Publications & Resources

The Politics of State Testing: Implementing New Student Assessments

Feb 1997

Lorraine M. McDonnell

In this report, Lorraine McDonnell continues her synthesis of innovative state assessment programs in Kentucky (Kentucky Instructional Results Information System), California (California Learning Assessment System), and North Carolina. Using results from interviews with state policy makers and their staff, articles in major newspapers, and other relevant documentary materials, McDonnell analyzed the key factors in the enactment and initial implementation of each state’s accountability program. North Carolina assumed more modest instructional changes that were reflected in a continued dependency on multiple-choice items on the state’s new assessment. “In contrast,” said McDonnell, “what is remarkable about California and Kentucky is that not only was the state specifying a more precise curriculum through its framework and assessment than it had traditionally, but the curriculum was unfamiliar to most adults in the state.” For a state accountability program to succeed, maintains McDonnell, the development of new curriculum standards and assessments cannot be solely a technical process with participation limited to experts.

McDonnell, L. M. (1997). The politics of state testing: Implementing new student assessments (CSE Report 424). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).