Publications & Resources

Assessment, Equity, and Diversity in Reforming America’s Schools

Feb 1994

Linda F. Winfield and Michael D. Woodard

National standards and assessments recently proposed as a strategy for improving schools in the United States have been accompanied by considerable tension between the goals of educational quality and equality of opportunity. “Proposed federal policies for implementation [of new standards and assessments] raise serious concerns about the extent to which national standards and assessments alone will help improve the quality of public education for all,” write CRESST researchers Linda Winfield and Michael Woodard in their new report, Assessment, Equity, and Diversity in Reforming Americas Schools. The authors question whether or not some elements of the Goals 2000 program may “serve to deepen the already severe educational and economic cleavages that exist in this nation, especially along racial/ethnic lines.” Providing a framework to review equity, diversity and assessment, the authors present a variety of research findings to support their position. Findings of a national study of promising programs in disadvantaged urban and rural schools, for example, suggest that opportunity to learn is influenced by factors such as level of implementation, budgets, staff development, and administrative support. Winfield and Woodard believe that by omitting these factors from consideration in reform measures such as the Goals 2000 program, existing inequalities will be further exacerbated by creating additional barriers and limiting upward mobility opportunities for minority students. Rather than pursue national standards and assessments, the authors suggest that reformers focus on policies and practices that have a greater probability of improving school learning and achievement, including equitable school financing, improved funding for curriculum development, and increased staff development for both teachers and administrators in content area assessments. The authors conclude: “Only when policy makers consider opportunity to learn standards as important as implementing national standards and assessment, will we ensure that those students and individuals historically disenfranchised will share in the American dream of opportunity for educational achievement and economic success.”

Winfield, L. F., & Woodard, M. D. (1994). Assessment, equity, and diversity in reforming America’s schools (CSE Report 372). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).