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Aligning District Tests and Curricula with State Requirements
Lessons of a "Model" Program
Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), school districts all over the country will be required to show student gains on state-level assessments or risk being designated as in need of improvement. In an effort to raise the achievement of all its students on the new, more rigorous Maryland state tests, officials of the Montgomery County Public Schools developed a grade-by-grade set of curriculum frameworks and assessments and contracted with Achieve, Inc., an independent nonprofit organization, to evaluate their effectiveness. Achieve, which normally assesses accountability systems at the state level for "quality and coherence," praised the Montgomery County assessments as rigorous, high-quality measures that are good predictors of students' performance on state-level tests. Achieve also indicated that, with some minor revisions, the district's curriculum frameworks "can be on a par with the best in the nation and the world." The Harvard Education Letter recently spoke with Achieve executive vice president Matthew Gandal about the lessons educators from other districts can learn from the work in Montgomery County. This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article. Click here to become a subscriber.
HEL: Education Week has characterized the Montgomery County standards and assessment work as a "model." Would this be an accurate assessment?
Gandal: Yes, I think it's accurate. In standards-based reform, much of the attention has been on states as the entities responsible for setting academic standards, developing testing systems to measure the standards, and then putting accountability systems in place based on those standards. What we found in Montgomery County is that there's an equally important role for school districts around those same set of issues—not competing with the state or duplicating what the state's done, but instead creating a complementary set of assessments and instructional materials that are aligned with state goals and the state exams.