Policy research utilization in the Texas State Legislature : a case study of student competency testing legislation




Zandan, Peter Andrew

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Over the past ten years the American public has expressed concern over the large number of students graduating from high schools without mastering the basic skills necessary to function productively in the adult world. In response to such concern, thirty-eight states, as of 1979, have adopted legislation or state education board rulings providing for mandatory competency testing programs on statewide or local district levels (Pipko, 1980). Texas, following suit in 1979, passed its own statewide competency testing law, Senate Bill 350. ... In the law mandating minimum competency testing, there are few signs that lawmakers have absorbed the findings and recommendations of the policy research. Lawmakers were somewhat specific about the who, what and how of testing programs, but were extremely vague about what was emphasized by research as the primary concern behind implementing competency tests and standards; improving student achievement in basic skills. The question, then, that this research study addresses is: What factors prevented the use of research knowledge in creating Texas' minimum competency testing program? The answer to this question is attempted through interviewing legislators and staff members responsible for making state educational policy. These interviews were systematically organized around three hypotheses which attempt to explain why research is not fully utilized in policy making.