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

Be sure to check out:

FairTest materials on testing resistance and reform movement:

Fact Sheets

  • FairTest has Fact Sheets on many testing-related topics. See them at 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:

General articles by FairTest allies

The harmful impact on curriculum, instruction and children

Widening the gap: How high-stakes testing exacerbates inequities between wealthy and poor communities; white and students of color

Testing and the school-to-prison pipeline

Dropouts, grade retention and high-stakes testing - what you should know

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

Pitfalls of relying on tests to measure and reward teachers and schools

Testing and Young Children

Scoring, reporting and other errors made by testing companies in high-stakes testing situations

Student voices on testing

High-stakes and other "incentives" may not motivate, will discourage many students

High-stakes testing impedes local decision making