Using performance assessment as a tool for reform in an urban school district

Edward Joseph Levine, Fordham University


This qualitative study examined connections among performance assessment, instruction, and fiscal decision making. Data were collected at the district level and at four schools during an 18-month period. Theory and research in school change, education reform, and performance assessment informed the study. The primary research question addressed by the study was: How does performance assessment inform decision making in an urban school district? One of the study's most surprising findings was the significance of establishing a culture of professional development. Centered around examining and interpreting student work, professional development was a significant instrument of instructional and fiscal decision making, or, viewed more globally, of school change itself. A model of interactive professionalism, focusing on teaching and learning, was found to inform the professional development culture of the district as well as the schools. A second finding of this study was that formal performance assessments were not regarded as useful for teachers' own learning; instead, it was informal performance assessment, centered around interpreting and analyzing student work, which was found to be catalytic. Informal performance assessment fostered a shift among principals and teachers from a predominant concern with controlling to a predominant concern with learning. Teachers' reflection on teaching and learning was a key element of the reform process in each of the schools regardless of the socioeconomic or ethnic makeup of the students. It was standards-based education, marked by high-quality professional development and instruction, as well as fiscal accountability, that was found to foster school change.

Subject Area

School administration|Curricula|Teaching|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Levine, Edward Joseph, "Using performance assessment as a tool for reform in an urban school district" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9923434.