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School and Classroom Practices During Two Years of Education Reform in Washington State

Abstract

This report uses the results of a survey of changes in pedagogy and curriculum in writing and mathematics classes in Washington State in the years 1999 and 2000, and explores how these changes are related to the state standards and state tests. Teachers and principals report a range of changes in their practice. While there is much variation from school to school, a general trend is the addition of extra material, or additional techniques, to the classroom, a trend that probably can't continue, especially with the advent of mandated tests in several other subjects. While teachers are reasonably well-informed about the standards as well as the test, the test is the target in most teachers' minds, and (as seen in other states) "becomes" the standards for practical purposes. This has interesting implications for the development of reliable accountability systems, as well as for educational improvement. Finally, the study could not find evidence linking specific changes in practice to changes in school test scores, whose rise over the two years remains unexplained. This is a good paper for a discussion with colleagues.

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