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Making the Connection: A Decade of Standards-Based Reform and Achievement
Unformatted Document Text:  Making the Connection: A decade of standards-based reform and achievement A BSTRACT For more than a decade, researchers and policy analysts have been observing trends in state policy activity related to standards-based educational reform and trends in student achievement. It was perhaps inevitable that these two strands would converge to create a line of inquiry investigating whether state policies have been responsible for gains in student achievement. Despite efforts along these lines, establishing a firm connection between state policy and student achievement has proven to be a rather elusive target. As a result, a research-based consensus on the effectiveness of standards-based reform has yet to emerge. This paper presents the results of a study conducted to explore this policy-achievement connection. Written to be accessible to a non-technical audience, this report first presents descriptive information on trends in state policy and achievement over the past decade. This preliminary analysis provides valuable context for the more sophisticated regression-based models that follow, where we measure policy effects. Through a step-by-step description of the results, we attempt to offer a clear explanation of what the findings at each stage are able to tell us. But we also take care to point out the limitations of the analysis—what the findings cannot tell us. We find strong evidence that implementing a solid program of standards-based-education policies has been associated with significant gains in mathematics achievement over the past decade, as measured by NAEP . Positive but less dramatic results are also found for achievement in reading. However, these benefits appear to be limited to certain elements of a standards-based approach—academic-content standards, aligned assessments, and accountability. Results suggest that policies related to improving teacher quality are negatively related to achievement growth, although the ultimate reason for this relationship remains unclear.

Authors: Swanson, Christopher.
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Making the Connection:
A decade of standards-based reform and achievement
A
BSTRACT
For more than a decade, researchers and policy analysts have been observing trends in state
policy activity related to standards-based educational reform and trends in student achievement. It was
perhaps inevitable that these two strands would converge to create a line of inquiry investigating whether
state policies have been responsible for gains in student achievement. Despite efforts along these lines,
establishing a firm connection between state policy and student achievement has proven to be a rather
elusive target. As a result, a research-based consensus on the effectiveness of standards-based reform has
yet to emerge.
This paper presents the results of a study conducted to explore this policy-achievement
connection. Written to be accessible to a non-technical audience, this report first presents descriptive
information on trends in state policy and achievement over the past decade. This preliminary analysis
provides valuable context for the more sophisticated regression-based models that follow, where we
measure policy effects. Through a step-by-step description of the results, we attempt to offer a clear
explanation of what the findings at each stage are able to tell us. But we also take care to point out the
limitations of the analysis—what the findings cannot tell us. We find strong evidence that implementing a
solid program of standards-based-education policies has been associated with significant gains in
mathematics achievement over the past decade, as measured by
NAEP
. Positive but less dramatic results
are also found for achievement in reading. However, these benefits appear to be limited to certain
elements of a standards-based approach—academic-content standards, aligned assessments, and
accountability. Results suggest that policies related to improving teacher quality are negatively related to
achievement growth, although the ultimate reason for this relationship remains unclear.


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