature, and social studies—some of whose content reflects geographic, ethnic, and ideological divisions in society.

A few observers have also raised the question of who has the right in a democracy to set educational standards. Sizer , for example, questioned whether subject-matter experts who are neither elected nor representative of the interests of all parents and citizens and who operate at a distance from most local communities should be the ones to decide what students should learn.

But most policy makers in the study agreed with a respondent who argued that "if we had a referendum on what topics should be included in standards, there would be agreement on content. People tend to overstate the disagreement. By , however, the belief that a consensus could be easily reached on curriculum standards had proven overly optimistic. The continuation of the California Learning Assessment System CLAS , widely touted as a model performance assessment, had been vetoed by the governor after strong opposition to the content and format of its language arts test.

The Courts and Standards-Based Education Reform

A small but vocal group of opponents. Other states, for example Pennsylvania, were experiencing serious opposition to efforts aimed at specifying a set of intended outcomes for students Ravitch, At the national level, the U. Senate, on a vote of 99 to 1, passed a resolution early in condemning voluntary national history standards that had been drafted by a group of subject-matter experts and classroom teachers Lewis, These controversies, along with public opinion data, suggest that consensus breaks down once the public moves beyond a general belief in the need for standards and assessments to questions about what those standards should be and how students should be taught and tested.

Groups representing religious conservatives have been the most visible opponents of recent curricular innovations and new forms of assessment, questioning their content and format McDonnell, But public opinion data indicate that some of the questions these groups are raising reflect broader public concerns. For example, recent surveys about the teaching of mathematics and writing point to fundamental differences between the curricular values of education reformers and large segments of the public.

These are reflected in differences of opinion about when students should be allowed to use calculators, the relative importance of grammar and spelling, and the value of teaching students in heterogeneous ability groups Johnson and Immerwahr, In admitting that reading instruction had swung too far in what had been considered the reform direction and that a balance now needs to be struck between traditional and whole-language methods California Department of Education, ; Jolley, , state education officials in California appeared to validate parental concerns that their children are not learning the building-block skills needed to read well and that "invented spelling" and a lack of knowledge of grammar rules will hinder their writing ability.

Those advocating standards-based reform can draw a number of inferences from public opinion data and case study research on state efforts to reach consen-. In a Public Agenda survey conducted in August , 86 percent of the respondents in a national sample said that students should learn to do arithmetic "by hand"—including memorizing multiplication tables—before starting to use calculators. This opinion contrasts with 82 percent of mathematics educators responding to an earlier survey who said that "early use of calculators will improve children's problem-solving skills and not prevent the learning of arithmetic" Johnson and Immerwahr, Sixty percent of those in the Public Agenda sample rejected the educational strategy that encourages students to write creatively without a prior concentration on spelling and grammar.

Instead, most respondents endorsed the idea that "unless they are taught rules from the beginning, they will never be good writers" p. Similarly, the Public Agenda poll found that "only 34 percent of Americans think mixing students of different achievement levels together in classes—'heterogeneous grouping'—will help increase student learning. People remain skeptical about this strategy even when presented with arguments in favor of it" p.

Some conclusions relate to the importance of state political leadership that is strong in its support of standards-based reform, yet flexible enough to make needed modifications as technical and political problems arise. First, consensus about the specific content of standards and assessment is proving much more difficult to reach than reform advocates had initially assumed.

Moving from a widespread belief in the idea of standards to the detail of what should be taught and tested is a challenging task, not only because it touches on deeply held religious, cultural, and political values, but also because it tests competing beliefs about what the purpose of education should be.

The prominent role of societal values in reaching a consensus leads to the second inference: the development of new curriculum standards and assessments is likely to encounter problems if it is solely a technical process with participation limited to experts. The contrasting experiences of Vermont, with its more open, participatory approach to standards development, and California, where curriculum and assessment design was confined to teachers and other experts, suggest how critical the nature of the standards development process is to whether or not the consensus assumed in standards-based reform can be reached Goertz et al.

If students are to be held to a certain performance level on a set of curriculum standards, then they have to be assessed in a way that is cost-efficient and comparable across large numbers of students. Historically, these two criteria have led states and local districts to rely on standardized, multiple-choice tests because they offer a variety of practical and measurement advantages. They can be administered and scored at relatively little cost in time and money. They eliminate subjectivity of scoring—a concern that initially contributed to their development and popularity. Because of the short time required to administer each item, these tests can be sufficiently long to be acceptably reliable and to cover a wide range of content.

