Term Paper: American Public Education System

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[. . .] Although many authorities endorse this direction toward inclusive assessment and accountability (Elliott, 1997; Kleinert et al., 1997; Sailor, 1997; United States Department of Education, 1995; Ysseldyke et al., 1996), sorting out, on a national scale, all of the conceptual and logistical issues involved in making instructionally valid accommodations to regular assessments, and designing appropriate alternate assessments for students with more severe disabilities, represent a task of immense proportions.

Indeed, research is limited on whether performance-based assessments translate into significant positive changes in instructional practice for students without disabilities. When writing portfolios were included as a part of large-scale assessments for students in Vermont and Pittsburgh, teachers reported that they liked the portfolios and that they integrated the new assessment activities into their daily classroom instruction (Gearhart & Herman, 1995; Langenfeld et al., 1997; LeMahieu, Gitomer, & Eresh, 1995). However, teachers in Great Britain were far less enthusiastic about a national performance-based assessment (based on that nation's Core Curriculum); they viewed the assessment tasks as increased work and time taken from teaching and as wholly separate from their daily instructional routine (Torrance, 1993). "

This is the concern that has prompted the proposed study in this paper. The teachers are having to take away from instruction time to not only give the standardized tests, but also to prepare for the standardized tests. The tests are often given in the spring which means that a good part of the school year is devoted to teaching to the test so that the teacher can pass the scrutinization that the test results are used for. This entire process takes away from the education of the students and causes the teacher stress as the year and the standardized test draws closer.

The study concluded "the relationship between performance assessment and changes in instruction becomes even further complicated when those assessments are conducted in the context of high-stakes accountability (i.e., rewards for schools that improve performance and sanctions for schools that fail to meet their improvement targets). One result of using performance-based assessments in high-stakes accountability environments is that the field is developing its knowledge base even as the assessments are being implemented (Earl & LeMahieu, 1997). Several authors have noted that basing school rewards and sanctions on the results of performance-based assessment measures might well "[trivialize] both the skills measured and the instructional strategies" (Miller & Legg, 1993, p. 14) and "[compromise] the very nature of performance assessment" as a tool for improving student learning (Jones & Whitford, 1997, p. 280) (Kleinert, 1999). "

Another study was conducted on a Kentucky school system. The result of the study was that teachers were not changing the basic fundamentals of the curriculum for the purpose of the test other than asking the students to write additional assignments for the preparations of the writing assignment. This failure to change the curriculum caused stress to the teachers given the high stakes that the state offered to teachers who had students score highly on the standardized testing each year.

However, none of the above studies considered the instructional impact of an alternate assessment for students with disabilities who were unable to participate in the state or district's regular assessment program (even with appropriate adaptations); IDEA's new mandate for the implementation of such alternate assessments for students with disabilities makes such research imperative (Kleinert, 1999). "

When one wants to determine whether or not the standardized testing causes stress for the teachers of the students who take the standardized tests, one only has to look at the accountability score ratings. The accountability of the teachers and their ability to teach is based in the scores of the standardized test. It is a combination of indicators but they all go back to the testing of the students with a standardized instrument to measure the teacher's success or failure in the teaching arena.

The study was conducted using a one page survey for teachers to fill out. The study was used to conclude whether teachers felt their students in special education should be included in the standardized testing assessment and measurement and if so whether those scores should be included in the evaluation of the teachers themselves.

There were limitations to the study. One of the limitations was the fact that the changes to the classroom were not directly observed, but instead were left to the teacher self-assessment form which was not able to be completely objective.

In a different study conducted by the University of Tennessee standardized testing was evaluated for its worth when it comes to the worth of the teachers (Goldstein, 2000). The study was conducted over many years and involved the examination of six million records of students. The actual study was for the evaluation of over 30,000 elementary school teachers. The study measured the amount of knowledge that was gained by students from a specific teacher or teachers over the years (Goldstein, 2000). The study used what is called the TVAAS (Tennessee Value Added Assessment System).

Among their findings:

An ineffective teacher can slow a child's future educational progress by at least four years (Goldstein, 2000).

A teacher's effectiveness is 10 to 20 times more important to a child's educational success than any other factor (Goldstein, 2000).

These include class size, per-pupil expenditure, the school principal, whether the school is urban, suburban or rural, the ethnic makeup of the class, whether students are placed in heterogeneous (different) or homogeneous (similar) groups, free or low-cost lunch and breakfast programs (Goldstein, 2000).

As Dr. William Sanders, a statistician whose research has been used since 1992 to assess every elementary school teacher in Tennessee recently told the New York Times (Goldstein, 2000):

In two of our larger school districts we traced individual children through sequences of teachers. If we were to look at two kids who left second grade with the same achievement level, and one, by fate, caught for each of the next three years a teacher we had identified as being in the top 20th percentile (of ability), that kid scored on average at the 96th percentile on the fifth-grade math test (Goldstein, 2000). "But if the other kid caught for three years a teacher at the bottom, he scored in the 44th percentile (Goldstein, 2000). Purely as the luck of the draw. The difference was huge, huge, huge (Goldstein, 2000)."

This study underscores the stress that standardized testing can cause for teachers.

The standardized tests are used for several purposes according to the study. "They can introduce standardized student testing, revise curricula, spend more in the classroom, less on administration, raise instructional times, mandate class size, impose extra-curricular activities, set behavior codes, bring in uniforms (Goldstein, 2000). But if, in the end, they create an educational environment where teachers are completely embittered, disillusioned and demoralized, they will ultimately harm public education, so vital to students is the role of the individual teacher (Goldstein, 2000)."

The study concluded that using standardized test scores by which to evaluate teachers abilities is unfair to the teachers as it doesn't test the teacher's true abilities but instead tests their ability to cram answers into students for the purpose of passing the standardized test. This stress inducing accountability standard of measurement is not a true evaluation and causes the teachers undue and unnecessary stress according to the results of the University of Tennessee research.

Across the nation teachers are being forced to teach to the test and many of the innovative plans that they had at the beginning of the year fall by the wayside with no time to introduce the concept let alone teach the unit (Strauss, 2001). "Daniel Dara Din, a freshman at the University of Virginia, is learning history he didn't get to study before he graduated last year from Chantilly High School in Fairfax County (Strauss, 2001). "Drilled into my mind over the years were Virginia history, Colonial history and history up to the Civil War, " Din said, "but there was no time for much of anything past World War II (Strauss, 2001)."

Standardized testing and teaching to prepare for the standardized testing take up more time each year as schools compete for places based on the scores their students get. Teachers are more concerned than ever that their worth is being measured by the standardized tests and if their students do not score as well as the students down the hall or across town their job, or their future may be called into question. It is a stressful situation all the way around and the teachers are losing their ability, drive and motivation to be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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