Frameworks of State: Assessment Policy in Historical Perspective
by Christopher Mazzeo — 2001
This paper uses archival and secondary sources to examine the early history of state student assessment in the United States. While it is generally accepted that school evaluation and accountability are the raison d’ętre of assessment policy making in the United States, between 1865 and 1965 an accountability model for state testing failed to take hold, despite numerous attempts. Instead, state testing programs were used in this period for purposes of high school admissions and student guidance. In accounting for these policy developments, this paper argues that state assessment policies cannot be reduced to the intentions of policy makers or the response of those same governments to powerful interests. While both intentions and interests are important, the study focuses on a third level of analysis--ideas. Specifically, the paper stresses the role that institutionalized clusters of normative and causal ideas play in educational policy making. These idea structures, or policy frameworks, define the core principle or principles that animate state action, the legitimate aims served by intervention and the manner in which these ends are to be achieved. Three frameworks--examination, guidance, and accountability--play a prominent role in the history of assessment policy making in the United States.
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