NCTE & IRA Oppose High-stakes Testing

K-12 Testing

Two prominent professional organizations - the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) - have adopted strong positions in opposition to high-stakes standardized testing.


In a recent resolution, the 70,000 member NCTE reinforced its previous stance criticizing the limitations of standardized tests to provide “authentic assessment of the English language arts classroom” and condemning the “usurpation of the English language arts curriculum” by test preparation. A 1999 resolution added support for the Standards for Educational and Psychological Measurement, which states that “a decision ..that will have a major impact on a test taker should not automatically be made on the basis of a single test score” (see related story)


The recent escalation of test misuse has prompted the NCTE to take a step further in its efforts to “derail the political engine of high-stakes testing.” It voted to establish a new committee to develop an action plan that will help the group gather continued research on the “political, educational and social impact of high-stakes testing” as well as mobilize “growing opposition and resistance to high-stakes testing.”


Also citing the Standards, the IRA has published a pamphlet opposing high- stakes tests. The document lists dangers of relying on tests to make important decisions about students or schools, including “making bad decisions, narrowing the curriculum, focusing exclusively on certain segments of students, losing instructional time, and moving decision making to central authorities and away from local personnel.” The IRA represents over 130,000 individuals and organizations internationally.


To avoid these problems, the IRA recommends the creation of assessment systems where multiple methods are used to create more “valid decision making.” Test sampling is also suggested as a strategy to use when “assessments do not involve decisions related to the performance of individual students.” Advocates and parents are encouraged to “be vigilant” and ask questions about the costs of high-stakes tests, including the emotional impact upon students.


To obtain copies of the organizations’ resolutions contact:


NCTE, (800) 369-6283;


IRA, (302) 731-1600;