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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 10, no. 2 (January 09, 2002).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c January 09, 2002
State-mandated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice / Sandra Cimbricz.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 21 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 10 Number 2January 9, 2002ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2002, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .State-Mandated Testing and Teachers' Beliefs and Pr actice Sandra Cimbricz Canisius CollegeCitation: Cimbricz, S. (2002, January 9). State-man dated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice. Education Policy Analysis Archives 10 (2). Retrieved [date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n2.html.Abstract In this article, I examine the relationship between state-mandated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice. The studies rev iewed suggest that while state testing does matter by influencing what teachers say and do, so, too, do other things, such as teachers' knowled ge of subject matter, their approaches to teaching, their views of learni ng, and the amalgam of experience and status they possess in the school or ganization. As a result, the influence state-mandated testing has (o r not) on teachers and teaching would seem to depend on how teachers inter pret state testing and use it to guide their actions. Moreover, the in fluence state testing may or may not have on teachers and teaching expand s beyond individual perceptions and actions to include the n etwork of constructed meanings and significance extant within particular educational contexts. Consequently, although a relationship between the s tate-mandated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice does exi st, testing does not
2 of 21appear to be an exclusive or a primary lever of cha nge. There is further suggestion that it might not be a substantive one e ither. Studies that provide a richer, more in-depth understanding of th e relationship between state-mandated testing and teaching in actu al school settings, therefore, not only point toward important directio ns for future research in this area, but are greatly needed. IntroductionAs part of a larger movement to raise academic expe ctations for all students attending public schools in the United States, state-mandated testing programs reportedly tied to new or revised state curriculum standards are curre ntly being developed and used in a majority of states. Over the past decade, of the 48 states that have statewide assessment programs, almost all report having revamped or bein g in the process of revamping their state tests to align them more closely with some or all of the specific state standards (Quality Counts, 2000).One important assumption underlying some of the rec ent changes made in state-mandated testing is "that testing drives much of what teachers do, and so curricular and instructional change will occur if and when the tests change" (Grant, 2000, p. 2). If true, this statement suggests policy-makers sense the potential for big pedagogical changes with a modicum of effort: Change the test a nd one changes teachers' practices" (p. 2).A second assumption underlying some of the recent c hanges made in state-level assessments involves increasing the "power" or "sta kes" of these tests through the use of rewards and sanctions (Schwille, Porter, Belli, Flo den, Freeman, Knappen, Kuhs & Schmidt, 1983). According to Heubert and Hauser (19 99), "low" and "high-stakes" tests represent two fundamentally different ways of using testing in the service of educational policy goals: A low-stakes test has no significant, tangible, or direct consequences attached to the results, with information alone ass umed to be a sufficient incentive for people to act. The theory behind this policy is that a standardized test can reliably and validly measure student achievement; that politicians, educators, parents, and the public wil l then act on the information generated by the test; and that actions based on tests results will improve educational quality and student achievement In contrast, high-stakes policies assume that information alone is insufficient to motivate educators to teach well and students to pe rform to high standards. Hence, it is assumed, the promise of rewards or the threat of sanctions is needed to ensure change. Rewards in the form of fin ancial bonuses may be allocated to schools or teachers; sanctions may be imposed through external oversight or takeover by higher-level authorities. (pp. 35-36) State policymakers have, in the past, typically rel ied upon low-stakes state-mandated testing to address a number of goals. In a profile of state-mandated testing programs in 1992-93, Barton and Coley (1994) report that the mo st prevalent purposes of state
3 of 21programs were accountability, instructional improve ment, and program evaluation. With the arrival of standards-based reform and the expli cit setting of standards that define what teachers should teach and students should lear n, a greater role for state-mandated testing has emerged. Some states, for example, use performance on state-mandated tests to make presumably "high-stakes" decisions that hav e important consequences for students, such as whether a student is allowed to t ake a certain course or program, will be promoted to the next grade, or will graduate fro m high school (Heubert & Hauser, 1999). There can be important consequences for scho ol districts and educators as well. As of 1996, at least 23 states reported attaching e xplicit consequences at the school level to state test results, such as funding, warnings, a ssistance from outside experts, loss of accreditation, and in a few places, the eventual st ate takeover of schools (Bond, Braskamp & Roeber, 1996).Despite the widespread belief that state-mandated t estingÂ—standards-based or otherwiseÂ—contributes to educational improvement at the local level, evidence to support this claim has yet to be established. As St ake and Rugg (1991) point out: The validity of increasing the use and importance o f (state-mandated) tests in order to improve the schools is a long step furt her in the unknown. In sixty years of vast international research on schoo l testing, the policy of emphasizing test performance in order to improve ed ucation has never been validated. (p. xx) Zancanella (1992) makes a similar point, indicating that the increased use of state-mandated testing as a lever for change has no t been paralleled by significant growth in knowledge about how testing affects teach ing, learning, and schools in actual practice. He concludes that the idea that state-man dated testing will somehow lead to better teaching and learning expresses more hope th an reality: This shortage of empirical investigations means tha t the hopes of policy-makers and the public that more tests will s omehow lead to better teaching or more learning rest on largely unvalidat ed assumptions. (p. 283) Corbett and Wilson's (1991) study of statewide test ing programs in Pennsylvania and Maryland is a case in point. Their research suggest s that while statewide testing programs can influence educational activity at the local level, that activity might not necessarily be reform. While state-mandated testing did appear to inspire "changes" occurring at the local level in both states, Corbet t and Wilson found those changes to be "merely differences" rather than "changes for the b etter" or improvements (p. 111). Going further, Corbett and Wilson (1991) also conte nd that a formal trigger of consequences need not be built into the testing pro gram for the stakes to be high. Based on their study of "low-stakes" state-mandated testi ng in Pennsylvania and "high-stakes" state-mandated testing in Maryland, they found that as the pressure to improve scores intensified in both states, educators in Pennsylvan ia especially, reported taking the test more seriously and doing so "not because they belie ved that they were actually improving their instructional program," but for "po litical reasons" (p. 104). Corbett and Wilson conclude that the level of stakes educators and the public associated with state tests and/or testing programs was less a characteri stic of a test or the testing policy itself and more a characteristic of educators and the publ ic's perceptions of the test or testing policy. Building on the earlier and largely anecdot al work of Madaus (1988), they leave
