Title

The Effects of a Districtwide Criterion-Referenced Testing Program on Students' Academic Achievement and Teachers' Attitudes and Instructional Behavior

Date of Award

7-1-1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching & Learning

Abstract

There is a growing perception that more accountability, in the form of systemwide testing, will somehow lead to improvements in the quality of public education. The formulation of regional and national standards and benchmarks has also led to the increased use of curriculum based testing programs. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a districtwide criterion-referenced testing program that has been administered annually since 1989 in a school district in Manitoba. The study specifically addressed whether the testing program had impacted on students’ academic achievement and on the attitudes and instructional behaviors of the educators involved with the tests.

The annual grade eight mathematics and reading test scores from 1992 to 1996 were analyzed to determine whether students’ test scores had improved over the five years. Teachers and administrators responded to a questionnaire containing 15 Likert items and one open-ended item. Interviews were also conducted with some of the respondents.

Students’ test scores showed no overall increases on the test subscores over the five years, although significant differences were noted between schools and between years and schools. Increases were evident in the number of students scoring in the 0-20% range on the subtests in both reading and mathematics. Increasingly, schools’ mean subtest scores fell within 5% of the district means, which would seem to indicate that program delivery had become more consistent since the inception of the testing program. Approximately half the teachers reported that they found the information generated by the tests useful and were in favor of retaining the testing program, while approximately 25% were not in favor of it, and 25% were undecided. Administrators’ responses were similar to the teachers’ responses except that administrators indicated stronger support for the district’s tests and for the use of any form of year-end testing program. The open-ended survey item and the interviews seemed to indicate that teachers thought that the testing program had some value in focusing both students and teachers on the curriculum content and in maintaining some consistency of programming across the district’s six schools.

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