Accountability and assessment: the resurrection of scientific policy

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Critically considering the history of educational assessment, this analysis problematizes the way in which certain constructions of assessment have achieved privileged status over others in the past two centuries in Western discourses, particularly in the US educational landscape. The analysis adopts the position that a centralized, authoritarian control through various government mechanisms has resulted in the gradually diminishing power of school leaders and teachers, who once had the responsibility of not only designing learners’ assessment tasks, but of presenting or “exhibiting” their outcomes to the public. It traces the épistémès of both thought and practice and the way in which standardized testing has become an end in itself rather than a means of assessment and improvement; an “unquestioned” social-educational norm, capturing state agents’ push for quantitative measures that do not fully appreciate the complexity of teaching and learning. In the name of neoliberal agendas and economics, these calculative power discourses have shaped public understandings of educational “performance,” identifying standardized tests as the key tool to control funding entitlement and other incentives. Using the Foucauldian framework of archaeology, the analysis portrays the ideas, assumptions, beliefs, ideologies, and theories which have formed, evolved, and ultimately normalized the ruptures and discontinuities resulting in reductive standardized assessment. In developing an intellectual archaeology of evaluation, the analysis offers the concept of reproductive power as a way to capture the circularity of mechanisms intended to centralize the power for decision-making and administration in the hands of state policy actors. It concludes with commentary on future trends in evaluation and assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Educational Leadership and Management Discourse
EditorsFenwick W. English
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030396664
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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