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Since the publication of A Nation At Risk in 1983, educators have lived with an increasingly comprehensive set of test-based accountability policies. Framing global competitiveness in student academic success as an increasingly important component of a broader economic and national security agenda , both federal and state departments of educationmoved to establish an ‘accountability era’ by mandating test-based educational accountability legislation including No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Race to the Top (RTTT), Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as well as various state-level policy initiatives that evolved from including various district, school, and student accountability measures, and more recently; teacher evaluation systems (e.g., value-add measures). In their framing language, NCLB and ESSA were intended to increase federal oversight in holding schools accountable for academic progress of all students, improve equity and protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students, increase transparency with annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress, and require high academic standards for all students. Ample research has shown high- stakes testing may be stressful for teachers — von der Embse and colleagues reported nearly 30% of teachers experienced clinically significant anxiety specific to test-based accountability policies. Paired with the increased levels of anxiety there has been a noted increased pressure to engage in counterproductive teaching practices due to the constant demand for improvement of student achievement (e.g., “teaching to the test”). This will be outlined in more depth later in this policy brief.

In addition, the Obama administration introduced the Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative in 2009 intended to provide funding to states and school districts willing to complete systemic reform around four identified areas: 1) development of rigorous standards and better assessments, 2) adoption of better data systems to provide schools, teachers, and parents with information about student progress, 3) support for teachers and school leaders to become more effective, and 4) increased emphasis and resources for the rigorous interventions needed to turn around the lowest-performing schools. All of these policy initiatives, as well as aligned support from foundations (such as the Gates foundation, amongst others) have led to the widespread adoption of teacher evaluation policies in a number of states–including Florida.