Limited Measures Used for

Assessment and Accountability

The high stakes accountability movement—a series of standards based reform movements and the 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation—was initiated with high hopes of exposing academic barriers for low-income students, students of color, and English learners. Accountability policies were intended to link rewards and sanctions to test scores and force educators to provide a quality education for all students. To date, there is little evidence to suggest these policies have inspired educators to change practices, thus increasing the quality of education. While accountability policies have fostered conversations about what children should know and be able to do by offering a wealth of achievement data that was previously unavailable, the focus on assessing children’s math and reading skills has resulted in the unintended consequence of narrowing the curriculum.

National studies find that in order to satisfy the demands of accountability, teachers often resort to “teaching to the test” by focusing their lessons on the basic skills necessary to pass the state assessment. Instead of lessons that require students to engage in complex, critical thinking and writing, teachers further disengage students by implementing drill- based lessons in order to increase students’ passing rate within a limited time frame.[1]  These negative impacts of testing and accountability policies have an even greater impact on low-resource schools that serve a majority poverty population.[2]



Hout, Michael and Stuart W. Elliott, Incentives and Test – Based Accountability in Education, National Academy of Science, Washington, DC, 2011.

Ravitch, Diane, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Basic Books, New York, 2010.



1 Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College Press

2 McNeil, L., Valenzuela, A. (2000). The Harmful Impact of the TAAS System of Testing in Texas: Beneath the Accountability Rhetoric


























Identifying the Problem