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Assessment Policy and Political Spectacle

by Mary Lee Smith, Walter Heinecke & Audrey J. Noble - 1999

This paper relates the history of assessment policy in Arizona based on an extensive base of interview, observation, and archival data. In less than a decade, two radical shifts took place, from basic skills and standardized testing to progressive reform by performance testing to high-stakes standardized testing based on state standards. We argue that the shape of assessment policy and policy change had more to do with political spectacle (Edelman 1988) and the struggle for power, position, resources, and the control over public schools than with empirical or rational analysis, moral imperative or democratic debate.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 101 Number 2, 1999, p. 157-191
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10483, Date Accessed: 9/24/2021 2:19:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Mary Smith
    Arizona State University
    Mary Lee Smith is professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education at Arizona State University. Her research interests include the effects of state-mandated measurement-driven reform on schools. Among her publications are Analysis of Quantitative and Qualitative Data (Handbook of Educational Psychology).
  • Walter Heinecke
    University of Virginia
    Walter Heinecke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Foundations and Policy in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. His research interests include the impact of policy on practice in education. He has conducted research on the impacts of standardized testing on elementary school instruction, desegregation, educational technology and school reform policy. He is co-editor of Advances in Research on Educational Technology.
  • Audrey Noble
    University of Deleware
    Audrey J. Noble is the Director of the Delaware Education Research & Development Center at the University of Delaware. Her current policy research examines Delaware's efforts to reform education through standards, assessment, capacity-building, and governance. Among her recent papers is "Old and new beliefs about measurement-driven reform" in Educational Policy.
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