What's wrong with high stakes testing?

There are a number of problems with high stakes standardized testing which can affect your child's education.

1. Tests are developed by a small group of government officials with hardly any public involvement .  As a result, parents and the public rarely know what questions are asked or what the “right” answers are.

2. Because tests tell us how a child answers a small number of questions on a single day, tests only give parents and schools a limited picture of what a child really knows .  For example, they do not tell parents whether a child can write a good research paper or debate a topic.

3. High stakes tests result in teachers “teaching to the test.”  Because teachers use large amounts of classroom time for students to take “practice tests,” they are forced to conform to a rigid curriculum that gives little time or credit to imagination, creativity or the ability to solve problems.

4. The current tests given to elementary and middle schools do not test important subjects like science, art and social studies.  With all the significance given to the statewide tests, non-tested subject areas are often neglected in the classroom.


5. Tests are based on the assumption that “one size fits all.”  However, children have different learning styles and they develop at different rates.

6. Test questions may have racial or cultural biases that favor a particular group of students .  Because parents and the public generally do not see the test questions, there is no way to be sure that tests do not discriminate against students based on their race or social status.

7. Tests are not 100% accurate.  All tests have a built in “margin of error” which means that if your child took the test on another day or answered a different set of questions, she or he may get a different score on the test.  That difference in the test score might mean the difference between your child passing or failing a grade.

8. State tests are taken at the end of the school year and are hardly ever used to diagnose student learning problems.  Thus, tests are not used to improve a student’s education when it really counts —during the school year.

9. Some students who are very knowledgeable, who have done their homework, and who have good grades simply do not perform well on tests.  Thus testing can discourage persistence and hard work.

10. Using the tests to make high stakes decisions is not fair to students because all schools, classrooms and teachers are not equal.  There are big differences in the quality of a child’s education depending on the resources available to a school or the skill of the classroom teachers.  In addition, because of natural disasters such as hurricanes, some students may not receive all the instruction they need to do well on state tests.


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This page last updated Sept. 12, 2001.

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