A growing number of states are implementing standards-based accountability systems in efforts to improve student achievement. This briefing reports the initial findings from a study of Washington state’s reform. Although early test results showed that only a minority of students achieved the rigorous standard embodied in the reform, the most recent results show gains in the percentage of students meeting the standards in math, reading, and listening skills in elementary and middle schools. A survey of Washington principals and teachers showed that they understood and endorsed the reform and that 80 percent of the school curriculum was aligned with statewide standards in tested subjects. However, some changes may be less desirable: In some cases, teachers emphasized tested material over equally important material not covered by state testing. They also engaged in extensive test preparation activities.
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