4 of 21open the possibility that "people may attach a leve l of stakes to a test that is out of character with the formal consequences associated w ith it" (p. 26). In so doing, Corbett and Wilson suggest that the notion of stakes might be defined more by local perception than by state edict.Taken together, these two assumptions suggest the n eed to explore how state-mandated testing is interpreted and engaged by teachers. Sub sequently, in the paper, I explore what is currently known about the relationship between s tate testing and teachers' beliefs and practice. In using the term teachers' beliefs and practice, I refer to a complicated mix of ideas that include what teachers believe and percei ve about the work of teaching and how these ideas are expressed through language and action. Based on the studies I review here, the existence o f a relationship between state-mandated testing and teacher beliefs and prac tice is consistently confirmed. State-mandated tests do matter and do influence wha t teachers say and do in their classrooms. But while there is overall agreement th at a relationship between the two does exist, the nature of that relationship is neit her simple nor easy and requires further elucidation.Selection and Analysis of LiteratureA query using multiple and varied combinations of k eywords such as teache rs, teaching methods, tests, and testing conducted through ERIC (Educational Research Infor mation Center) began the search. Because of my interest in teachers/teaching and state tests/testing in the United States, I cross-referen ced the aforementioned descriptors with the keywords state and state-mandated testing. Works germane to this body of literature prompted further discovery of related books, journa l articles, conference papers, project reports, essays, research studies and historical ma terials. From this body of literature, I selected those works that focused specifically on s tate-mandated testing within the last ten years.Much of the professional literature I was able to l ocate was theoretical rather than empirical in nature. Only those works that could be identified as qualitative or quantitative research were considered. The exclusio n of "non-empirical" works (including, but not limited to essays, anecdotal re ports, testimonials) reduced an extensive list of citations to a small body of work From the research available, I selected those studi es that I believed met the standards for qualitative and quantitative research put forth by Howe & Eisenhart (1990). 1 Much of the research I located focused more on the relation ship between state-mandated testing and students (see, for example, Natriello & Pallas, 1998) and as such, implicated teachers and teaching obliquely. Many studies lumpe d classroom teachers, teaching specialists (e.g., reading, and special education t eachers), counselors, department chairpersons, principals, and administrators, toget her into a single category called "educators." If attention was paid to a group of ed ucators and teachers were specifically addressed as a subset of this group in the research the study was included in this review (e.g., Glasnapp, Poggio, & Miller, 1991). Similarly if no attention was directly paid to teachers' beliefs or practice, the study was not in cluded (see e.g., Corbett & Wilson, 1991; Bond & Cohen, 1991). In short, only a handful of studies specifically exploring teachers' perceptions of state-mandated testing and the import such tests hold for their
5 of 21practices remained. These studies will be examined in this article. Analysis began with my reading the target research to see what researchers had to say about the relationship between state-mandated testi ng and teachers' beliefs and practice. As I read each study, I first looked for points of comparison and connection. Preliminary review revealed two camps of researchers: Those who said state-mandated testing has had significant influence on teachers' beliefs and practice, and those who said state-mandated testing has had little influence, if any. Some researchers said teachers perceived the state tests as having a mostly negati ve impact on their beliefs and practice, whereas others said teachers perceived the state te sts to be a mixed bag. Almost all of the studies suggested that while state-mandated tes ting did influence what teachers said and did, so, too, did a number of other things, nam ely teachers' knowledge of subject matter, their approaches to teaching, their views o f learning, and the amalgam of experience and status they possessed in the school organization. Ideas and phrases drawn from the larger literature, such as the use of state-mandated testing as a lever for change (Grant, 2001) change as activity and difference vs. change as improvement (Corbett & Wilson, 1991) and teachers as policybrokers vs. teachers as implementors (Schwille et al., 1983), emerged as key to the sec ond level of analysis. All of these ideas and phrases prompted consideration o f two types of policy: teacher policy and external policy. 2 Put simply, the research suggested that just as st ate policymakers made policy, so, too, did teachers. Furthermore, th e interaction and negotiation of the two seemed to occupy more of a middle ground "in th e classic sociological contrast between professional autonomy and bureaucratic subo rdination. It pictures teachers as more or less rational decision makers who take high er-level policies and other pressures into consideration in their calculation of benefits and costs" (Schwille et al., 1988, p. 377).As I read the research again, I thought about the a forementioned ideas and phrases in their relation to other key ideas and phrases found in each account. From there, I compared these ideas in one account with the ideas found in the other accounts. The elaboration of these concepts informed, but did not necessarily organize the ways in which I report the findings in the section to follo w.FindingsA review of the larger literature initially suggest ed that state-mandated testing both positively and negatively influenced what teachers' beliefs and practice. Once my gaze focused only on those works that could be identifie d as research, however, empirical support for the claim that state-mandated testing p ositively influences teachers' beliefs and practice (e.g., Popham, 1987; Resnick & Resnick 1985) seemed to vanish. Consistently confirmed in all of the research I ana lyzed is the notion that state-mandated tests do matter and do influence what teachers say and do. But while there is overall agreement that a relationship between the two does exist, the nature of that relationship is more complicated than clear. Some researchers, f or example, contend that teachers' beliefs about state-mandated tests are mostly negat ive, whereas others say teacher beliefs are mixed. Furthermore, this particular body of res earch suggests that there are those who believe state-mandated testing is having a sign ificant and wide-ranging influence on teachers' curricular and instructional practices, a nd those who believe the influence of
