Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Value-Added Assessment of Teacher Preparation: An Illustration of Emerging Technology

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Value-Added Assessment of Teacher Preparation: An Illustration of Emerging Technology

Article excerpt

Public education is one of the fundamental governmental services provided by modern industrialized nations to their citizens. The breadth of impact and cost of public education is commensurate with other core governmental efforts such as national defense or public works. In nations such as the United States, the vast majority of citizens are directly served by public education, and all citizens are substantially affected by the state of public education. Owing in part to its status as a fundamental governmental service, education broadly construed is subject to the same pressures as other governmental services. One of the central themes emerging in governmental services in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been an increasing emphasis on accountability (Carrilio, Packard, & Clapp, 2003; Government Performance and Results Act, 1993). In particular, this increasing emphasis on accountability has focused on empirical measures of the success of governmental programs and has frequently been framed as cost-benefit analyses (e.g., Gramlich, 1997).

It can be argued that the increasing emphasis on assessment-driven accountability in education is not unique to education but is reflective of a broader shift in public policy. This is not to say that the issues regarding how governmental programs are assessed are equivalent across diverse activities. Education in the United States is a highly balkanized process with many consumers and contributors who have varying visions regarding what the goal of education is or should be. In addition, the different contributors to education commonly hold schools accountable for various outcomes measured in a variety of ways. It is common for a school or school system to be accountable for its test scores, drop-out rate, attendance, and the number of acts of violence on campus by several governmental units simultaneously.

It seems that one of the unifying themes of the age of empirical accountability in government is the emphasis on summative evidence of the efficacy of programs. A Medicaid prenatal care program may have many potential benefits, but program evaluation is likely to focus on measurable summative outcomes that are comprehensible to those funding the program. As a result, evaluation is likely to focus on the proportion of full-term pregnancies, the average birth weight of babies, or the incidence of prenatal complications. Education, as with all social services, has many potential outcomes that are valued to varying degrees by differing constituencies. However, one central outcome that has achieved ascendancy recently is students' academic skills. This ascendancy is clearly evident in the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as well as various state-based accountability programs (e.g., Mitzel & Borden, 2000). The emphasis-on-skills-as-outcomes model has in turn led to the desire for practical uniform skills assessment and the recent ascendancy of high-stakes standardized test-based accountability (Roderick, Jacob, & Bryk, 2002; Shelfon & Biddle, 1998).

One of the enduring realities of the American educational context is the apparent perception that education is in some manner a problem to be solved. That problem has been conceptualized as including both social policy/social justice dimensions and teaching/training dimensions (Cochran-Smith, 2004). In the era of test-based accountability, much of the discussion of the "educational problem" has focused on what policies and practices will improve student test scores. This quite naturally has led to reconsideration and discussion of the variety of factors that are known or thought to influence children's educational attainment and test performance (Sanders & Horn, 1998; Thompson, 2004). Although a diverse array of variables may influence students' achievement, most public policy debate and a considerable volume of scholarship have focused on the role of schools and teachers. …

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