The Case Against High Stakes Testing
The Case Against High Stakes Testing (Updated January 2017)
These materials make the case against relying on test scores to make important educational decisions about students or schools - what is called “high-stakes testing.” Common examples include making a child repeat a grade or withholding a student’s high-school diploma solely based on their score on a test, or relying on test scores to decide whether a teacher or school should be sanctioned or rewarded.
A large body of evidence exists against using standardized tests for such decisions. New evidence is being collected as states and district continue to use tests for such purposes. This page presents arguments and evidence to help you build a case against high-stakes testing in your own community. FairTest also has materials on better forms of assessment at http://fairtest.org/k-12/authentic%20assessment.
Be sure to check out:
FairTest materials on testing resistance and reform movement:
- Back-To-School Report Tallies 2016 Testing Reform Victories
- Video of Karen Lewis at FairTest's 2015 Heroes in Education Award event
- FairTest’s 2015 Report: Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill
- The Testing Resistance and Reform Movement, Monthly Review, FairTest article, 2016
- FairTest's 2014 Report: The Testing Resistance and Reform Movement: A FairTest Report
- FairTest report - September 2014 - Testing Reform Victories - The First Wave
- Act Now: A Testing Reform Guide. http://www.fairtest.org/get_involved
- FairTest has Fact Sheets on many testing-related topics. See them at http://www.fairtest.org/fact%20sheets. Many have bibliographies that provide more detailed evidence about the damage caused by the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.
FairTest materials on problems and dangers of standardized testing:
- Failing Our Children. 2004. Extensive analysis of flaws, limits and dangerous consequences of standardized testing. http://www.fairtest.org/node/1778
- NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? Updates Failing Our Children. http://fairtest.org/NCLB-lost-decade-report-home
- Computerized Testing Problems Chronology
- “A Child Is Not a Test Score: Assessment as a Civil Rights Issue," from the Fall 2009 issue of Root and Branch, is available here.
- Links to other helpful resources for books, articles and other organizations
- The Case for Authentic Assessment explains how other assessments and accountability systems can report on school progress and student achievement without resulting in the negative outcomes found under high-stakes testing
General articles by FairTest allies
- Rethinking School Reform. Rethinking Schools book.
- How do Tests Measure Up? (Teaching to the test and score inflation). Daniel Koretz and Anthony Cody. 2008. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2008/10/how_do_tests_measure_up.html.
- "Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform" by David C. Berliner - Teachers College Record, August 2, 2005
- High-Stakes Hustle: Public Schools and the New Billion Dollar Accountability. Baines & Stanley. 2005. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lawrence_Baines/publication/237480858_High-Stakes_Hustle_Public_Schools_and_the_New_Billion_Dollar_Accountability/links/02e7e529f3e69a543e000000.pdf?origin=publication_detail
- The Inevitable Corruption of Indicators and Educators Through High-Stakes Testing by Sharon L. Nicols and David C. Berliner, available from Arizona State University.
The harmful impact on curriculum, instruction and children
- How high-stakes standardized testing is harming our children's mental health. Parents Across America fact sheet; this and other materials on this and related topics are at http://parentsacrossamerica.org/parent-resources/.
- How Standardized Testing Damages Education (Updated July 2012) – FairTest fact sheet
- Common Core Assessment Myths and Realities: Moratorium Needed From More Tests, Costs, Stress
- FairTest Infographic: Common Core: More Tests, But Not Better
- See other FairTest fact sheets on this topic at http://www.fairtest.org/fact%20sheets]
- Testing More, Teaching Less. American Federation of Teachers.
- National Education Association articles on testing.
- Research Says… / High-Stakes Testing Narrows the Curriculum. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Mass Market Writing Assessments as Bullshit. Les Perelman.
- Whoever Said There’s No Such Thing As a Stupid Question Never Looked Carefully at a Standardized Test. Alfie Kohn, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/whoever-said-theres-no-su_b_966553.html
- Regents Exam Review Panel, English Language Arts, Report of Proceedings
Hosted by Rockefeller Foundation, critiques NY State Regents High School graduation tests.
- Emphasis on Testing Leads to Sacrifices in Other Areas. Alfie Kohn, USA Today, August 23, 2001
- Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools by Alfie Kohn (also see http://www.alfiekohn.org/)
- Standards Yes, Standardization No by Deborah Meier
- Student Self-Portraits as Test-Takers: Variations, Contextual Differences, and Assumptions about Motivation, by Wheelock, Bebell, and Haney. 2000
- Punished by Rewards, The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, As, Praise, and Other Bribes. Alfie Kohn. 1999.
Widening the gap: How high-stakes testing exacerbates inequities between wealthy and poor communities; white and students of color
- Racial Justice and Standardized Educational Testing. FairTest fact sheet. 2011.
- Six Reasons Why the Opt Out Movement is Good for Students and Parents of Color. Jesse Hagpian. 2016. http://www.progressive.org/pss/six-reasons-why-opt-out-movement-good-students-and-parents-color
- The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor. Sean Reardon.
- A Child Is Not a Test Score: Assessment as a Civil Right. Root and Branch. Fall 2009.
- Racial Bias Built into Tests. FairTest Examiner article.
- Standards, Testing, and Race. See materials on this topic in Rethinking Schools issues and books.
- Standards and Multiculturalism, Rethinking Schools article, Spring 2002
- The Forgotten History of Eugenics. Alan Stoskepf. 1999. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/cmshandler.asp?archive/13_03/eugenic.shtml
Testing and the school-to-prison pipeline
- How Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline – FairTest fact sheet
- How High-Stakes Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline Infographic
- Momentum Grows Against Zero Tolerance Discipline and High-Stakes Testing
- FairTest and five other groups wrote this position paper on NCLB/ESEA and the school-to-prison pipeline, which looks at testing, "zero tolerance" and other problems, and makes recommendations.
