tional practices. They are then responsible for using this information to adjust their practices and seek support for additional resources for improvement.
But others have responsibilities as well, since student performance depends on the capacity of teachers and administrators to deliver high-quality instruction. Therefore, the education improvement system also provides information on the progress of efforts to develop instructional capacity. In all cases, the information the system provides is transparent—that is, it shows results and suggests remedies. In addition, the information provides a means for states and districts to monitor the effects of their changes and make course corrections when warranted.
As with the conventional model, the theory of action for education improvement systems is based on the idea that a number of components work hand in hand. States and districts can develop these components in any order; what matters is coherence among the components.
The components of an education improvement system are: standards, assessments, indicators of the conditions of instruction, and accountability.
Standards. As with standards-based reform, challenging standards for student performance drive instructionally valid standards-based systems. Content standards set expectations for learning for all students, and performance standards are the benchmarks against which progress is gauged. Performance standards also provide instructional guidance by offering clear ideas of classroom strategies to enable students to reach the standards.
Assessments. Assessments provide information on progress toward the standards, but they do so in different ways for different constituencies. Assessments serve a number of purposes—guiding instructional decisions, monitoring progress, holding schools and districts accountable. Classroom assessments provide frequent and detailed information about individual student strengths and weaknesses, district assessments monitor school progress toward standards, and state assessments provide data for use in accountability systems.
School reports consist of a range of measures—which include indicators of instructional practices, as well as student work and test scores—that provide a complete picture of performance. The reports indicate the performance of groups of students within the school or district; overall average scores may be misleading.
Not all assessments are equally capable of providing useful information. The most informative measures are ones that respond to instructional changes aimed at teaching toward the standards. Such measures inform students, teachers, and parents about the effects of instruction and suggest directions for improvement.
The array of assessments include assessments that are appropriate for young children, as well as assessments that accurately and validly measure the achievement of students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.