6 of 21state-mandated testing is overstated and limited. A s such, the research analyzed in this paper suggests that the nature of the relationship between state-mandated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice is neither simple no r easy and in need of further clarification and qualification.The Significant and Wide-Ranging Influence of State -Mandated TestingBrown (1992, 1993), Romberg, Zarinnia, and Williams (1989), Smith, Edelsky, Draper, Rottenberg, and Cherland (1989), and Smith (1991) c ontend that state-mandated testing greatly influences teachers and their work, and doe s so negatively. Drawbacks of state-mandated testing reported were the: 1) narrow ing of the curriculum and instruction, 2) fostering of anxiety, confusion, fear, shame, an ger, and/or mistrust, 3) deskilling of teachers and/or a perception of powerlessness; 4) t he invalidity and inadequacies of these tests as accurate measurements of what is tau ght and learned; and 5) loss of instructional time due to test preparation and test ing. While Haney's (2000) work generally corroborates these findings, he suggests that not all effects of tests on on teaching are negative. In the paragraphs to follow, I discuss these ideas further. From the open-ended interviews conducted with 30 fi fth and sixth-grade teachers and twelve principals from states with high-stakes stat e-mandated testing (i.e., Tennessee, Illinois, and New York), Brown (1992) found that "t eachers reported altering the scope and sequence of the curriculum and eliminating conc epts that were not covered on state tests" (p. 13). Moreover: Participants reported a reluctance to use innovativ e instructional strategies (e.g., whole language approach, cooperative learnin g, high order thinking activities) and mentioned the use of more tradition al instructional methods (e.g., lecture, recitation) due to the belief that these strategies would better prepare students for state tests. (p. 14) In their study of eighth-grade teachers' perception s of the influence of mandated testing on mathematics instruction, Romberg et al. (1989) f ound much of the same in an earlier study. The teachers in their study said that they d evoted more time to basic skills and less time given to creative projects, cooperative l earning activities, and computer use because of the influence of state-mandated testing.Drawing on the same data from his earlier 1992 stud y, Brown (1993) indicates that teachers reported feeling confused about the purpos es of state-mandated testing, perceived themselves as powerless in the face of st ate-mandated testing policy, mistrusted state education departments and state le gislators, questioned the effectiveness of the tests in evaluating student achievement, exp ressed concern that the test results were overemphasized by those mainly outside the pro fession (e.g., parents, the media), and did not consider state tests to be an accurate measure of student learning or school accountability. As a result of these findings, Brow n concludes that state-mandated testing negatively impacted teachers' practices, an d that the ways in which state-mandated testing mandates were interpreted an d implemented by educators at the local level suggested that a number of barriers exi sted between local educators and state policy-makers. In general, educators reported a gro wing distrust and a lack of faith in decisions mandated "from above" (p. 29).
7 of 21Smith et al.'s (1989) 15-month study of state-manda ted testing effects in two elementary schools in a Phoenix metropolitan district revealed that high-stakes state-mandated testing significantly and negatively influenced tea chers' beliefs and practice. In this study, Smith and her colleagues interviewed teacher s, students, and administrators as well as directly observed classroom instruction, me etings, and school life generally. Key findings, as summarized in Rottenberg and Smith (19 90), suggest that state-mandated testing encouraged use of instructional methods and materials that resembled testing. For example, in one school where test scores fell sligh tly short of a year's growth in language, the principal created a daily review prog ram that required students to answer multiple-choice questions on grammar, usage, punctu ation, and capitalization. A second finding is that teachers neglected material not inc luded on the state tests. Specifically, teachers spent little time on science, social studi es, and writing, concentrating instead on those skills tested by the state-mandated Iowa Test of Basic Skills: reading, word recognition, recognition of errors in spelling, usa ge, punctuation, and arithmetic operations. Third, Smith and her colleagues conclud e that state-mandated testing reduced the time available for other instruction. B ased on observations of classroom instruction, they estimated that the time devoted t o test preparation and testing was equivalent to 100 hours or approximately three to f our weeks of school. In addition to pressures stemming from issues of time and the need to improve student performance on these tests, teachers also reported pressure stemmi ng from the publishing of test results in newspapers and on television and the subsequent comparison of scores among schools and school districts. As a result, teachers indicat ed that they altered their instructional strategies and curricular emphases in ways they tho ught would improve students' scores. In a follow-up report in 1991, Smith draws on her e arlier work (Smith et al., 1989) and that of Haas, Haladyna and Nolen (1989) and Nolen, Haladyna & Haas (1989). The two latter studies are based on surveys and interviews of Arizona educators statewide. Smith states that while her work and that of Haas et al. and Nolen et al. were independent in their conception, method, and execution, the findin gs of these studies confirm her own. Hence, she combines the information gained from the se studies (although how she does so is unclear), suggesting that the effects of test ing on teachers fall into not three, but six categories. 3 According to Smith's (1991) follow-up report, one e ffect of state-mandated testing is that teachers experience negative emotions such as anxie ty, shame, embarrassment, guilt and anger as a result of the publication of test scores Smith explains: "Many express frustration, feel off balance, out of control, and held to standards that, if the truth were known, are technically impossible for them to meet" (p. 9). She says that teachers believe the editorial attention and media coverage of test scores serve to fuel dominant public perception of Arizona schools as failures, t eachers as not particularly hard-working, and the educational bureaucracy as in ept. As a result, teachers seek to avoid feelings of anxiety, shame, and pressure, Smi th reports, "by teaching to the test" so that students' scores improve (p. 9). The second ef fect relates to teachers' feelings of dissonance and alienation stemming from beliefs abo ut the invalidity of the test and the need to raise scores. In short, because of the mism atch between what was taught and what was tested, the numeric test scores were perce ived as having little value to teachers. Third, teachers felt anxious and guilty a bout the emotional impact these tests had on young children. Interestingly, Smith is care ful to point out that not every teacher shared these beliefs and that the influence of test ing varied across different grade levels:
