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on redesigning their education improvement system, as well as for states and districts that have had redesigned systems in place for several years.
The committee also recognized that each state and district must develop its own system to meet local circumstances. The committee did not intend to propose a blueprint that all states and districts should adopt. Rather, our guidelines are intended to be used as yardsticks against which states and districts can measure their own judgments. Moreover, we recognize that building effective education improvement systems is hard work, particularly in the charged political environments in which states and school districts operate. We would never presume that policy makers or administrators could simply implement complex systems with a wave of the hand, much less carry through with the even harder work of building the capacity of schools to educate all students to high levels.
Organization of this Report
To carry out its charge to provide guidance to state and district officials responsible for making decisions about appropriate assessment and accountability systems to meet the requirements of the Title I law, the committee has conceived of this report as a guide. That is, it was designed to be useful as well as informative. To that end, we have organized the report so that our readers can walk through the various components of the system and consider a set of questions that state and district leaders should ask themselves as they develop their systems. We identify what we consider the key criteria for each component. And we include examples of states and districts that have applied these criteria in different ways.
This approach is intended to accomplish two goals. First, we present what our review of the research and our experience show are the basic principles beneath an effective system, allowing state and district officials to measure their own approaches against our criteria. Second, we present examples to show that there are many ways of applying these criteria; we do not want to suggest at any point that there is one right way to do this. In addition, we do not want to suggest that these examples represent ideal solutions to the challenges states and districts face. Some of these examples do not completely meet our criteria, and we indicate this in introducing them. Some examples remain controversial and deserve continuing study; a future edition of this guide might include a different set of examples.
Before turning to the criteria, however, we need to examine the entire system. In Chapter 2, we consider and critique the theory of action behind the Title I law and the various attempts at standards-based reform. We then expand on the theory of action to reflect our analysis of effective reform.
In Chapter 3, we begin to lay out the components of the system by examining the issue of standards. In Chapter 4, we discuss assessments, including