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Standards, Assessments, and Educational Policy: In Pursuit of Genuine Accountability

Darling-Hammond, Linda
Publication Year:
William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture Series
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Accountability Angoff Memorial Lecture Series Education Policy Standards-Based Reform Student Achievement Teacher Certification


The eighth annual William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture was presented at Educational Testing Service, Princeton New Jersey, on October 30, 2002. This publication represents a modest revision and update of that lecture. The eighth annual William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture discusses the circumstances in which standards and assessments in American education undermine or enhance students’ opportunities to learn and teachers’ capacities to teach. Standards-based reforms in U.S. education have created demand for increased testing of students and teachers as the basis for a broad range of policy-making decisions. Proponents claim that standards and assessments can enhance learning and render educational systems more accountable for improvements. Opponents claim that inequalities are exacerbated by many current uses of these tools. Unfortunately, such debates often treat both tests and their policy uses as black boxes for improving education. Adding to the controversy are the varying ways that states are using assessments and educational standards in schools. To develop genuine accountability for student learning, the United States needs education policies that use assessments to guide improvements in schools, rather than reduce the amount and quality of education students receive.

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