8 of 21Unlike the teachers of elementary grades, teachers of older pupils are more likely to dismiss negative effects of tests on pupi ls. Instead, they frequently complain of pupils "blowing off" the test and havin g no incentive to put in the effort the tests require. (p. 9) The fourth effect Smith reports is that testing pro grams reduce the time available for instruction. The time taken up by testing, she summ arizes, "significantly reduces the capacity of teachers to adapt to local circumstance s and needs of pupils or to exercise any discretion over what to teach and how to teach it" (p. 10). Fifth, Smith notes that teachers' attention to tests "results in a narrowin g of possible curriculum and a reduction of teachers' ability to adapt, create, and diverge" (p. 10). Smith states that subject matter not tested by the test such as social studies and h ealth was crowded out and, in some cases, disappeared altogether. Even instruction in the subjects that were tested (e.g., reading and math) was slighted in that instructiona l approaches focused primarily on the ways in which these subjects were tested. The resul t, Smith says, was the narrowing of the curriculum and deskilling of teachers: Faced with the "packed curriculum" (a set of requir ementsÂ—tests, programs, scope and sequence, extra programs ... th at exceeds the ability and time of any teacher to cover all of them compet ently) and the restricted number of instructional hours available, some teach ers aligned their actions with expectations. They began discarding what was n ot to be tested and what was not part of the formal agenda and high pri orities of the principal and district administrators. (p. 10) Sixth, Smith concludes with the contention that tes ting ultimately deskills teachers: "Because multiple-choice testing leads to multiplechoice teaching ... the methods that teachers have in their arsenal become reduced, and teaching work is deskilled" (p. 10). Although most of what Haney (2000) reports focuses on the effects that high-stakes state testing has had on minority and at-risk students in the state of Texas, of relevance to this paper are three surveys of Texas educatorsÂ—one cond ucted by Haney in 1999 and two other surveys undertaken independently by Gordon an d Reese (1997) and Hoffman, Pennington, Assaf, and Paris (1999). Inspired by th e introduction of a new "criterion-referenced" and high-stakes state testin g program in the fall of 1990, all three surveys were used to explore teachers' perceptions of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills or TAAS. This group of researchers deemed studying teachers' perceptions of the TAAS important not only because the state testing program was new, but because it represented an important shift in th e focus of state testing in Texas from "minimum skills to academic skills" and to test "hi gh-order thinking skills and problem solving ability" (Teacher Education Agency, 1997, p .1). Although each of the surveys polled somewhat differ ent samples of Texas educators 4 Haney combines the information gained from his stud y with that of Gordon and Reese (1997) and Hoffman et al. (1999) and identifies fou r common themes. They are: 1) that the teachers appear to be devoting a huge amount of time and energy preparing students specifically for the TAAS; 2) that the emphasis pla ced on the TAAS is hurting more than helping teaching and learning; 3) that the emp hasis on the TAAS is particularly harmful to at-risk students; and 4) that the emphas is on the TAAS contributes to both retention in grade and students dropping out of sch ool. These themes suggest that the
9 of 21Texas educators generally viewed the effects of the TAAS as harmful and, as such, these findings concur with others described thus far in t his section. It is important to note, however, that a small minority of respondents in Ha ney's (2000) and Hoffman et al.'s (1999) studies did report the TAAS as having some p ositive effects, namely that students were learning more basic and test-taking s kills and achieving better test scores as a result. Interestingly, these respondents often qualified their responses in their written responses, stating that such learning did not occur without some sacrifice. Provided below are two examples of teachers' written comment s illustrating this point: Students are learning more of the basic skills [the] TAAS tests because teachers are figuring out better ways to teach them Students are NOT receiving a well-rounded education because Social S tudies & Science are being cut to teach TAAS skills. (Haney, 2000, Part 6, p. 10) Yes, there is increased learning but at a partial p rice. I have seen more students who can pass the TAAS but cannot apply tho se skills to anything if it's not in TAAS format. I have students who can do the test but can't look up words in a dictionary and understand the differe nt meanings. They can write a story but have trouble following directions for other types of learning. As for higher quality teaching, I'm not s ure that I would call it that. Because of the pressure for passing scores, more an d more time is spent practicing the test and putting everything in TAAS format. (Haney, 2000, Part 6, p. 10) Suggested by these two comments is the idea that an increase in test scores might reflect an increase in the acquisition of basic and test-ta king skills and knowledge, but not what some call understanding (Cohen, McLaughlin, & Talbe rt, 1993; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998; Wiske, 1998). Furthermore, the second comment in particular, suggests that an increase in learning might not mean higher quality teaching. Both comments imply that the motivation fueling instructional change at the classroom level via state-mandated testing might be more political than educational. S uch comments are consistent with Corbett and Wilson's (1991) findings noted earlier. Recall that in their study of state-mandated testing in Pennsylvania and Maryland Corbett and Wilson found that as the pressure to improve scores intensified in both states, some educators attended to the tests more seriously "not because they believed tha t they were actually improving their instructional program," but for "political reasons" (p. 104). This claim is further bolstered by a handful of respondents who indicate that the substantial gains in TAAS scores were not necessarily due to "increased learn ing and higher quality teaching," but to the TAAS tests "getting easier over time, to sch ools excluding low scoring students, or to administrators' cheating" (Haney, 2000, Part 6, p. 10). The studies reviewed in this section indicate a num ber of things. First, teachers say that they are tailoring their curricula and instruction to the form and content of concepts covered on the state tests. They also suggest that what is tested appears to become what is emphasized in their classrooms, with the content and form measured on the tests occupying most of the instructional time. Other sub jects, such as social studies and science, although worthy, appear to get crowded out Furthermore, these studies intimate how limited, limiting, and deleterious the quest to improve state test scores may be for teaching and learning alike.
