Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Carter:

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

The Carter Years: State Testing Spreads

Despite doubts and challenges, statewide basic skills competency tests continued to gain momentum nationwide. As policy analyst and assessment expert Lorrie Shepard of the University of Colorado has noted, "By 1978, thirty-three states had taken action to mandate minimum competency standards for grade-to-grade promotion or high school graduation. By 1980, all fifty states had a minimum competency testing program or a state testing program of some kind. By mandating state-administered tests and standards, legislators intended to improve the quality of schooling and 'put meaning back into the high school diploma.'" Yet, in many cases, the basic skills competency testing movement was considered an end in itself; testing was the reform, and other school- or social-reform strategies went largely undeveloped. As one state official put it, "Evaluation of student achievement of minimum standards is obviously necessary in order to know how students are doing and whether or not they have achieved minimum standards"; the implication was that a test to see how students were doing was a first step toward a program that might help students learn.

 

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