understanding of formal assessment from their own classroom experiences, interactions with colleagues, assessment materials accompanying textbooks, courses in preservice and professional development programs, and their familiarity with standardized assessments. They may adopt a variety of forms of assessment, from multiple-choice tests to writing assignments to performance-based assessments guided by scoring rubrics. Teachers may use student portfolios to document student learning over time, which, in the case of technology, may often take the form of student-created projects.

State and District Assessment and Accountability Policies

Nearly all states have adopted assessment programs, often as the centerpiece of their accountability strategies (Education Week, 2001; Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], 1999b). From a policy viewpoint, state tests sometimes define the “content of most worth” for schools and their teachers. School districts may use their own or commercially developed tests to measure their progress against national norms, to evaluate their own programs, or to monitor the level of individual student learning for placement purposes.

Some state and local district assessments are “high stakes.” That is, they carry important consequences for students, teachers, or schools, such as promotion to the next grade, salary allocations, or monetary bonuses for schools (CCSSO, 1999a). Some states also provide extra staff and resources to assist low-performing schools or districts; some give financial rewards for high levels of performance or for improvements in student outcomes.

States and districts may use “norm-referenced” tests, where a student’s reported score is compared to the scores of other students in some reference population. Schools may use the results of those tests to “track” students into courses with different content and achievement expectations, a practice that has raised concerns about adversely affecting minorities and students in certain geographic

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