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The book to be reviewed is the "The Future of Test-Based Educational Accountability" by Katherine E. Ryan and Lorrie A. Shepard (Eds.). New York: Routledge, 2008. The book contains extensive material on standards, testing and accountability in the educational sector and gives a historical context which helps the writer understand the educational system and what the future holds for it with the implementation of various policies. The book has a very good base of argument where the writers analyze the educational system giving the correct ways to implement a successful system.
Parts and Chapters
The book is divided into four parts consisting of sixteen chapters; where each part has different chapters written by various author. Katherine E. Ryan and Lorrie A. Shepard are the editors that make the book give the relevant and educative material to the reader. The first part is 'The context of educational accountability' which has three chapters. The first chapter in the first part is Educational accountability systems by Roberts L. Linn, while the second chapter is A Brief History of Accountability testing 1965 - 2007 by Lorrie A. Shepard. The third chapter is 'The politics of educational accountability: can the clock be turned back' by the author Lorraine M. McDonnell.
The second part is "educational accountability: technical and substantive issues". The first chapter in the second part is 'Further steps towards the development of an accountability-oriented science of measurement' by Daniel Koretz. Second chapter is 'Reliability of large scale assessment and accountability systems' by Vonda L. Kiplinger. The third chapter is 'Equating and Linking of educational assessments in High stakes accountability systems' by Vonda L. Kiplinger and Laura S. Hamilton. The fourth chapter is on standard setting by Edward H. Haertel. And the fifth chapter is Towards a Normative Understanding of student growth by Damian W. Betebenner. The third part addresses the issue of educational accountability effects; while part four deals with the issue of future directions for educational accountability (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008).
Content and Analysis
The book is aimed at identifying and analyzing the key aspects that are related to test based accountability and based on the No child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in the United States. The NCLB act is a major influence in the education system and is mainly used in the book. This is because the act has had a major sway on the practice of accountability in education and technology that show students growth and achievements (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008). This has been driven by the fact that testing has been for decades have been used as a part of the educational system and a measure of the performance of the system. Testing has been an accountable measure of performance and the standards of learning being applied in schools. The chapters in the book give an account of what the education system has achieved and the issues that have been a cause of alarm.
Issues of validity, test equating, growth modeling, and fairness for special students, causal inference and data misuse are tackled explicitly in the chapters. Educational accountability systems that are test based have been furthered by politicians and policy makers due to public demand (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008). In the view of the educational system the children should all be at the same level in all subjects. This would ensure equity and quality of the education given to children; this would be preferred to having students attaining different level while in the same class. In this respect the NCLB act of 2001 was introduced to assess and control the education system.
As a result states were required to implement an accountable system where results in mathematics, English and other subjects are used to evaluate the students and schools performance in every grade in elementary school and a high school grade (Sugrue, 2008). The tests are used in describing the strengths and weaknesses of the students which in turn describe the school effectiveness.
The uses of tests have been a major component of the education system which evaluates the accountability and standards. Tests are expected to help clarify prospect for teaching and learning; monitor the progress of schools and the students; keep an eye on the progress subgroups of the students and the opening in the achievement of the subgroups; ensuring the gaps in the performance between groups such as racial/ethnic/tribal/nations are closed (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008).
Tests will also help to reduce the gap of the economically advantaged students and those disadvantaged. In addition, they are needed to motivate the efforts of the stakeholders such as the students, teachers and administrators to work harder and achieve success (Sugrue, 2008). They also contribute to the assessment of the programs used in schools, and identify the institutions to be improved. Consequently, they provide a foundation whereby rewards, regulations, prizes and sanctions are given and imposed to schools and students.
Performance standards have been found to have five characteristics. To begin with they are absolute rather than normative; in this characteristic, the tests establish a fixed decisive factor of performance (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008). Secondly, tests must be challenging and have high levels of achievement. Thirdly, they should have must be typically identified i.e. have relative number of small levels such as advanced, basic, and proficient. Fourthly, they need to be standard across board i.e. apply to all students and lastly, but not least, the judgment of the standard setter must be depended on and they must review the tests and assessments to be in line with required standards (Ryan, & Shepard, 2008).
