"High-stakes" tests are exams used to make important decisions about students, such as graduation or grade promotion. Decades of research shows the key reasons why test scores should never be the determining factor in making major decisions about students:
SELECTED ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ON LANGUAGE MINORITY ASSESSMENT 1995
Ascher, C. "Testing Bilingual Students: Do We Speak
the Same Language?" PTA Today (March 1991, pp. 7-9).
Discusses cultural and linguistic bias issues in bilingual
testing, options for administering tests to bilingual students,
and problems associated with these options. Includes a short
description of an alternative, "dynamic assessment."
All of us, as parents and citizens, want to make sure our schools
are doing a good job and our children are learning. Unfortunately,
the MCAS exams-and the "tougher standards" philosophy
that they reflect-not only fail to provide meaningful information
but actually interfere with the goal of providing students with
a high-quality education.
Tests are called "high-stakes" when they used to make major decisions about a student, such as high school graduation or grade promotion. To be high stakes, a test has to be very important in the decision process or be able to override other information (for example, a student does not graduate if s/he does not pass the test regardless of how well s/he did in school). Currently, 17 states require students to pass a test to graduate, and 7 more are planning such tests.
As we enter into a national debate on school improvement and greater public school accountability with a heavy emphasis on testing, educators are concerned that a solitary focus on testing ignores important opportunities to help all students achieve at high levels. Overreliance on testing could have the unintended consequence of hurting more than helping.