It's Complicated: Rethinking Education Reform And Accountability At The Intersection Of Federal, State And Local Policy
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This thesis demonstrates that successful education reform can be achieved only by a concurrently implemented policy that addresses issues in education which focus on quality and equity at the local, state and federal levels of government. This paper shows that current student performance data provides evidence for the failure of previous reforms that focus on a broadreaching simplistic approach to reform focused on high stakes accountability finance and testing. Building on this evidence and on the existing literature discussing accountability, this thesis proposes five principles for education policy. However, the complex system of decentralized governance in the United States demands the coordination between federal, state and local lawmakers to draw cohesive policy at each level that will combat the nationwide achievement gap while being cautious of over testing. A methodological approach utilizing literature review, qualitative and quantitative analysis of legislation, and evaluation of student performance data was used to propose multiple policy recommendations (PRs) at the federal, state and local level. The proposed reform focuses recommendations on enabling lower stakes systems of accountability. Further, it demonstrates how the three coordinating pairs of reformative policies provide both the underlying foundation and overarching structure necessary for each individual policy recommendation to achieve success. Finally, the paper discusses synchronization between each level of government and explains how the five policy recommendations constituting this proposal for reform will best facilitate an educational environment providing every student with equal opportunity for achievement.