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Testing the tests: The limits of contemporary education policy

Jeremy Lane Eccles, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Contemporary educational success largely rests on three basic premises: (1) Educational success can best be measured through test scores. (2) The major value of education is to enhance our national economic competitiveness in the global age. (3) The most appropriate test scores are concentrated in the mathematics and science fields, since both gauge America's ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies. While clearly education serves an economic purpose, there has been only scant attention to many of the traditional social goals of education. This dissertation is designed to test how well the current focus in contemporary education policy (high-test scores) addresses these social goals. ^ Overall, the results drawn from both multiple regression analysis, as well as simple tabular analysis, display the inability of the contemporary education policy to help with traditional democratic goals of building social capital, improving access to the political system, promoting the general welfare, and listening to the wishes of the public. In short, test scores and the economic model of education were largely unhelpful in promoting social goals of education articulated by scholars from Thomas Jefferson to Horace Mann to John Dewey. Furthermore, other aspects of education policy were helpful in these regards. In particular, quantities of education (i.e. graduation rates and school attendance), as well as school inputs (i.e. education funding and equitable school finance) helped predict levels of social capital, access to the political system, and promoted the general welfare through positive contributions to issues of crime, health, and welfare. ^

Subject Area

Education, Tests and Measurements|American Studies|Political Science, General|Political Science, Public Administration|Education, Philosophy of

Recommended Citation

Eccles, Jeremy Lane, "Testing the tests: The limits of contemporary education policy" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9942166.