The validity of inferences based on many of these tests was bolstered by attention to content coverage, the performance of individual items e. Now, although policy makers and testing experts disagree about the difficulty of designing assessments that measure more rigorous curriculum standards, they do agree that traditional multiple-choice tests alone are inadequate McDonnell, ; Taylor, California and Kentucky represent contrasting cases.

Both states faced political opposition to their assessment programs, but Kentucky was able to maintain its program, whereas California's was discontinued. One of the major factors explaining these different outcomes was the response of state political leaders to the controversy.

For a comparative analysis of the politics of testing in the two states, see McDonnell, But the move to alternative forms of testing that are based on a precise set of standards and parallel real-world tasks presents a number of technical challenges, which are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 5. As a result, unless the testing time is greatly increased, it is difficult to test the entire domain of what students are expected to know Linn, Furthermore, alternative assessments cannot be machine-scored in the way that multiple-choice tests are.

As a result, cost and reliability become more of a challenge as expert scorers must be trained and monitored to apply the same set of scoring rubrics across thousands of individual assessments. Although acknowledging these technical challenges, policy makers have continued to believe that they can be overcome. Officials in a number of states have chosen to move ahead before public and media attention shift and the opportunity for significant change is lost McDonnell, The metaphor governing assessment design in the most innovative states has been "building the airplane while we fly it.

Curriculum reformers and their allies in the policy community assume that content standards, coupled with the appropriate assessments, will change classroom instruction. Although the accountability purposes of student testing remain prominent, assessments are also now intended to serve as powerful forces for curricular change. Despite this strong expectation that classroom teaching consistent with standards and assessment policies will occur, reform advocates also assume that content standards will serve only as a general guide to instruction, and that teachers will use their professional judgment in customizing the standards to their individual classrooms.

Yet some of the content represented in the new standards differs significantly from what is traditionally covered in most courses. In addition, as Chapter 4 explains, many of these standards embody assumptions about pedagogy as well as content, and many of the accompanying assessments are geared toward instruction that emphasizes student writing, learning by discovery, and collaborative student work.

However, schooling in the United States has traditionally been characterized by teacher-directed instruction that relies on only a few strategies such as teacher lecture, boardwork, and students working individually on assignments e. Despite this persistent and enduring pattern of instruction, the standards movement assumes that teachers will accept. Chapter 5 also analyzes the assumption of the standards policy framework that performance on content standards can be measured reliably and validly, with particular attention to its implications for students with disabilities.

Because most studies of the impact of the standards movement on classroom teaching are still ongoing, we do not yet know whether standards-based reform can be successfully implemented in the way that its proponents assume. However, several studies provide insight into two of the major challenges involved. The first is translating curriculum standards into classroom practice. For example, teachers in California and Kentucky have found themselves in somewhat of a bind.

On one hand, state officials formulated curriculum and performance standards on which students will be assessed. On the other hand, they have avoided specifying too detailed or prescriptive a curriculum in order to defer to teachers' professional judgments about how best to customize instruction to their own students. Although teachers may appreciate having their professional statu status acknowledged, this strategy has often left them with little direction.

Further complicating the problem is that instructional materials reflecting the new standards are not yet widely available, and teachers have been left to patch together ne materials from a variety of different sources. A second problem is that the new curriculum standards expect teachers to teach very different content from that of the past and to teach it in fundamentally different ways. As Cohen and Peterson ask in their study of the implementation of the California mathematics frameworks, "How can teachers teach a mathematics that they never learned in ways they never experienced? However, classroom observations indicated that teaching innovations were often filtered through a very traditional approach o instruction, so that the new curriculum was used "in a way that conveyed a sense of mathematics as a fixed body of right answers, rather than as a field of inquiry in which people figure out quantitative relations" p.

Although most studies of the effect of new standards and assessments on classroom teaching and learning are still limited, the few available do suggest that teachers are making changes, but that those changes are not yet as deep or extensive as reformers expect. In their study of the implementation of mathematics and science reforms in nine local districts in Michigan, Spillane and his colleagues also found that, at the district level, officials responsible for promoting curriculum innovations used terms common to the reform movement e.