The report 'A Nation at Risk' by the National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983 gave a basis to ensure standards, testing and accountability in the educational system is guaranteed. The brief history of accountability and testing is given to the reader to ensure they get acquitted with the system. The theory used to establish accountability needed to consider; how well institutionalized is the current system of test based accountability and what conditions and factors need major changes in the standard, testing and accountability policies and their probability of being developed in the future.
The presence of a proper testing system needs to establish the scores; which are the figures, letters, numbers or words that indicate the examinee is correct for a certain response. The system must also define the standards; which identify if the examination performance is good enough for a particular purpose. This will be based on the examinees performance in the educational setting. In this regard the students will be able to graduate since they have attained the required standards. In addition, the standards will identify if the student is competent, incompetent, has failed or passed. In setting the pass mark then the institution needs to put in place defensive, credible feasible and acceptable measures that must be supported by credible sources and literature.
The issues in this book can be backed by Sugrue (2008) in the book 'The Future of Educational Change International Perspectives' where the major focus is the NCLB act and the contemporary issues surrounding educational policies. Sugrue (2008) book also tackles the issues of the impacts of educational change; the different circumstances in the educational systems; and the directions on policies and regulations.
Evaluation of the education system
The education system is an important part in any economy since it enlightens a society; it is viewed as the key to a bright future for the young. Students will spend much of their time to study so that they become competitive in the job market (Linn, 2000). The government has spent a large amount of money to streamline the education system but one thing is for sure; without proper standards the system can prove to be redundant and may not fulfill its intended purpose. Some governments have also increased spending in the sector to ensure it runs appropriately; the increased spending has drawn the attention of the stakeholders and watchdogs not only on the grounds of standards but also spending. The quality of education has been a great concern and thus schools have been required to provide data on their performance.
Tests are a major indicator of performance and they need to very standard and very accountable. The data needed by the stakeholders can be got through the tests in the schools, however, without a standard procedure then administering the tests will be very difficult. As a result, principle and strategies that are appropriate in developing a result based accountable systems are necessary. Technical, management, political and social issues are covered where policy makers, educators, society and students can use the data to improve the system developed (Linn, 2000).
In developing an accountable system that is in compliance with regulations, adhering to professional norms and one that is result driven then all stakeholders must be involved. The school system will operate on the values and principles set. For the system to be accountable then it must encompass the society aspirations and values. An accountable education system will have a fulfilled educational attainment and thus improve the quality of life of the students.
For a system to be accountable then it must have the objectives, assessment, instructions, resources, and rewards/sanctions. This will guide the implementers of the system on questions such as what are the expectations of the student; how satisfied are the students and what content have they mastered, how prepared are the teachers for the teaching of the students; to what extent is the public aware of the results of the school and individual students, and what is the response of the society to the results and performance in the school.
In implementing a credible, accountable and effective educational system there is need for attention, scrutiny and discipline. The factors will ensure that all aspect of the education standard, testing and accountability are incorporated in the teaching and learning process that ensures not only materials is provided but also the psychological factors. Though tests are not amusing to students they must be incorporated into the system that will ensure they are graded to show their performance (Linn, 2000).
The standards for educational testing needs to ensure the purpose of the system is served, the strategies to meet the testing requirements on various grades are decided on; evidence is validated and determined; the standards of adequacy for technical quality are determined; and plans are always made to acquire all the necessary data. The book portrays the education system as one of the most important and the need to address its quality is deeply expressed. Ryan and Shepard, 2008 book is an informative one that urges the reader to scrutinize the education system.
The Contemporary Issues or Trends Related to Standards, Testing and Accountability identified by the different authors of every chapter include the principles, objectives and value of the system. In my own opinion, it should be used to address the issues of quality in the education system and focus on establishing and implementing an effective and efficient system.