Standards-based Accountability in the United States

Lessons Learned and Future Directions

Published in: Education Inquiry, v. 3, no. 2, June 2012, p. 149-170

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2012

by Laura S. Hamilton, Brian M. Stecher, Kun Yuan

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Standards-based accountability (SBA) has been a primary driver of education policy in the United States for several decades. Although definitions of SBA vary, it typically includes standards that indicate what students are expected to know and be able to do, measures of student attainment of the standards, targets for performance on those measures, and a set of consequences for schools or educations based on performance. Research on SBA indicates that these policies have led to some of the consequences its advocates had hoped to achieve, such as an emphasis on equity and alignment of curriculum within and across grade levels, but that it has also produced some less desirable outcomes. This article summarizes the research on SBA in three areas: quality of standards, ways in which SBA has shaped educators' practices, and effects on student achievement. The article identifies lessons learned from the implication of SBA in the United States and provides guidance for developing SBA systems that could promote beneficial outcomes for students.

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