Survey Shows Expansion in Programs To Test Students, Teachers Since 1985

October 03, 1990 3 min read

By Robert Rothman

Although state actions to strengthen standards for students and teachers slowed considerably after 1985, states have continued to expand student- and teacher-testing requirements, a survey by the Educational Testing Service has found.

The 50-state survey found that, between 1985 and 1990, five states initiated statewide student-testing programs, bringing to 47 the number with such programs, and that nearly half the states expanded their programs to include more grades, subject areas, and higher-order skills.

In addition, it found, 13 states in the past five years added testing to their requirements for entering or completing a teacher-education program.

In contrast to the activity on testing, however, little state action occurred between 1985 and 1990 to increase high-school graduation requirements, one of the most prominent reform strategies of the early- and mid-1980’s, the report notes. Only one state substantially increased coursework requirements during that period, it found, and one state created an honors diploma.

But public-school choice programs grew over the past five years, the survey found. Between 1985 and 1990, it found, 13 states created some form of public-school choice program, and legislation relating to intradistrict or interdistrict choice is pending in another 4 states. In 8 states, choice legislation failed, the survey found.

3rd Survey on Policies

The report, issued last month, is the third survey by the testing firm on state standards policies. In addition to the survey results, the report contains detailed information on each state’s programs.

Unlike the earlier reports, which were issued in 1986 and 1988, the new survey is the first to include data from all 50 states.

The study found that 47 states currently test, or require local districts to test, elementary- and secondary-school students.

In addition to the five states that initiated testing programs in the past five years, 11 states added new grade levels to their existing testing requirements, the survey found, while six states added tests in science and social studies.

Several states also began to link their assessment systems to curriculum requirements, according to Margaret E. Goertz, co-author of the report.

In the area of teacher standards, the survey found that 39 states in 1990 require prospective teachers to pass a state-mandated standardized test before entering the profession, up from 26 in 1985. But most of the increase occurred shortly after 1985, Ms. Goertz noted.

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of activity in teacher testing in the last two or three years,” she said. “It really has slowed.”

In addition, 15 states evaluate a teacher’s classroom performance, or plan to do so, before granting certification. Four states have in the past five years instituted teacher-internship requirements, the survey found.

Curriculum Mandates

The report also notes that states have shifted roles in curriculum development during the past decade from providing technical assistance to districts to “mandating courses of study, performance objectives, and increasingly, course content.”

In 1990, the study notes, six states mandate minimum course content in elementary or secondary schools, and 19 have established learning objectives or outcomes for most grade levels. Another 16 states have developed model curricula or curriculum guides, it found.

Copies of the report, “Educational Standards in the 50 States: 1990,” are available free of charge by writing Research Publications, Educational Policy Research Division, Room R143 (05-R), Educational Testing Service, Princeton, N.J. 08541. The document number is 90-15.

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 1990 edition of Education Week as Survey Shows Expansion in Programs To Test Students, Teachers Since 1985