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Roberta Y. Schorr

Over the last century, the repertoire and range of research approaches in education have changed dramatically. During the Thorndike era, and well beyond, a wave of enthusiasm for experimentation dominated the field (Campbell & Stanley, 1963; Kilpatrick, 1992; Romberg, 1992).

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Roberta Y. Schorr, William A. Firestone and Lora Monfils

Conflicting findings about the effects of state testing on mathematics teaching have a number of roots, including the strong ideological positions of advocates and opponents of state tests and the fact that state policies vary such that one is likely to find different results in different states. The pressure that students, teachers, and administrators may feel toward high test scores and the opportunities that teachers and administrators may have regarding related professional development can also confound findings on the effects of tests on actual classroom teaching. This article describes the teaching practices of fourth-grade teachers in New Jersey, a state with a fourth-grade mathematics test designed to be aligned with state and national standards. The intent of this test is to challenge conventional practice. However, there is a lack of strong pressure to produce high test scores or effective guidance on the kinds of learning opportunities that must complement those tests in order to lead to fundamental change in teaching. Through interviews and observations of 63 teachers, we found that the teachers reported that they changed their practices in ways compatible with state and national standards and the test. For example, they reported asking their students to solve more open-ended problems and to explain their thinking. However, direct observations suggested that teachers have adopted specific strategies without changing their basic instructional approach. The results from our investigation suggest that in the absence of effective professional development, testing leads to minimal changes in teaching practice.