10 of 21The Overstated and Limited Influence of State-Manda ted TestingSome of the research, on the other hand, suggests t hat the influence of state-mandated testing is overstated and limited (Firestone, Mayro wetz, & Fairman, 1998; Glasnapp, Poggio, & Miller, 1991; Grant, 2000, 2001; Zancanel la, 1992). These researchers posit that the influence of state tests and/or testing pr ogramsÂ—as motivators of curricular and instructional reform at the local levelÂ—may be nonexistent or of very low intensity. They also contend that teachers' perceptions about state-mandated testing are mixed and that state-mandated testing is one of many interact ing influences (Grant, 2001). Glasnapp, Poggio, & Miller (1991) surveyed school b oard members, superintendents, building principals, teachers, parents, and student s concurrent with the administration of Kansas's low-stakes minimum competency testing prog ram in 1982, 1983, and 1987. From the state's 325 districts, 1, 358 teachers res ponded to the survey in 1982, 816 in 1983, and 1,244 in 1987. Teachers from grades two t o eleven were randomly selected within each district; the representativeness of thi s sample in terms of the larger teacher population, however, was not shared. Based on the results of their survey, Glasnapp, Pog gio, & Miller (1991), report that one actionÂ—increasing the emphasis of the state's objec tives in the curriculumÂ—was reportedly taken by more than half or 57% of the te achers in 1987. This result importantly varied across grade levels. Teachers at grade levels where state tests occurred (2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) generally had higher response rates than teachers who taught at grade levels at which no state tests occurred (g rades 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11). A noted exception was the tenth-grade.Fewer than 20% of the teachers reported that they n arrowed the curriculum, sacrificed instruction in other skill areas, or changed their instructional methods because of the state tests. They did indicate, however, that the p resence of minimum competency testing led to a 40% increase in such activities as drills, coaching, and practice on testing. It is interesting to note that while the n otion of drills, coaching, and practice on testing may have increased, such activity was not n ecessarily viewed by the teachers as a narrowing of curriculum, a sacrifice to instruction or a change in their instructional methods overall. And while teachers in this survey did report that they felt the pressure for a high level of performance consistently increa sed over time, they did not report, as a group, significant change in their overall practice s as a result. Glasnapp, Poggio, and Miller conclude that as sanctions that could serve as motivators of curricular and instructional reform at the local level, Kansas's l ow-stakes testing program was non-existent or of very low intensity.Firestone, Mayrowetz & Fairman (1998) say that low/ moderate stakes "performance-based" state-mandated testing programs in Maine and high-stakes testing programs in Maryland influence teachers' content de cisions, but the influences are weaker than expected, especially in terms of instru ction. Using an embedded case-study design, they report data gained from semi-structure d interviews with administrators and teachers as well as from site visits to the distric t and individual classrooms. In their examination of educators' responses to middle schoo l mathematics state assessments that were decidedly more "performance based" (in that th ey include sections where students are to construct answers vs. select from an array o f possible answers), Firestone et al.
11 of 21report that they saw considerable activity focused on the particular state test itself, such as the aligning of subjects taught with the test as well as what many commonly refer to as "teaching to the test" (e.g., teaching test-taki ng skills, using materials like those on the test, and focusing primarily on content known to be covered on the test). Interestingly, it was the use of classroom observations, in particula r, that led Firestone et al. to conclude that the effects of state-mandated testing on teach ing may be overrated by advocates and opponents of state-mandated testing alike. Although three times as many teachers in Maryland reported making changes in their teaching to accommodate the state test than did teachers in Maine, classroom observations and t he exploration of instructional patterns 5 found within revealed that the teaching in both st ates was relatively the same. Firestone et al. subsequently conclude that while s tate assessments, when combined with moderately high-stakes and other conditions, may ge nerate activity focused on the test itself, and may promote certain, observable changes such as the alignment of subjects taught with the test, they appear less successful i n changing how teachers teach those subjects. They argue that policy-makers' "fiddling" with the use of assessments as tools of educational reform ultimately misses the major p oint, which is that "assessment policy will not get around the need to ensure that teachers have a solid foundation in the subjects they teach and clear understanding of how to help children learn those subjects" (p. 112).Following a similar line of argument as Firestone, Mayrowetz, and Fairman (1998). both of the studies by Grant (2000, 2001) indicate that while state testing may influence teachers' decisions about what to teach, it does not necessarily influence how teachers teach it. Based on a larger multi-year and multidis ciplinary study of the relationships between national, state, and local education reform efforts and school/classroom practices in New York State, Grant (2001) reports o n the relationship between high-stakes state-level testing and two high school social studies teachers who teach in the same suburban school and prepare students for t he same state test in eleventh-grade. Based on information he gained through interviews a nd classroom observations of these two teachers teaching a civil rights unit, he found little direct influence of state-mandated testing on either teacher's content or pedagogical decision making. Grant's findings indicate that state tests are but "one of several interacting influences on teachers' instructional practice, none of which is primary at all times" (p. 422). Grant argues that while testing, as a tool for policy ref orm, may be a lever, it is an uncertain one. He finds that while the influence of the state test in social studies is apparent, "that influence interacts with a range of other factors, particularly the teachers' view of subject matter and learners" (p. 414).In another study based on information gained from f ocus group interviews with elementary and secondary teachers from rural, urban and suburban districts in New York State, Grant (2000) reports considerable varia bility in the way the consequences of recent changes made in the state's testing program are playing out, with as many unintended as intended consequences. Based on these interviews, he contends that teachers see the new state tests reportedly tied to the new state learning standards as "a mixed bag":The prospects of tests which more closely mirror an d support thoughtful instruction and closer collaboration with colleagues are mitigated by the problems of, among other things, uncertainty about the rationale for and con sequences of the new tests and the unevenness of the opportunities to learn about and respond to changes in the tests. In
