What You Need to Know About California's High Stakes Tests

What are 'high stakes' tests?

These are tests mandated by law whose scores are
used as the basis for distributing rewards and punish-ments to students, teachers, schools, and school administrators.

What happens to students who fail tests?

The Truth About the SOLs

The Virginia Board of Education says that:

The SOL program will improve public education by holding everyone to high standards through high-stakes testing.

About ARN

The Assessment Reform Network was formed at FairTest to support and enhance efforts by parents, teachers, students, civil rights groups and others to prevent and end the harmful use of standardized tests in public education, and to promote the use of authentic assessments in the classroom, district and state level.


From Virginia: Raise children, not test scores: How parents organized to reform the Virginia Standards of Learning exams

Education reform today is being increasingly defined as the imposition of "standards" from afar followed simultaneously by standardized multiple choice tests that carry consequences for failure to children, schools, teachers and communities. These tests are referred to as "high stakes" tests.


As this "education reform" rises up in state after state, so also do networks of parents who are beginning campaigns of resistance. These organizing efforts are formed for a variety of reasons.


How Wisconsin Parents Worked to Roll Back High Stakes Testing

The following is a summary of an interview with Meredith Scrivner of Advocates for Education of Whitefish Bay, Inc. Wisconsin, (AFE).


Parent's United for Reform in Education (PURE) and their Fair Testing campaign in Chicago, Illinois

PURE's Mission, Programs, and Populations served

Parents United for Responsible Education exists to build support for and enhance the quality of public education in the city of Chicago by informing parents about educational issues, bringing the views of parents into the decision making process, and acting as an advocate for parents in their relationships with the school administration. PURE is a citywide organization, run by and for Chicago Public School parents.


Stories in Assessment Reform

These Stories in Assessment Reform provide a closer look at how school reform activists in various locations have made the case against harmful testing policies and built local and statewide grassroots campaigns to change them.

You can learn their strategies, read and use sample materials, and grasp a better idea of how different tactics have worked in different social and political contexts. You will also learn about pitfalls to avoid.


From Chicago

Organizing for Testing Reform


The main captions are things you probably will need to think about; the bulleted points are examples of things you might consider/address/do.


Identify the problem:
- High Stakes for students or schools/educators [note federal law]
- Impact of testing on curriculum and instruction
- Unequal/inadequate resources despite high-stakes demands
- Too much testing (too many tests, too many grades)


Influencing Editorials

"Without local activists pushing the media, it wou1d have been impossible to defeat exteemist attacks on thr environment in the guise of 'regulatory reform.' Grassroots efforts resulted in editorials in key Congressional Districts denouncing the Congressional rollbacks. Those editorials gave us powerful evidence in keeping 'Takings' legislation off the Senate floor in 1995." - Gary Bass, OMB Watch


How to do a News Interview

A successful effort on your part to interest a news organization in a story will almost always present you with the opportunity to provide someone for the reporter to interview. From the point of view of reporters and editors, your story suggestion or your news release are the starting points of the story. They advance the story by interviewing people involved, people who are experts, people who are responsible, people who benefit, or sometimes just people who have seen the events of the story as witnesses.

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