The foundations of high stakes testing indicate that their intention is to formulate change that is traceable and transparent. Accountability is essential to outcomes but instruction must be aligned to the needs of students and educators and most importantly must be inclusive of the perceptions and perceived needs of real life classroom teachers. Tracing the effectiveness of high stakes reforms and reforms that would be considered the fall out of such is essential to the development of alignment between curriculum and test results. (Bolt 2003) These changes cannot under any circumstances be judged solely on the perceptions of administers, as has been shown by this work administrators give a great deal more positive assessment of reform, prior to the acceptance of such reform as positive by real world classroom teachers. This is especially true with regard to those students who are clearly already at a disadvantage in the system, a finding that supports McNeil (2000) in the fact that high stakes testing reform has a tendency to aide only advanced and "normal" students while it may leave remedial students lagging.
No matter the outcome of testing, or the reform that achieves such outcomes the most important voices associated with it will; remain real classroom teachers who have the capacity to see, implement, learn from and hopefully develop creative systems to aide students not only in their ability to effectively take tests but to effectively learn basic and abstract concepts in mathematics instruction. This voice is essential in eliciting real change and cannot be ignored in any sense.
It is clear that both good and bad outcomes have ensued as a result of the accountability movement in mathematics reform. Teachers and others have increased the amount of continuing education and most importantly have sought alternative (performance based) assessment tools to balance the challenges of "teaching to the test" and to come to a greater understanding of how to implement and assess changes most effectively. Sadly, as with many reforms those who are already challenged stand to see the least improvement in both test scores and basic understanding of material as perceptions of these 134 educators indicate that only above average and average students are benefiting from high stakes math reform, while marginal students are not showing a great deal of improvement, if any.
Mathematics proficiency has often been seen as the litmus test for the effectiveness of any educational system, with and without reforms implementation. Student proficiency in math is essential to the development of students who can succeed in many other applications, both real world and academic, even when such success is seen as only marginally necessary by such students. Teacher perception, student perception, real proficiency and real test scores are all essential aspects of judging the effectiveness of any mathematics instruction. The influence of high stakes testing on awareness of progress is an unexpected positive outcome of the high stakes reforms, while fear of leaving behind already challenged students is the most negative outcome of reforms Either way, without the perceptions of real teachers in the classroom on a daily basis such understandings about the need for reversals or even further changes is impossible.
Though change is an essential aspect of the human condition, and change often elicits positive outcomes all change is not wholly positive. Teacher perception is such an essential aspect of mathematics or any educational reform that the need to assess it and then respond to it is crucial to a greater understanding of real classroom experiences. Through the accountability movement mathematics has clearly one through a transformation, and as this assessment demonstrates teachers are withholding judgment regarding its effectiveness and its measurements. Some very positive aspects of resistance and acceptance have been attained as teachers and their support systems implement greater creativity than was initially expected by achieving more continuing education and creating alternative assessments that can elicit greater breadth of understanding of real student achievement of knowledge attainment.
The importance of teacher buy in of reforms is essential but teachers clearly have right and reason to withhold judgment regarding reform until they know for sure that the changes implemented will really result in improvement of student outcomes and better essential knowledge of mathematics. Though this assessment is clearly topical, continued long-term assessment of teacher perception is essential to understanding how such changes will effect classroom applications and student achievement, especially once the teacher learning curve regarding the implications and applications of reform have been reached through further instruction and utilization of reform principles.
Another informative aspect of reform and a clear guide for future research will be real test scores, beyond marginal improvements. To accept reform as positive teachers and other educators must be shown more than marginal improvements on test scores, and they must also see real improvement for remedial as well as advanced and "normal" students. Student participation in creative solutions can and likely will play a part in these improvements, regardless of early concerns regarding issues of teachers "teaching to the test." Real world mathematics applications, performance based assessment for daily, weekly and quarterly personal improvement needs as well as many other teacher-based creative reforms will likely continue to play a significant role in change.
Teachers' overall desire to implement change in a balanced way will likely ensure that the most effective changes will occur in a breadth of classroom context that will be needed to ascertain real working standards of high stakes testing reform. Further research should continue to test and challenge the fear-based preconceived notions of high stakes testing as fundamentally destructive to real progress, through the continued assessment of teacher creativity in mathematic instruction and assessment in the real world classroom. When such changes being to be noted as unbalanced, alterations in standards must ensue to curb any real regression that might occur when teachers are asked to restrict teaching to exam standards and materials, teachers must clearly continue to have the authority to make these changes, in the classroom if they are to remain unwritten in most reform measures. Teacher involvement in policy change planning must also be assessed, frequently, as concerns regarding teacher empowerment could ultimately broaden the gap between quality and quantity teaching in the system.
Parent involvement in instruction and classroom success must also be reiterated continually, during and after change implementation. Parents, just like teachers and students must be sold on the ideal of reform-based standards so they can ultimately assist students in achieving greater exam outcomes as well as real classroom outcomes. Continued assessment of parent involvement and improvement of such is essential to reform success.
Last but certainly not least student perception of assessment reform and instructional reform is also essential to success of assessment reform applications. Students must understand the stakes of assessments both for themselves and for their schools and districts and must give the assessments the proper credence…