The New Accountability: High Schools and High Stakes Testing

The New Accountability: High Schools and High Stakes Testing

The New Accountability: High Schools and High Stakes Testing

The New Accountability: High Schools and High Stakes Testing

Synopsis

"Standard-based accountability" has become a consistent buzzword emanating from the mouths of hopeful politicians-liberal and conservative-for almost twenty years. But does accountability work? The New Accountability explores the current wave of assessment-based school accountability reforms, which combine two traditions in American education-public accountability and student testing.

Excerpt

This book is about the encounter between an established but troubled institution-the American high school-and a deep-seated impulse in our society to make things better. Underlying this encounter are two seemingly incompatible movements in American education: the inexorable increase in the number of years that young people stay in school and the reforms to improve how much students learn at each level of schooling. In today's global economy and increasingly unequal society, the two movements meet their greatest challenge in America's high schools.

High school is where low-income young people-many of them African Americans and Latinos-who now make-up a higher fraction of students than in the past, make it or break it educationally. High school determines how they will be incorporated into the work world and other social structures. High school is also where educational reformers' efforts to improve how much students learn face the acid test. If students do not finish high school with their cohort, they are likely to be marginalized from the mainstream, and to become a social liability. So, reforms aiming to improve educational quality must ultimately be evaluated in terms of improving high school completion rates. And our understanding of whether educational reforms as a whole are succeeding or failing is to be found most clearly in America's high schools.

High schools are established institutions with established structures and established ways of doing things. They have been changed in the past fifty years, but mainly in ways to accommodate an increasingly diverse population. If we assume that their charge was to graduate this youth population, they have had mixed success. The bad news is that the absolute number of high school completers was about the same in 2000 as in 1970, but the proportion of seventeen year olds who completed fell from 76 to 71

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