Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, Vol 2, No 1 (2002)

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On New York's Assessment Policy: A Perspective from the Field

Margaret Dwyer

Abstract


Starting in the early 1990’s, New York State began to establish learning standards that defined what students at various grade levels should know and be able to do in most curricular areas and a series of state assessments designed to measure student progress towards the performances demanded by the standards. Experience with these assessments has provided for practitioners (that is, teachers, administrators, and other professional-level public school workers) the basis and motivation for a critical field perspective on state assessment policy. By a critical field perspective, I mean a perspective taken by practitioners (as opposed to specialists in testing) that is grounded in analysis that is committed as much to equity as it is to excellence in public education. The purpose of this article is to outline such a position on the state assessments. I begin by describing the assessments as they are commonly experienced by practitioners, identifying the political context in which our state assessment policy has developed, and questioning the fundamental nature of the policy itself. I then suggest actions for practitioners to take to challenge problematic aspects of the state policy and to promote policy that enhances both equity and excellence.

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