Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2012

Publication Title

American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting


Accountability, Policy, Testing


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Education Policy


The purpose of this paper is to articulate how a theory, developed in 1968 by Garrett Hardin to describe how shared resources, or “commons” can become depleted, also elucidates the mechanism by which standardization of educational outcomes and assessment have come to dominate current education discourse. We then present results of a case study of a school struggling to succeed within a context of a district’s hyper-focus on standardized measures of success, and employ the theory to illustrate its usefulness to explain what we found at the school site. We believe this theoretical framework provides interesting perspectives on current trends toward standardization that threaten the quality of public education and suggests useful courses of action to mitigate against those threats.


Paper presented as part of the session: Education Policy and Politics.This paper is also available in the AERA Online Paper Repository. Each presenter retains copyright on the full-text paper. Repository users should follow legal and ethical practices in their use of repository material; permission to reuse material must be sought from the presenter, who owns copyright. Users should be aware of the AERA Code of Ethics.