Date of Award

7-2011

Degree Name

MA in History

Department

History

Advisor

Dr. Tom Trice

Abstract

In the last two decades, ignoring the bulk of educational research findings, policymakers shaped educational policy into a standardized testing movement that now dominates education. Now, to comply with No Child Left Behind, teachers and administrators shape curriculum in a way that maximizes student achievement measured by these tests. Recently, business and educational leaders initiated a reform movement to broaden curriculum, narrowed by this inadequate standardized testing movement, so that necessary 21st century learning skills can be practiced through project-based learning. The Federal Government’s enforcement of power over education created the climate that defined the current educational policy that gave birth to the standardized testing movement. In this climate, this reform to boost 21st century learning skills does not gain practical traction that results in changed policy, because it is impossible for standardized testing to assess most of these skills and this type of learning due to the limitations of bubbled-multiple choice questions.

Instead of shaping policy to foster these 21st century learning skills, policymakers push another reform, through TAP (The System for Teacher and Student Advancement) and Value-Added Assessment. This reform attempts to improve instruction through

teacher merit pay--a device that has failed many times in educational reform history. Unfortunately, most TAP systems use standardized tests as the only student achievement measurement, so almost all student achievement gains involving 21st century learning skills and project-based learning are not officially measured. Efforts to use portfolios and authentic assessment, the measurement tools that should be used to measure these higherlevel skills, are not supported by policymakers, because the lack of standardization requires more trust in the assessment ability of local school districts and communities.

Consequently, a massive disconnect exists where standardized testing is being reinvigorated instead of de-emphasized, and this comes with the potential price of many teachers and administrators not embracing 21st century learning skills and project-based learning as much as they could if they were not bound by standardized test results. Ultimately, these two reforms that contradict each other involve larger issues of jurisdictional power over education at federal, state, and local levels, and ideological challenges to teacher job security and teacher representation.