to critique the law nor to evaluate its implementation. The committee was asked to bring to bear our analysis of the evidence and our experience in schools, school districts, and states to help states and districts implement the statute in a way that will be effective for the disadvantaged students Title I is intended to benefit.
The Committee on Title I Testing and Assessment was charged with assessing research on the use of testing and assessment for accountability purposes, examining the experience of states and districts in this domain, and developing a “decision framework that incorporates technical quality, effects on teaching and learning, costs and benefits, fairness, and other criteria for evaluating assessment strategies.” Our goal was to produce a practical guide for states and districts to use in developing the systems they were creating under the Title I law.
The committee went about its task in a number of ways. First, we reviewed available evidence from research on assessment, accountability, and standards-based reform. However, we recognized that in many areas the evidentiary base was slim. Standards-based reform is a new idea, and few places have put all the pieces in place, and even fewer have put them in place long enough to enable scholars to observe their effects. Therefore, we supplemented our review of the research with evidence from our own observations and reports from the field. Many committee members are practitioners, whose daily work is to develop and implement assessments and accountability mechanisms. Other members are in classrooms regularly, helping and observing teachers and administrators as they implement standards-based reform. The knowledge gleaned from these observations helped inform our work.
In addition, the committee also sought testimony from educators in leading-edge states and districts, who described for the committee their efforts. This testimony helped the committee understand not only the effects of assessment and accountability, but also the practical challenges involved in putting in place a system constrained by cost and political demands.
As we studied the research, examined our own experiences, and listened to the testimony, the committee kept in mind three underlying principles. First, the committee agreed that the purpose of assessment and accountability is to contribute to and support high levels of student learning. We recognized that there are many ways to respond to the law's requirements, and some evidence suggests that at least some states fell well short of the law's goals even as they complied with its mandates (Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, 1998). Yet, in the committee's view, the potential educational power of assessment and accountability far outweighs the bureaucratic purposes of such instruments, particularly for those who have been historically poorly served by the education