12 of 21short, teachers across grade levels and subject mat ters express an uneasy combination of hope and fear, anticipation and dread. (p. 6)While most of these teachers "praised state efforts to bring standardized assessments into closer alignment with the kind of ambitious instruc tion they believe is important" (p. 7), they also expressed concerns "that the new tests co uld produce undesirable effects," namely reductionistic approaches to learning and te aching as well as an increased emphasis on remediation (p. 14). Of no particular surprise is that all of the teache rs in this study reported being concerned about students' scores on these new tests. What is intriguing, however, is Grant's (2000) observation that suburban teachers seemed to be eve n more concerned about their students' performance than their urban peers. Becau se of the uncertainty of how their students will perform on the new state tests, teach ers felt anxious about these tests and their potential threat to schools' standings. Grant suggests one possible explanation for this occurrence is that "not all suburban districts are equal" (p.15) and that more is at stake for those suburban districts that have consis tently ranked in the top quartile (according to a highly publicized local business ma gazine): Top quartile spots on this list have real consequen ces for real estate values, bragging rights, and the like, and so the scramble to move u p can be intense ... School people in high performing [suburban] schools want to maintain their position; educators in middle and low performing [suburban] schools hope to at le ast avoid dropping further. (p. 15) Grant's (2000) findings suggest that there are diff erences in the ways teachers perceive reforms across grade levels as well. Teachers at th e high school level, for example, indicated that they felt pressured by their princip als to ensure higher scores. While elementary teachers indicated that they did not fee l less pressure than their high schools peers to improve students' scores, they reported th at their principals were "more likely to talk about test scores as part of a bigger picture of how students are progressing" (p. 16). As a result, the building principal was therefore p erceived to be less of a factor among elementary teachers.Grant's (2000) findings also suggest that there are real and important differences in the ways teachers perceive reforms by subject matter. H e reports that while state tests of language arts, mathematics, and science at the elem entary and secondary level have undergone substantial transformations in terms of a reduction in the number of multiple-choice items and an increase in the number and range of performance tasks, the changes made to the social studies assessment, in c omparison, "are less dramatic" (p. 7). The persistence and heavy presence of generally low -level multiple choice questions (which account for 50 to 55% of a student's score) on New York State's new and revised state social studies assessments at the high school levels have led secondary social studies teachers, in particular, to argue that the test has changed little overall. As with Haney's (2000) report mentioned earlier, no t all of the consequences of state-mandated testing reported by teachers in Gran t's (2000) study were negative, however. Several teachers, especially elementary an d high school math and English teachers, for example, cited greater collaboration with their peers. The development of informal networks and relationships, therefore, was reported as one of the key benefits stemming from the changes made in the state-mandate d testing program.
13 of 21Zancanella (1992) investigated the influence of the language arts segment of the low stakes, state-mandated Missouri Mastery and Achieve ment Tests given in grades 6, 7, 8, and 9 on the thought and action of three, tenured, middle school/junior high school English-language arts teachers. These case studies revealed that the import that the new state tests held for these teacher's thinking and p ractice in the teaching of literature was related to two factors: 1) the fit between the teac her's preferred approach to teaching literature and the conceptions of literature embodi ed in the state tests and 2) the amount of "curricular power" the teacher heldÂ—that is, the teacher's place in the curricular decision-making structure of the school. He conclud es that teachers' responses to state policy were cast in terms of their prior learning, beliefs, and attitudes. In other words, the biography of the teacher's own past experiences was an important force in the ways in which these three teachers responded, especially as they related to: (a) the degree to which teachers' conceptions of th e subject matches the conception of the subject the tests represent, a ve rsion of what is often called "curricular alignment"; and (b) the amount o f what might be called "curricular power" the teacher possesses, the amalg am of experience, status, and position in the school organization that determ ines how much say the teachers has in both formal and informal decisions about which ways of teaching a subject are viewed as legitimate. (p. 29 2) Though tenured, Ms. Kelly, for example, reported fe eling pressure from the school administration to have her students perform well on the tests and the need to change her teaching style to do so. Another teacher (who also taught in same school as Ms. Kelly) saw her inductive approach to literature and the nu rturing of lifelong readers as being at odds with the state tests, but did not feel threate ned that low test scores would damage her reputation or position. As department chair and a veteran teacher with thirteen years experience, Ms. Martin reported that she felt free to "go beyond quiet resistance to 'hammer away' at her principal" about issues relate d to the test (p. 228). The third teacher, Mr. Davidson, saw the tests as compatible with his idea of teaching literature, although there were times when the tests were seen as intrusive and counterproductive. Despite his misgivings, his way of teaching literat ure was seen as compatible, if not "aligned" with the new test. Mr. Davidson, therefor e, did not see a need to adjust his teaching and believed issues related to the new tes t had little direct consequence on his teaching. The studies reviewed in this section indicate that teachers' interpretations of state testing are influenced not only by state testing itself, bu t the particular beliefs, knowledge, and experience individual teachers possess. The view th at teachers' practices are subject to multiple influences, therefore, emerges as key. Acc ording to Grant (1999), such a view fosters a richer understanding of teach decision-ma king, in that "[i]t obviates the notion that any single factor ... or set of factors ... su bstantially influence[s] teachers' practices. Instead, what teachers do in their classrooms is li kely to be influenced by a range of factors reflecting a variety of sources" (p. 238). DiscussionAll of the studies reviewed consistently confirm th at state-mandated testing does matter and does influence what teachers say and do. But wh ile these studies suggest that the