Dropouts, grade retention and high-stakes testing - what you should know
- Time to Abolish High School Graduation Tests
- 2016 Graduation Test Update: States That Recently Eliminated or Scaled Back High School Exit Exams
- FairTest Fact sheet on testing and grade Retention
- Low Test Scores + High Retention Rates = More Dropouts by C. Thomas Holmes - excellent review of testing, retention and dropouts; most developed nations don't retain students.
The harmful impact on bilingual education students and English language learners
- What Happened to Spanish? How high-stakes tests doomed biliteracy at my school. Rethinking Schools. 2015.
- FairTest bibliography on bilingual ed and testing (older references, many still useful)
- OverTested: How High-Stakes Accountability Fails English Language Learners, by Jessica Zacher Pandya. Teachers College Press, New York, 2011.
- Common Core Bilingual and English Language Learners: A Resource for Educators. Valdes, Menken and Castro, Eds. Caslon Publishing, Philadelphia, 2015. Section 7 is on testing and accountability.
Testing Special Needs Students: Inclusion into flawed assessment policies and exams does more harm than good
- High-Stakes Testing for Disabled Students: A System ‘Gone Horribly Wrong’. NEA Today, 2014. http://neatoday.org/2014/03/05/high-stakes-testing-for-disabled-students-a-system-gone-horribly-wrong/
- Are Schools Asking to Drug Kids for Better Test Scores? Wall Street Journal, 2014.
- Special Ed Testing Accommodations Backfire. Laurie Udesky. https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2016/01/12/special-ed-testing-backfire/21760/
- Do We Really Need to Test Special Needs Children More Than We Already Are? What's behind this "new research" being pushed by Arne Duncan? 2015. http://www.alternet.org/education/do-we-really-need-test-special-needs-children-more-we-already-are. Note that ESSA includes the ‘one percent’ rule explained in this article.
- Why it’s ‘idiotic’ to force special education students to take standardized tests. Chanel Quintero and Valerie Strauss. October 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/05/special-education-teacher-why-its-idiotic-to-force-my-students-to-take-standardized-tests/
- Promising Changes for Special Education Under ESSA. NEA Today. 2016. http://neatoday.org/2016/06/30/special-education-essa/
Pitfalls of relying on tests to measure and reward teachers and schools
- Why Teacher Evaluation Shouldn’t Rest on Student Test Scores. FairTest fact sheet with extensive bibliography.
- Paying Teachers for Student Test Scores Damages Schools and Undermines Learning. FairTest 2009
- Value Added, Value Lost? FairTest Examiner article by Gerald Bracey
Testing and Young Children
- Alliance for Childhood. High Stakes Testing: A statement of concern and a call to action. 2001. http://drupal6.allianceforchildhood.org/testing_position_statement
- Defending the Early Years website https://www.deyproject.org/
- Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham, Anna Rorem. AERA open access article. 2016.
- When Kindergarten Testing Is Out of Hand. Alliance for Childhood. http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/tips_on_testing.pdf
- Achievement Tests for Young Children FairTest
- Readiness Tests FairTest
- Pressure Cooker Kindergarten? Patti Hartigan. 2009. http://archive.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2009/08/30/pressure_cooker_kindergarten/
Scoring, reporting and other errors made by testing companies in high-stakes testing situations
- Computerized testing errors – FairTest Chronology http://www.fairtest.org/computerized-testing-problems-chronology
- We Hung the Most Dimwitted Essays on the Wall. Salon Magazine, on the test scoring industry.
Student voices on testing
- The Dangers of Standardized Testing. threaldebater. http://www.teenink.com/opinion/school_college/article/932985/The-Dangers-of-Standardized-Testing/
- Standardized Testing – Student Voice Goes Viral. Short article with video link of fourth grader. http://www.teacherswithapps.com/standardized-testing-student-voice-goes-viral/
- High Schooler critique of testing – video and article. Ahrash Karbasi. 2016. http://www.indigoproject.org/news/2016/4/25/student-voice-ahrash
- Why the MCAS Hurts. Dana Monnier, Emma Stoskopf-Erlich, Riva Lencer, Irene Behrman, Adam Stoler, Alessandro Ascherio. 2002.
- What Can Student Drawings Tell Us About High-Stakes Testing in Massachusetts? Wheelock, Bebel and Haney. 2000.
- "Student Views of TAAS" - Professors at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi publish student essays (with their permission) about their experience with high-stakes TAAS exams on the web. To read the essays go to http://comppile.tamucc.edu/TAAS/
- Standardized Minds, a poem by By Niles Xi-An Lichtenstein, student of Youth Speaks. 2000
- No is the Right Answer, by Eleanor Martin, Student, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cambridge, MA http://www.rethinkingschools.org/restrict.asp?path=archive/14_01/no141.shtml
High-stakes and other "incentives" may not motivate, will discourage many students
- Student Self-Portraits as Test-Takers: Variations, Contextual Differences, and Assumptions about Motivation, by Anne Wheelock, Damian J. Bebell, and Walt Haney
- Punished by Rewards, The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, As, Praise, and Other Bribes. By Alfie Kohn, 1999.
High-stakes testing impedes local decision making
- States' standardized tests have a negative impact on parents' civic engagement. Science Daily.
- High Stakes vs. Democracy by Ken Jones, Examiner, Fall 2000
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