There is little doubt the testing has received renewed emphasis over the past several decades as a key element in efforts to reform schools. Despite some variations in approach, federal and state policy makers have embraced testing, in one form or another, as an essential component of educational governance.
With this special issue on testing, teaching, and learning, the Teachers College Record brings together some of the best contemporary research and analysis on the growing role of testing in efforts to hold schools accountable for student learning. The issue begins with Linda Darling-Hammond setting the stage by placing the growing reliance on testing in the broader context of efforts to reform schools and enhance accountability.
The next two papers call attention to the possibilities and limitations of current testing practices. Clifford Hill examines the strengths and the weaknesses of the English language arts test for fourth graders in New York State and considers problems associated with its use. Jay P. Greene, Marcus A. Winters, and Greg Forster compare the results on high-stakes tests with those on other standardized tests without formal stakes.
Two papers pay particular attention to the equity consequences of standards and testing policies. John B. Diamond and James P. Spillane examine the responses of two high performing and two probation schools to high stakes accountability. Judith Haymore Sandholtz, Rodney T. Ogawa, and Samantha Paredes Scribner consider the results of one districts approach to standards-based reform and the testing that accompanied it with a particular focus on the differentiation of curriculum and instruction.
Two case studies of individual schools illustrate in detail how testing policies play out in school environments. Karen Dorgan reports on a yearlong study of an elementary school acting to meet higher standards imposed by the state. Cheryl J. Craig considers the impact of evolving state accountability policies and changing social conditions on a high school juggling multiple reform strategies.
The impact of testing policies on teachers is discussed in three papers. Debra Ingram, Karen Seashore Louis, and Roger G. Schroeder consider how the culture of teacher decision making in schools can limit the impact of accountability policies. Leslie Rex and Matthew C. Nelson discuss the ways in which teachers beliefs about teaching consign test preparation to a secondary status in their classrooms. Michael Russell and Lisa Abrams examine the impact of state testing programs on the use of computers by teachers to develop student writing skills.
Finally, Andrew C. Porter, Mitchell D. Chester, and Michael D. Schlesinger provide a comprehensive framework for building and studying the effects of high-quality assessment and accountability programs, and they illustrate their approach through an example of such an effort in the School District of Philadelphia.