14 of 21instructional methods teachers employ, the material s they use, and the activities they plan are, to some degree, shaped by the form and co ntent of state-mandated tests and the state objectives that accompany them, there appears to be no clear or consistent pattern of influence. As such, the research that is current ly available presents a picture more complicated than clear and begs further elucidation Some of the studies indicate that the effects of st atewide testing vary according to the "stakes" involved. Because high-stakes tests and/or testing programs are used for important decisions, these tests are assumed to hav e more power than low stakes tests and/or testing programs to modify local behavior (H eubert & Hauser, 1998; Madaus, 1988). Following this line of argument, high-stakes test are more likely to impact, if not constrain, teachers' beliefs and practice. Brown (1 992, 1993), Smith et al. (1989), and Smith (1991), for example, argue that teachers from states with high-stakes state-mandated testing (e.g., Arizona, Illinois, Ne w York, and Tennessee) reported and were observed tailoring their instructional methods materials, and activities to the type of performance elicited by the state tests. Under t hese conditions, Brown, Smith et al, and Smith assert that the state tests became more t he goal of instruction, rather than the means to assess it. In addition, these researchers contend that the attention the media, the state education department, and various people at t he local level (e.g., administrators, principals, school board members, parents, and comm unity members) pay to test scores may catapult state tests into even higher stakes st atus. In short, this camp of researchers argue that high-stakes state-level testing serves t o constrain, if not homogenize instruction. This, however, does not appear to be the case in Gr ant's (2001) study of two high school teachers in New York StateÂ—a state boastful of its high-stakes state tests known as the Regents Examinations. Grant suggests that while the influence of the state Regents exam was apparent, that influence held no privileged pos ition and interacted with a range of other factors, particularly the teachers' views of subject matter and learners. Both teachers sought to prepare students for the same hi gh-stakes test and yet, their instructional practices were found to be radically different. Muddying the waters further, Firestone, Mayrowetz, and Fairman's (1998) observat ions led them to conclude that the teaching of math was much the same in both Maine an d Maryland despite the difference in stakes and state tests. What Firestone, Mayrowet z, and Fairman's work, in particular, reveals is that under some circumstances, state-man dated testing policies and the stakes attached to them can promote specific behavior and procedures in the classroom more easily than deeper understandings of subject matter and how to teach it. Taken together, Grant's (2001) and Firestone, Mayrowetz, and Farima n's (1998) studies importantly show that while the state test and the stakes invol ved may have influenced these teachers' practices in some way, these things did n ot necessarily construct or determine the instruction that was ultimately provided. Witho ut denying that the effects of statewide testing could vary according to the "stak es" involved, these researchers suspect that the argument that high-stakes testing encourag es teachers to teach to the test may be overrated. Instead, their work prompts important co nsideration of whether all high-stakes state-mandated testing is necessarily h igh-stakes for allÂ—especially for those who teach in districts with large numbers of studen ts failing state testsÂ—and how teachers who are significantly influenced by statemandated testing differ from those who are minimally influenced.Other factors may also be interacting with the stat e test to influence teachers' beliefs and
15 of 21practice in addition to the stakes involved, teache rs' subject matter knowledge, and teachers' views of learners and teaching. The grade level taught (e.g., elementary vs. secondary; grade levels tested vs. grade levels not tested) emerged as a potential factor (Glasnapp, Poggio, & Miller, 1991; Grant, 2000; Smi th 1991) as did the amalgam of knowledge, beliefs, experience, status, and positio n a teacher possesses (Zancanella, 1992). District and building-level expectations, lo cal context and conditions, and state and district policy climate also emerged as possibi lities (Brown, 1992, 1993; Firestone, Mayrowetz, & Fairman, 1998; Grant, 2001; Smith, 199 1; Smith et al., 1989). So while state-mandated testing may be an influence, it woul d appear to be one of many. Consequently, although a relationship between the s tate-mandated testing and teachers' beliefs and practice does exist, state-mandated tes ting does not appear to be an exclusive or primary lever of change.Given what is currently known about the general rel ationship of state-level testing and teaching, one caveat must be offered. Research in t his area overall tends to rely heavily on teachers' perceptions gained through surveys and interviews (e.g., Brown, 1992, 1993; Glasnapp, Poggio, & Miller, 1991; Grant, 2000 ). While it would be foolish to discount self-reported and interview data, the lack of observational data begs the question of how tests influence teaching in actual practice. Even when teachers report change, for instance, little is known about what th at change looks like and whether change has occurred at all. Only a few studies that couple surveys and interviews with classroom observations currently exist (Firestone, Mayrowetz, & Fairman, 1998; Grant, 2001; Smith et al., 1989; Smith, 1991; Zancanella, 1992). While in-depth interviews may provide access to teacher perception, coupling interviews with classroom observation allows both thought and action to be pu t in context. Coupling interviews with observations appears to provide data not only on teachers' understandings of what and how to teach, but also on how those understandi ngs are operationalized and carried out. That said, the question of "why" teachers chan ged or did not change in lieu of state-mandated testing begs further exploration. Fo r these reasons, I believe that studies that allow for the contextualization of teachers' b eliefs and practice hold considerable promise for future research. For if school reform v ia state-level testing is to prove constructive for education, research on how teacher s understand and interpret new policy in the context of their knowledge, beliefs, experie nce, and teaching circumstances is vital. ConclusionThe studies reviewed suggest that while state testi ng does matter and influence what teachers say and do, so, too, do other things, such as teachers' knowledge of subject matter, their approaches to teaching, their views o f learning, and the amalgam of experience and status they possess in the school or ganization. As a result, the influence state-mandated testing has (or not) on teachers and teaching would seem to depend on how teachers interpret state testing and use it to guide their action. Moreover, the influence state testing may or may not have on teac hers and teaching expands beyond individual perceptions and actions to include the n etwork of constructed meanings and significance extant within particular educational c ontexts. How tests matter then is not always clear and simple.Given the limited number of studies that are curren tly available and the limited nature of the data on which many of these findings are based, studies that provide a richer, more
