Large-scale testing and accountability for school improvement

The use of large-scale testing for accountability can take on many forms. How accountability is structured will make the difference on if and how school leaders and teachers use the results for school improvement.

Recently, we published a paper that examined the structure and success of standardized test-based accountability system in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other European nations (i.e., Germany, France).

We found that authentic learning is not necessarily tied to high-stakes accountability systems. Models that emphasize high-stakes testing can have significant negative consequences for students and teachers. We found that pockets of promising results are thanks to local educators re-designing the mechanism to support authentic learning – not just raising test scores. This means that what we know for sure is that simple approaches with blunt testing-based accountability measures do not promote higher-order or critical thinking skills!

So, we promote learning-focused accountability frameworks that promote curriculum-embedded assessment that involve educators to positively change national and regional assessment systems. The rigour of standardized testing that puts reliability and validity at the heart of measurement still needs to be respected. But the accountability structure and mechanisms attached need to be inclusive and helpful for educators if we are to ensure school improvement and effectiveness is achieved.

Volante, L., & Ben Jaafar, S. (2010). Assessment reform and the case for learning-focused accountability. Journal of Educational Thought, 43(2), 167-188.

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