High stakes testing is a system where important consequences are placed on students’ test scores. In turn, these test scores help to evaluate and ascertain student progress. Nationwide testing programs like Race to the Top are continually improving and evolving to fit students’ needs. These tests are the pillars of our curriculum and school system. Without them, educators’ ability to measure student progress and growth in public schools would be severely affected. Thus, high stakes testing is beneficial because it provides a way to measure student achievement, ensures that important standards are met, and verifies that teachers are quality reinforcers of learning.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Measuring how well students learn is an important building block in the process of strengthening and improving our nation’s schools. Tests, along with student grades and teacher evaluations, can provide critical measures of students’ skills, knowledge, and abilities” (Redwood, 2010). Without high stakes testing, there is no comprehensive way of measuring a student’s progress. The program allows public schools to be evaluated on a fair basis, where students are not subjected to the biases of an individual grader.
Moreover, high stakes testing ensures that teachers cover the proper curriculum. According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “High stakes testing can result in teachers teaching
toward the test” (Paige, 2007). That means that the amount of time spent Some argue that the incentives offered to public schools
create formulaic instruction. However, according to the Center for Public Education, “Teaching to the test can be good or bad…[It can be beneficial] if it means teaching a focused and aligned curriculum” (Mitchell, 2010). In addition, Linda Smith, a professor at Liberty University stated, “Today’s educators are looking at it from a standards-based perspective. Their task analysis identifies what standards need to be learned. Their performance objectives are standards-based, and their criterion referenced testing is based on those standards” (Smith, 2008). Furthermore, high stakes testing is proven to secure curriculum so that it better prepares students for the future. In a case study by the Louisiana Department of Education, the study found that implementing high stakes testing raised the amount of students performing at ‘excellent’ levels:
Figure 1: Laura Mogg, Percentage of Students Scoring at the Fair, Good, and Excellent Levels on the Algebra 1 End-of-Course Test, 2010-2011, Louisiana Department of Education
Looking at the results after high stakes testing was implemented, researchers found that: “Entering 9th graders in 2010-2011 are generally better prepared for high school than older students due to the improvements that have occurred system-wide since 2005” (Mogg, 2011). Contrary to what many critics claim, teaching to the test actually helps to ensure that teachers establish a good foundation, from which they can later build on.
Furthermore, high stakes testing helps to ensure that teachers are quality enforcers of learning. Achieve, a non-profit organization geared towards education stated, “The Race to the Top criteria encourages states to adopt policies that measure the effectiveness of individual teachers, and provide high‐quality support for educators and principals” (Pastor, 2013). National testing helps keep the quality and standard of teaching high. The study goes on to say that the way to achieve fair :
Race to the Top also asks states to include measures other than student growth in ratings of teacher effectiveness. These methods present fewer problems of applicability at the high school level. They also have the advantage of illuminating not just how effective a teacher has been, but also the ways in which a teacher may need to improve in order to be more effective (Pastor, 2013).
Evaluation through nationwide testing programs like Race to the Top is crucial, because it creates an environment where students can prosper and gain access to better education.
Nevertheless, some opponents of high stakes testing allege that high stakes tests are too mechanical. They argue that they negatively influence curriculum. Some critics claim that teaching
to the test makes teachers focus only on tested areas. Of course, teachers teach exactly to the test,
because the tests are widely available for everyone to see, right? Wrong. Critics fail to realize that high stakes testing only sets a standard at which students are required, and should learn. According to Dr. Battle, the principal of Desert Vista High School:
The public has been miscommunicating or miscommunicated about…[teaching to the test]. We know what standards kids need to learn, so therefore we teach those standards. That doesn’t mean we can’t teach more than the standards. But we must teach those standards. If that’s what teaching to the test is, then that’s what we have to do. (Dr. Battle, personal communication, October 18, 2012)
Thus, the high stakes tests are the bare bones of what needs to be learned in classrooms nationwide. Without it, schools run a risk of depriving students of a proper education. The quality of learning is not held back or forced by statewide testing, but made better by the faculty that tries to walk on water. Furthermore, opponents of high stakes testing claim that high stakes testing is too “mechanical,” and that this bias negatively affects some students. Elaine Weber, a professor at the University of Michigan stated, “One of the biggest faults of standardized tests is that they often do not take diversity into account. Too many of today’s tests are written so that some students are put at a disadvantage. Tests often times don’t take into account things like disabilities and socioeconomic status” (Weber, 2013). However, these criticisms fail to take into account the inherent bias present for minority groups or economically disadvantaged students. These groups of students are always going to be at a certain disadvantage, and dissolving the high stakes system
will not provide any solvency for problem. Thus, critics who assert that high stakes testing is too mechanical, fail to analyse the situation fully.
Programs like Race to the Top are integral parts of the education system today and are an elementary factor in appraising the quality of schooling. They determine student progress and set the bar high for student curriculum and teacher quality. Without them, schools would lack a fair
and comprehensive way to track and record student progress nationwide. High stakes testing thus paves the road to advances and progress in student education.
Mitchell, Ruth. “High-stakes Testing and Effects on Instruction: At a Glance.” Center for Public
Education . N.p., 16 Jun 2010. Web. 20 Feb 2013.
Mogg, L. (2011, August 26). High stakes end-of-course test results are encouraging.
Mogg, Laura. 2011. Percentage of Students Passing the Algebra 1 End of Course Test,
2010-2011.[Table] Retrieved from http://www.coweninstitute.com/uncategorized/high-stakes-end-of-course-test-results-are-encouraging/
Paige, Nancy. “The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing.” The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. N.p., 07 Dec 2007. Web. 20 Feb 2013.
Pastor , Derrick . “Teacher Effectiveness.” Achieve.org. N.p., 16 Oct 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2013.
Redwood, Jean. “Appropriate Use of High-Stakes Testing in Our Nation’s Schools.” American Psychological Association. N.p., 15 Feb 2010. Web. 20 Feb 2013.
Smith, Lisa. “Using Formative Assessment to Predict Student Achievement on High Stakes Tests.”Liberty University Education Journal. N.p., 14 Apr 2008. Web. 20 Feb 2013.
Weber, Elaine. “An Analysis of High Stakes Testing.”University of Michigan. N.p., 06 Jul 2010.
Web. 20 Feb 2013.