Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 1994 Issue »

    Performance-Based Assessment and Educational Equity

    Linda Darling-Hammond
    The use of educational testing in the United States has been criticized for its inequitable effects on different populations of students. Many assume that new forms of assessment will lead to more equitable outcomes. Linda Darling-Hammond argues in this article, however, that alternative assessment methods, such as performance-based assessment, are not inherently equitable, and that educators must pay careful attention to the ways that the assessments are used. Some school reform strategies, for example, use assessment reform as a lever for external control of schools. These strategies, Darling-Hammond argues, are unlikely to be successful and the assessments are unlikely to be equitable because they stem from a distrust of teachers and fail to involve teachers in the reform processes.

    Darling-Hammond argues instead for policies that ensure "top-down support for bottom-up reform," where assessment is used to give teachers practical information on student learning and to provide opportunities for school communities to engage in "a recursive process of self-reflection, self-critique, self-correction, and self-renewal." Ultimately, then, the equitable use of performance assessments depends not only on the design of the assessments themselves, but also on how well the assessment practices are interwoven with the goals of authentic school reform and effective teaching.

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    Spring 1994 Issue


    Performance-Based Assessment and Educational Equity
    Linda Darling-Hammond
    Learning to Work
    The Impact of Curriculum and Assessment Standards on Educational Opportunity
    Diana C. Pullin
    Is It Real for All Kids?
    A Framework for Equitable Assessment Policies for English Language Learners
    Mark W. LaCelle-Peterson andCharlene Rivera
    A Technological and Historical Consideration of Equity Issues Associated with Proposals to Change the Nation's Testing Policy
    George F. Madaus
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