16 of 21in-depth understanding of the relationship between state-mandated testing and teaching in actual school settings not only point toward imp ortant directions for continued research in this area, but are greatly needed. For if state-mandated testing continues to be viewed as a viable mechanism of educational reform, it is necessary to understand the ways in which this mechanism is mediated through th e local contexts and the minds, motives, and actions of teachers. Subsequently, stu dies that provide a richer, more in-depth understanding of the relationship between state-mandated testing and teaching in actual school settings not only point toward imp ortant directions for future research in this area, but are greatly needed. Notes 1. Howe and Eisenhart (1990) provide five general sta ndards for qualitative and quantitative educational research, specifically, th at there be: 1) a fit between research questions and data collection and analysis techniqu es; 2) the effective application of specific data collection and analysis techniques; 3 ) an alertness to and coherence of background assumptions; 4) an overall warrant; and 5) an awareness of both external and internal value constraints. 2. Schwille et al., (1983) describes teacher policy "as the definitive allocation of public resources by working-level personnel in education" and external policy "as policy in the usual senseÂ—the laws, regulations, and other direct ives of boards, legislatures, and executive departments" (p. 376). In this paper, ext ernal policy refers to state tests and/or a state-mandated testing policy. 3. I am referring to Smith et al.'s (1989) three key findings stated in the previous paragraph. Smith posits that 1) teachers were encou raged to use instructional methods and materials that resembled state-mandated testing ; 2) content areas not included on the state tests were neglected; and 3) time devoted to test preparation and testing reduced time available for other instruction. In her follow -up study, she expands this list from three to six. 4. Haney (2000) surveyed secondary math and English/L anguage Arts teachers, Hoffman et al. (1999) surveyed reading specialists statewid e, and Gordon and Reese (1997) surveyed Texas teachers who were "graduate students in educational administration" (p. 349). 5. Exploration of instructional patterns in this stud y focused on the characteristics of mathematic lessons in terms of the "problem size" ( i.e., large vs. small), "student activity" (i.e., practice vs. nonpractice), and "te acher activity" (i.e., tell procedure vs. develop concept) (Firestone, Mayrowetz, & Fairman, 1998, p. 104).ReferencesBarton, P. E., & Coley, R. J. (1994). Testing in America's schools: Policy information report. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, Policy Information Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. Ed 366 616)Bond, L.A., Baskamp, D. & Roeber, E. (1996) The status report of the assessment programs in the United States. Washington, DC: The Council of Chief State School
17 of 21Officers and Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Bond, L. A. & Cohen, D. A. (1991). The early impact of Indiana statewide testing for educational progress on local education agencies: A dministrators' perceptions. In R. E. Stake (Ed.), Advances in program evaluation: Vol. 1. Effects of mandated assessment on teaching (pp. 75-99). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press Ltd. Brown, D. F. (1992, April). Altering curricula through state-mandated testing: Perceptions of teachers and principals. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Fran cisco, CA. Brown, D. F. (1993). The political influence of state-mandated testing r eform through the eyes of principals and teachers. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. Ed 360 737)Cohen, D., McLaughlin, M. W. & Talbert, J. (Eds.). (1993). Teaching for understanding: Challenges for policy and practice San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Corbett, H. D. & Wilson, B. L. (1991). Two state mi nimum competency testing programs and their effects on curriculum and instru ction. In R. E. Stake (Ed.), Advances in program evaluation: Vol. 1. Effects of mandated assessment on teaching (pp. 7-40). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press Ltd.Ellwein, M.C., Glass, G. V., & Smith, M. L. (1988). Standards of competence: Propositions on the nature of testing reforms. Educational Researcher, 17 4-9. Feuer, M. J., & Fulton, K. (1993). The many faces o f performance assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 74, 478. Firestone, W., Mayrowetz, D., & Fairman, J. (1998). Performance-based assessment and instructional change: The effects of testing in Mai ne and Maryland. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 20 (2), 95-113. Glasnapp, D. R., Poggio, J. P., & Miller, D. M. (19 91). Impact of a "low stakes" state minimum competency testing program on policy, attit udes, and achievement. In R. E. Stake (Ed.), Advances in program evaluation: Vol. 1. Effects of mandated assessment on teaching (pp. 101-140). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press Ltd. Gordon, S. P. & Reese, M. (1997). High stakes testi ng: Worth the price? Journal of School Leadership. 7 345-368. Grant, S. G. (1996). Locating authority over conten t and pedagogy: Cross-current influences on teachers' thinking and practice. Theory and Research in Social Education, 24 (3), 237-272. Grant, S. G. (2000, February). Teachers and tests: Exploring teachers' perceptions of changes in the New York State-mandated testing Prog ram Education Policy Analysis Archives [On-line serial], 8 (14). Available: http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n14.html Grant, S. G. (2001). An uncertain lever: Exploring the influence of state-level testing on teaching social studies. Teachers College Record 103 (3), 398-426.
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19 of 21 Smith, M. L, Edelsky, C., Draper, K., Rottenberg, C ., & Cherland, M. (1989). The role of testing in elementary schools. Los Angeles, CA: Center for Research on Educationa l Standards and Student Tests, Graduate School of Edu cation, UCLA. Smith, M. L. (1991). Put to the test: The effects o f external testing on teachers. Educational Researcher, 20 (5), 8-11. Stake, R. E. & Rugg, D. (1991). Impact on the class room. In R. E. Stake (Ed. ), Advances in program evaluation: Vol. 1. Effects of mandated assessment on teaching (pp. xix-xxii). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press Ltd.Teacher Education Agency. (1997). Texas student asssessment program technical digest for the academic year 1996-1997. Austin, TX: TEA. Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Developm ent. Wiske, M. S. (Ed.). (1998). Teaching for understanding: Linking research with p ractice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Zancanella, D. (1992). The influence of state-manda ted testing on teachers of literature. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 14 (3), 283-295.AcknowledgementsThe author wishes to thank S.G. Grant and Catherine Cornbleth at the University at Buffalo for encouraging her to submit this paper fo r publication. She is especially thankful for S.G. Grant's willingness to read numer ous drafts, offer feedback, and gently pry the manuscript from her fingers.About the AuthorSandra CimbriczTeacher Education Department Canisius College 2001 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14208Phone: 716-888-3731Sandra Cimbricz recently earned her Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo and is currently an Assistant Professor of Teacher Educati on at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. To contact her, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2002 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be
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