Implementing Standards Based Accountability

LPC Faculty: Jennifer Russell, Consultant
Associated Organization: RAND
Funding Agency: Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI)

Standards-based accountability (SBA) in education entails the development of content and performance standards, the administration of assessments aligned with the standards, and the imposition of consequences tied to assessment results. As a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all 50 states will be implementing forms of SBA over the next few years. The RAND Corporation is conducting a longitudinal study that focuses on the impact of SBA on mathematics and science instruction and achievement. This study is designed to identify factors that enhance the implementation of SBA, foster positive changes in school and classroom practice, and promote improved student achievement. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and it addresses four broad questions:

  • What strategies are used in implementing SBA in mathematics and science at the state, district, and school levels?
  • Which state, district, and school implementation strategies are associated with changes in classroom practice in mathematics and science?
  • How valid are the standards-based test scores as indicators of changes in student achievement in mathematics and science?
  • Which features of SBA implementation are associated with student attainment of academic standards in mathematics and science?

The research will be conducted in three states that vary in their approaches to SBA —California, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. In each state we will draw a nested sample of teachers within schools within districts and follow them over a period of three years. Data will be collected from teachers, principals, and district and state officials using a combination of questionnaires, interviews, and artifact examination. We will gather information about SBA implementation as well as factors that influence implementation, such as the capacity of schools and districts to modify school operations, teachers’ and principals’ understanding of state SBA policies, and the professional development offered to teachers and other staff. Student achievement data will also be collected, and relationships among implementation, practices, and student achievement will be explored. To investigate the validity of standards-based test scores we may also examine the content and format of test items, and, where possible, we will compare score trends on the standards-based test with other tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Because NCLB affects every public school student in the country, insights gained from this study will have wide applicability.

*This description is from RAND at