High-stakes testing : issues under debate in political and educational arenas
Bond, Beverly Allen
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Recent accountability-based educational reform packages have widely used test scores as “evidence” to determine crucial decisions regarding achievement, placement, and promotion of students; and funding, status, and autonomy of school systems and personnel. As schools conformed to the escalating pressures, changes in educational practice began to proliferate—leading to a dilemma where tests and test-specific teachingessentially dominated the educational scene. This study attempted to determine whichareas (with regard to these issues) showed statistically different perceptions between legislators and educators. Participants were polled by use of an original questionnaire, featuring items drawn from the review of literature and findings from research of a similar nature in other states. Packets of 6 identical instruments were mailed to 100 randomly selected Georgia elementary schools and to the entire membership of the State of Georgia Educational Legislative Committees (634 instruments). Assurance of participants’ anonymity and other safeguards against bias were part of the design. Return rates were 32%, 25%, and 18% respectively for legislators, principals, and teachers, but postal regions indicated satisfactory representation across the state. Statistical analyses included use of One-Way Anova, Fisher’s Exact, and descriptive statistics. Results indicate a strong endorsement of the existing knowledge base and findings from previous research in other states. Significant differences of opinion between legislators and educators were detected in 48% of the items. Respondents representing districts with contrasting urbanicity, ethnicity, and poverty showed dissimilar perspectives; and discrepancies between the publicized accountability agenda and the consequences experienced by educators and students were also evident.