Why Shouldn't Tests Be Used To Make Important Decisions About Individual Students?

North Carolina will begin using the EOG/ EOC test results to make important decisions about the future of students beginning statewide in 2001.  Student will be promoted or retained based on their EOG test scores, and high school students may not receive diplomas based on their EOC scores.

Here are some problems with these policies:

Research shows that grade retention does far more harm than good by increasing the dropout rate and hurting long-term student achievement.

The tests have not been fully evaluated for their use in making high stakes decision about individual students.  The test's original purpose was to judge how well schools or school districts were educating students.  The tests were not designed to make important decisions about individual children.

Some students simply don't perform well on tests even though they may have the knowledge needed to move on to the next grade.  Also, the tests have a built in margin of error which means that the tests may not reflect what the students really know.

Relying on a test score to decide who is promoted discourages persistence and hard work during the school year.  Using test scores to decide who is promoted or retained also discounts the judgment of the classroom teacher who has observed the student's progress over the entire school year.

Relying primarily on a test score to determine a child's educational future ignores what we know about the development of human intelligence-- that children learn at different rates.  Children are human beings with unique skills and abilities, most of which cannot be measured by a multiple choice test.

It would be unfair to deny a diploma to students who have completed all of the other requirements simply because a student cannot make a passing score on a standardized test.  Such a policy places enormous power in the hands of the small group of government officials who write the test.  It can also encourage many of our students to drop out of school.

Tests may be unfair to some groups of students because of racial or cultural biases.  These concerns cannot be discounted as long as the test questions and answers are not seen by most parents or the public.

High stakes testing may be unfair to some students because the quality of a child's education often is determined by the resources available in the child's school or the quality of instruction provided by the child's teacher.  Until we can guarantee that all children have equal educational opportunities, we should not make crucial decisions about their future based primarily on a test.

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This page last updated September 11, 2001

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