Assessment and Accountability Policies: A Critical Investigation of Rhetoric and Experience

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Beach, Sarah, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Heinecke, Walter, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia

Since the 1980s, public schools in the United States have been dominated by a system built around standards, standardized assessment, and high-stakes accountability. In more recent years, there have been movements to encourage public schools to focus more on 21st century skills. Currently in the Virginia system, there is a pressure to operate under both modalities with an accountability system based on the Standards of Learning assessed through standardized testing while also preparing graduates for their post-secondary life through the 5 C’s: collaboration, critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, and citizenship skills. This three-paper dissertation critically considers the system in Virginia through: 1) a critical policy analysis of Virginia’s assessment system and the conflicting assessment policy messages produced by the political process, (2) the resolution of the resulting policy conflict by differences in interpretation by policymakers at the state level and teachers in one school division, and (3) a consideration of how teachers measure success today, envision success reimagined, and are constrained by the current assessment and accountability system. The work concludes by considering the potential implementation of new systems of assessment and accountability that are more de-centralized, where school can be a humanizing place for students and teachers, and students can more authentically learn about themselves and the world around them.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
standards, assessment, accountability, performance-based assessment
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