The principal of the school has a plethora of challenges in the
offing. He/she must abide by state laws when implementing state
standards of instruction. These are handed down from the state and not
selected on the local school level. State mandated objectives need to be
adapted to be on the developmental level of the Involved learner.
Learning opportunities chosen for implementing these objectives need to
follow research from the psychology of learning. Thus, among other
considerations, the learning opportunities need to be interesting,
meaningful, and purposeful. Each student then needs to achieve as
optimally as possible.
There is much written in professional educational journals about
principals who carefully tow the line in implementing state mandates in
the curriculum as compared to those who stress creative methods of
instruction to achieve state wide goals of instruction. How much
conformity to state mandated curricular objectives should there be in
teaching/learning, as compared to novel, unique objectives in teaching
and learning? The purpose of this paper is to examine both points of
view and offer solutions to the dilemma. Conformity to what is mandated
can be quite different as compared to a principal who is continually
seeking unique ways to provide for individual differences in the
classroom in order to improve the curriculum.
Statewide Mandates and the School Principal
Higher standards and expectations in having students achieve
objectives is common to many states in the US. The prevailing beliefs
are that students are achieving very minimally in the public schools.
With statewide objectives stressed for students to achieve in the
classroom, achievement will be upped. Teachers also need to expect more
of learners. The pay off will come in terms of higher test scores within
a state. Generally, the tests are written under the supervision of the
state department of education. Student achievement may then be quickly
scored with the tests having multiple choice test items. Machine scoring
can make for large numbers of tests being scored rapidly.
Learning opportunities for students are to be aligned with the
state mandated objectives. The teacher then selects the learning
opportunities. Teaching quality is measured by student test results and
scores. Generally, the scores are provided in terms of percentiles,
although standard deviations, stanines, quartile deviations, and grade
equivalents may also be used to indicate student achievement. Principals
may be such strong advocates of students doing well on tests that little
room is left for creative and critical thinking as well as problem
solving experiences. Rather, rote learning, memorization of subject
matter, and "what is on the test" may make up the total
These principals believe that:
1. teachers need to stick to the basics in teaching so that
students may do well on mandated tests.
2. teachers may need to stress rote learning if this is what it
takes for high test results to come about from students.
3. teachers should refrain from covering student questions, which
may not assist the latter in achieving higher test scores.
4. teachers should be assisted by the principal only, on what might
be on the state mandated test.
5. teachers should not try out new ideas in teaching unless they
help up student test scores.
6. teachers should not emphasize any subject matter not aligned
with the state mandated test.
7. teachers need to be motivated to stick to items that may be
related to what is on the sate mandated test.
8. teachers must realize that high test scores indicate high
9. teachers need to face up to the reality that high test scores
are equated with good teaching by the lay public.
10. teachers need to be remunerated for their services based on
test results of students. Teacher accountability for high student test
scores is to be equated with the proficient teacher (Ediger, 1999,
These principals believe that the testing and measurement movement
is objective in measuring educational quality. Subjective means to
ascertain student achievement is to be frowned upon. Multiple choice
test items can cover a broad range of subject matter and are easy to
score statewide with computers. Classroom teaching needs to be aligned
with state mandated objectives. Tests need to be valid and reliable and
also be aligned with the stated objectives. Success for students with
high test scores equals successful teaching.
Validity is an important concept to stress in teaching since the
learning opportunities need to align with the state mandated objectives.
Principals who believe strongly in the measurement movement will be
strong advocates here of alignment so that students achieve well on
state mandated tests. They may also emphasize the importance of the
concept of reliability in that any test should measure consistently. In
pilot studies then of state mandated tests, students taking the test
should test consistently be it test/retest, alternative forms, and/or
split half forms of reliability.
These principals feel that the measurement movement is objective,
provides a meaningful indicator of learner progress in school, provides
data to parents that is understandable such as a percentile, and
provides excellent guidelines as to what should be taught by teachers
when using the state mandated objectives of instruction (Ediger, 2000,
Principals who are more subjective, as compared to the measurement
movement advocates, believe that teaching is an art and involves
creativity. The state mandated objectives may be there for students to
achieve, but there is room and time for other kinds of objectives to be
emphasized in teaching and learning. Then to, there are creative methods
of instruction to use to assist teachers and students to achieve
mandated objectives. Principals then who are constructionists believe
1. students construct their very own knowledge and skills.
2. knowledge/skills are subjective to the learner Involved in
ongoing lessons and units of study.
3. testing and measuring provide very little data on how well
students are doing. The every day accomplishments are completely omitted
when reporting test scores.
4. learning by students is in context and not revealed through
isolated multiple choice items in tests.
5. teaching and teaming occur in a classroom where a teacher knows
6. test writers on the state level do not know students totally and
cannot know what the needs of students are when testing is done as a
7. students are individuals and not a mass number to be given the
same test and evaluated en mass with the same standards. Machine scoring
and printouts of test data minimize people as individuals.
8. Constructivism emphasizes that student work can be diagnosed and
remediation efforts follow in teaching. With test scores, no information
is provided on what needs to be emphasized specifically in a given
9. novel, unique methods of teaching need to be stressed to
motivate individual student learning.