The researchers noted: "A troubling issue here is that many local educators believed they understood and were pressing for the enactment of ideas about mathematics and science education that were analogous with those advanced by AAAS, NCTM, and others…. The reform rhetoric of local educators, then, masks significant variability across and within school districts. It can easily deceive policy analysts and researchers, especially those who fail to dig beneath the surface of labels, leading them to make inflated judgments about the success of recent reform efforts" p.

Surveys of educators in two states implementing standards-based reforms indicate that, although teachers express reservations about some aspects of standards and assessment policies, the majority support the reform concept and report that these policies have changed their instruction. In their statewide survey of Maryland principals and teachers in two of the three grades in which the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program MSPAP is administered, Koretz and his colleagues a found that 81 percent of the principals believe it has been a useful tool for encouraging positive change among teachers resistant to modifying their instruction.

The overwhelming majority of fifth-grade teachers 83 percent and eighth-grade mathematics teachers 63 percent in the sample reported that MSPAP has had positive effects on instruction in their schools; about half believe that it has caused some teachers who are resistant to change to alter their instruction. A total of 55 percent of the fifth-grade teachers and 33 percent of the eighth-grade mathematics teachers reported focusing ''a great deal" on improving the consistency between their instructional content and the MSPAP Other examples of reported changes in instruction include more instructional time devoted to writing by the fifth-grade teachers, with a greater proportion of that time spent on writing for a variety of purposes, analysis of text, and literary comprehension and less emphasis on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

The eighth-grade teachers reported an increased emphasis on data analysis, communication of mathematical ideas, and problem solving, with decreased attention to computation and algorithms. The second study surveyed Kentucky principals and teachers from two of the grade levels tested by the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System—KIRIS fourth-grade and eighth-grade mathematics , and it presents a similar picture of educators' responses.

Koretz and his colleagues b found that close to 90 percent of the Kentucky teachers reported focusing "a moderate amount" or "a great deal" of attention on improving the match between the content of their instruction and what is tested on KIRIS. The specific curricular changes that they reported parallel those of the Maryland teachers—e. About 50 percent of the respondents reported that ASAP has had little or no effect on their teaching, and only 30 percent agreed with the statement that "as a result of ASAP, major changes in curriculum have been made at this school" M.

Smith, There may be a number of reasons for the differences between the Maryland and Kentucky findings and the Arizona results which were also confirmed by multiyear, comparative case studies of four schools. Possible reasons relate to the broader scope of the Maryland and Kentucky reforms and to the "virtually nonexistent" investment in teacher capacity-building by Arizona M.


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However, the strongest explanation for the differences may be that Arizona suspended ASAP after only two years of administration. As of , the state had not issued new standards and the legislature had mandated the return to an assessment system of standardized, norm-referenced tests in grades 3— But as a number of researchers have found e. These classroom studies, however, are typically based on either observational data or a content analysis of class assignments collected from a small sample of teachers.

Consequently, they are less generalizable than teacher surveys based on state-representative samples, but they can enhance our understanding of the lag between teachers' acceptance of the language of reform and translation of it into instructional practice. A recent content analysis of approximately 35 classroom assignments from each of 24 teachers in Kentucky and 24 in North Carolina illustrates the type of responses to standards-based reform that can be expected from teachers in the first few years of implementation. McDonnell and Choisser found that teachers' assignments are reasonably consistent with state standards in the types of classroom activities they use, but not in the concepts they stress.

In their assignments and classroom activities, teachers are using some strategies associated with standards reforms, such as encouraging active student participation and inquiry through group work, but they are also relying in equal measure on more traditional activities, such as whole-class instruction and review. In both state samples, teachers have combined the old and the new, adding those aspects of reform that make sense to them, while still relying on the traditional strategies with which they are most comfortable and that they believe have been effective in the past.

Teachers' willingness to use instructional strategies consistent with standards-based reform is not matched by equal attention to the concepts embodied in the two states' standards. For example, the Kentucky teachers included in only a few of their assignments the state learning goals that stress thinking critically, developing solutions to complex problems, and organizing information to understand concepts. Similarly, low-end content standards such as understanding computational procedures and reading comprehension were more likely to be reflected in assignments than complex standards such as understanding space and dimensionality and using reference tools appropriately.

