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High-Stakes Accountability in Urban Elementary Schools: Challenging or Reproducing Inequality?


by John B. Diamond & James Spillane — 2004

In this article 1 , the authors use data from interviews and observations in four urban elementary schoolstwo high-performing and two probation schoolsto examine how schools respond to high-stakes accountability policies. The authors show that school responses to high-stakes accountability depend on the schools' accountability status. In probation schools, responses focus narrowly on complying with policy demands, focusing on improving the performance of certain students, within benchmark grades, and in certain subject areas. In contrast, higher performing schools emphasize enhancing the performance of all students regardless of grade level and across all subject areas. Given the concentration of poor students and students of color in the lowest performing schools, the authors conclude that issues of educational equity need to be given greater consideration in the implementation of high stakes accountability policies.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 6, 2004, p. 1145-1176
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11569, Date Accessed: 12/14/2017 5:07:30 AM

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About the Author
  • John Diamond
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    JOHN B. DIAMOND is an assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee where he teaches in the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies. His fields of interest include the sociology of education; stratification; race and class stratification; parent involvement; and leadership and organizational change. He served as research director of the Distributed Leadership Project (http://www.letus.org/dls), a program of research investigating the practice of school leadership in urban elementary schools, from 1999–2002. Recent publications can be found in Sociology of Education, Education Researcher, The Journal of Curriculum Studies, Educational Policy, Anthropology and Education Quarterly ,and The Berkeley Journal of Sociology.
  • James Spillane
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    JAMES P. SPILLANE is associate professor of education and social policy, and a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, where he teaches in both the Learning Sciences, and Human Development and Social Policy graduate programs. His research explores the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school, and classroom levels, focusing on intergovernmental relations and policy-practice relations. Spillane is principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership Project (http://www.letus.org/dls), a program of research investigating the practice of school leadership in urban elementary schools. He is associate editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Recent publications can be found in Cognition and Instruction, Education Researcher, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, and Sociology of Education.
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