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date: 06 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Standards-based reform and accountability (SBRA) laws and policies are among the most pervasive and durable types of education reforms currently implemented in the United States. These laws and policies specify what students should know and be able to do, and, as such, serve as an “anchor” for other educational policies, including those governing curricula, professional development, and testing. Moreover, these laws and policies hold students, teachers, or schools accountable for their performance, generally by connecting the results of tests aligned with standards to consequences. On one hand, SBRA laws and policies entail several benefits. By explicitly specifying what students should know and be able to do, these laws can align educational reform efforts not only in small areas like a school or district, but across levels of governance. On the other hand, SBRA laws and policies have resulted in a wide range of problems, such as putting demands on school systems that they did not have the capacities to meet, and resulting in inequitable treatment of high-poverty and minority students and schools. As a result, SBRA laws and policies have failed to consistently promote deep change throughout school systems and down to classroom level. This chapter examines the historical and current legal landscape of SBRA laws and policies, in addition to major insights from educational research, about how these laws and policies have fared, and offers recommendations for legal and policy change moving forward.

Keywords: standards-based reform, accountability reform, NCLB, Common Core State Standards, ESSA, education reform, growth models, teacher evaluation

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