Research Calls Data-Driven Education Reforms Into Question

By | Published  by the Huffington Post

Two new reports on standards-based accountability and incentive systems should end the current thrust of U.S. education policy.

The first, by the National Academies’ National Research Council, investigated the impact of high stakes tests, the basis for current accountability measures. The second, by the National Center on Education and the Economy, studied U.S. reform strategies compared to schooling in higher performing countries. Both organizations are respected for their high quality, comprehensive, and non-ideological research. Together, they reach the undeniable conclusion that today’s array of testing and choice fails to meet the instructional needs of American students and the national goal of broadly-based high academic achievement.

The NRC study, “Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education,” was produced by its Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability, representing scholars and activists from a broad swath of policy perspectives. Yet, broad as the committee’s background was in studying a comprehensive, decade-long research base, its first of two conclusions is stark:

Test-based incentive programs, as designed and implemented in the programs that have been carefully studied, have not increased student achievement enough to bring the United States close to the levels of the highest achieving countries.[bold in original, quoted in part]

Perhaps even more alarming is its second conclusion:

The evidence we have reviewed suggests that high school exit exam programs, as currently implemented in the United States, decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement.[bold in original, quoted in part]

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