The Evolution of Assessment and Accountability in the United States

  • Cathy Box


This chapter provides a historical context of events, circumstances, and conditions in the United States that shaped our school system into one that is firmly entrenched in traditional instruction, leaving little room for reform practices such as formative assessment. The educational system as we know it today was formed out of dire necessity to educate the masses during the early nineteenth century and was heavily influenced by an industrial economy, resulting in instructivist practices that endure to this day. Johann Pestalozzi and, later, John Dewey sought to reform education and create an environment that was learner centered rather than teacher centered, but their ideas were met by social, political, and economic factors that worked against them. Formative assessment—a learner-centered practice—began to take shape in the late 1960s but found itself in tension with high-stakes testing and an era of accountability that reinforced established norms of teacher-centered, instructivist practices. Achievement results for American students on international tests have been mediocre thus far in comparison to other developed countries and should serve as an indicator that traditional instruction is not working. Additionally, what we do test is not necessarily what prepares students for twenty-first-century challenges. Students need to be able to regulate their own learning as they strive to keep pace with the rapidly changing world around them.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy Box
    • 1
  1. 1.Lubbock Christian UniversityLubbockUSA

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