Teachers were also asked to select from among their assignments those that they consider to be most similar to the state assessments in purpose and format. Only 32 percent of the North Carolina "most similar" assignments and 53 percent of the Kentucky ones were judged by coders to be similar. Teachers' misjudgment about the similarity of their assignments typically stemmed from their not recognizing the full complexity of the skills being measured on the state assessment.

For example, a North Carolina seventh grade mathematics teacher submitted assignments that she thought most closely approximately the state assessment. They required students to make basic mathematical computations, with no effort to gauge whether they understood underlying concepts, the solution process, or how they might apply the algorithms in unfamiliar situations. Although past research on the implementation of curricular reforms would suggest that these findings are not surprising, it should be noted that, in some sense, Kentucky may be a best possible case.

Even this substantial resource commitment has been insufficient. In eight focus groups of teachers conducted around the state by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory , teachers reported that training opportunities for curriculum development and alignment are limited and the quality mixed.

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They also indicated that they were uncomfortable developing curriculum at the local level and aligning it with the state standards because they were accustomed to its being done by textbooks. In addition, the teachers in the focus groups reported needing much greater guidance about how to apply the state's academic expectations to specific grade levels.

Whether the type of instruction that reformers advocate can actually be implemented in most classrooms remains unknown at this time. However, before any significant progress can be made, investments in capacity-building will need t be increased substantially. Standards-based reform is often viewed as one element of what has come to be known as systemic reform Smith and O'Day, This strategy advocates a unifying vision based on educational goals that are consistent at the national, state, and local levels, as well as a coherent system of state policy guidance based on a set of curriculum standards that inform related policies dealing with teacher training and licensure, curricular materials, and student assessment.

In addition, systemic reform also assumes that governance changes will simultaneously promote clearer state guidance and support along with greater school-site autonomy, thus giving teachers more of a role in deciding how best to tailor the curriculum to individual student needs. This study also found that the instructional responses of the Kentucky and North Carolina teachers were very similar, despite the fact that the North Carolina assessment is more traditional in its format and has few consequences, whereas KIRIS is a more innovative, high-stakes assessment.

Goals strongly encourages a systemic approach to reform in legislative language detailing what should be included in state improvement plans. States are encouraged to describe the process they will use to align curricular materials with state content standards, provide professional development to teachers, ensure that decisions about meeting content standards are made closest to individual learners, encourage parental participation, and increase student access to needed social services. Although a number of states have adopted some of the individual elements included in systemic reform, only one, Kentucky, has implemented a comprehensive policy that includes all the major components.

We leave this examination of the standards policy framework with many unanswered questions. It is clear that standards-based reform is still viewed by many—including national and state political leaders, influential groups such as The Business Roundtable, and the public—as a promising strategy for effecting improved student achievement. However, standards-based reform poses serious challenges for which there are no obvious or easy solutions.

It attempts to influence teaching and learning, even though research has demonstrated the limited ability of top-down policy to change classroom practice. In addition, standards-based reform seeks to minimize direct regulation by giving teachers and other education professionals discretion in how they translate curriculum standards into practice.

Yet with its strong emphasis on both accountability and a particular instructional approach, standards-based reform expects teachers to produce better results from their teaching, often with little guidance about how to surmount the practical difficulties associated with such a transformation.

Standards-based reform also rests on a set of assumptions that have not yet been proven true in practice, and the political and technical challenges facing implementers are formidable. None is perhaps more demanding than demonstrating that all children can indeed learn to high standards. The comprehensiveness of the Kentucky reforms stems from a set of circumstances unique in American history.

In , in response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's school finance system, the Kentucky supreme court ruled not only that the finance system was unconstitutional, but also that the entire state school system was unconstitutional. The court ordered the legislature to redesign Kentucky's education system in its entirety.

The law made a number of sweeping changes that range from how the duties of local school boards are defined to how teachers are licensed and what is taught in classrooms. It required that elementary schools teach younger children in "ungraded primaries" that combine students from kindergarten through third grade in the same classrooms; it mandated that each school establish a site council to govern its curricular, personnel, and budgetary decisions; and it created a network of family service and youth service centers located at or near schools with large concentrations of poor students.

For students with disabilities, one obvious question is whether the special education policies that have been designed to ensure an appropriate education can aid in integrating these students into a standards-based curriculum. We turn to that question now by examining the special education policy framework and its implications for the standards movement. In doing so, we compare federal and state laws that start with premises different from most standards policies.