Reclaiming Assessment Through Accountability That Is “Just Right”
by Elizabeth Graue & Erica Johnson - 2011
Background: This article builds on three years of qualitative research on Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program, a class size reduction policy in Wisconsin.
Objective: In this article, we take a practice-oriented perspective on assessment, examining how assessments in schools that participated in a class size reduction program intersected with forces of accountability. The goal of this article is to broaden the understanding of what it means for schools and teachers to be held accountable for student learning and to discuss how different accountability frameworks affect instructional practices in classrooms.
Setting: The research took place in nine elementary schools across South and Central Wisconsin.
Research design: Data for the qualitative case studies were generated through multiple methods, including ethnographic observations, interviews, administration of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), document and artifact collection, and analyses of school-level standardized test scores.
Results: The current political and educational context oriented our focus to an intersection of issues: the implementation of class size reduction, instructional practice, assessment, and accountability. We identify three aspects of assessment practices that affect this intersection: alignment, audience, and action.
Conclusions: We found that coherent and collaborative assessment practices were more likely to take place in schools where there were explicit connections through assessments to varied communities of interest: district, school, teachers, students, and families. In supportive assessment systems, teachers had tools that they understood and that they could use to improve their practice to meet the needs of their students. In contrast, assessment in lower quality classrooms took place in disjointed systems that focused primarily on summative rather than formative assessment. A focus on accountability without attention to the quality of instruction and the quality of assessment resources is inherently flawed.
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