10. holism is involved in learning, not isolated parts as is true
in the testing and measurement movement (Ediger, 2000, Chapter
The testing/measurement movement versus constructivism are quite
far removed from each other. They represent opposite ends of the
continuum. What implications are there in this dilemma for university
graduate program in school administration? There are numerous
implications here for the- evaluation of teachers in the school setting.
With merit pay, in one form or another being advocated, how do
principals know what to look for when assessing the quality of
instruction? The following statements then become highly salient:
1. teachers posses different philosophies of teaching. Diverse
philosophies of education need to be presented in preparing school
administrators with the goal being that understanding and meaning of
each be present.
2. memorization of subject matter that might be on a test embraces
beliefs in the basics as being highly significant in the curriculum.
Constructivism emphasizes that students are different from each-other
and the basics may largely depend upon what the learner with teacher
guidance feels is important to learn.
3. the measurement movement emphasizes that a single percentile
adequately describes what a student has learned. To the constructivist,
this single score/ percentile is inadequate to reveal what students
individually have learned. Those differences in thinking stress diverse
points of view on how to assess student progress.
4. fear is built up within teachers and administrators with items
such as merit pay, school bankruptcy acts, tuition voucher plans, as
well as commercial companies providing education for students. If test
results are to provide data, for example, in giving merit pay raises,
does attempting to teach to the state mandated test determine
5. many parents take seriously student test score results in terms
of percentiles. That single numerical result is much easier to
understand as compared to looking over the numerous entries in a
portfolio and then make judgment's of a learner's achievement.
The writer has spoken to many parents about their beliefs in the testing
and measurement movement. The impression gotten is that parents as a
whole do put considerable faith in test results. The beliefs of parents
may then stack the cards in favor of the testing and measurement
movement. It may take much education of parents to instill faith in
portfolios to indicate learner progress.
6. state mandated testing stresses a percentile to indicate at a
given time where a student is in achievement. There is a specific point
in space and time that indicates the achievement level of any student.
With constructivism, student achievement in products and processes is
shown on a continuum. Thus, these products/processes may show, in
sequential intervals of time, progress made over previous completed work
7. measurement and testing provides a single numeral as indicating
learner achievement whereas constructivism stresses using a variety of
data in a portfolio to assess students such as snapshots, written work,
art products, recordings of oral experiences, video tapes of committee
endeavors, self evaluation information, and data in improved listening
8. tests contain multiple choice items which tend to be isolated
from each other. Portfolios contain information on related items such as
in ongoing lessons and units of study. Students need to perceive
relationships among ideas.
9. sequence in test results provide numerical data which does not
show relationship among products and processes. In a portfolio, for
example, a student may show written work in sequence to indicate ordered
10. measurement movements have an easy way to show student progress
with a numeral, whereas constructivism has a much more complex approach
in revealing student progress, such as in written work. For example, a
considerable amount of content needs to be read and noticed to indicate
achievement and progress of learners. Then too, when two or three
qualified people read a set of portfolios, will they agree as to the
quality of each with interrater or interscorer reliability? (Ediger,
1995, # 115).
Questions Raised In Portfolio Development
There are vital queries to be raised for portfolio development that
need to be listed and discussed by those in undergraduate teacher
education programs and graduate programs `in school administration:
1. how much control should students have over their very own
assessment in portfolio development?
2. what kind of balance should there be in revealing knowledge,
skills, or attitudes within a portfolio?
3. how can the theory of multiple intelligences be brought in to a
portfolio? (See Gardner, 1993, for a listing of eight different
intelligences in student learning and assessment).
4. how much emphasis should be placed upon the separate subjects as
compared to a more integrated curriculum in portfolio goals?
5. should competition as well as cooperation be stressed in
teaching and leaning?
6. how large should a portfolio become to truly reveal what a
student has learned?
7. how can portfolio contents reveal problem solving, as well as
creative and critical thinking skills of learners?
8. how can portfolio results be shared effectively with parents `in
the community so that cooperatively they can work with teachers to
improve the curriculum for students?
9. how might a portfolio indicate relevant trends being pursued in
any curriculum area?
10. which common weaknesses are there In portfolio development and
how might these be remedied'" (Ediger, 1997, #. 120).
The school principal of today has many challenges that need careful
study and consideration. He/she needs to be involved in curriculum
development more so than ever before. Principals need to be actively
involved in, assisting teachers in the classroom. Being holed up in an
office makes for a shunning of responsibilities.
Ediger, Marlow (1997), "Portfolios, Pupils, and their
Teacher," Education Magazine, 120, 20-26.
Ediger, Marlow (1995), "School Administration as Decision
Making," Education Magazine, 115, 19-27.
Ediger, Marlow (2000), Teaching Mathematics Successfully. New
Delhi, India: Discovery Publishing House, Chapter Eighteen.
Ediger, Marlow (2000), Teaching Reading Successfully. New Delhi,
India: Discovery Publishing House, Chapter Two.
Ediger, Marlow(2000), "Appraising Learner Progress In the
Social Studies," College Student Journal, 33 (2), 233-240.
Gardner, Howard (1993), Multiple Intelligences: Theory Into
Practice. New York: Basic Books.
Dr. Marlow Ediger, Professor of Education, Truman State University,
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr.
Marlow Ediger, Professor of Education, Route 2, Box 38, Kirksville,