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Topic: AERA on high stakes testing: Position Statement
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
AERA on high stakes testing: Position Statement
Posted: Sep 22, 2000 10:24 AM
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From Harvard Education Letter - Research Online, September/October, 2000. See
American Educational Research Association [AERA]

What the AERA Says About High-Stakes Testing

Pressure to raise test scores can force state- and district-level
officials to make decisions that may run contrary to what's best for
students, education researchers say. In an effort to provide
research-based guidelines to policymakers, test publishers, and
school personnel, the American Educational Research Association
(AERA) has issued a position statement on the use of high-stakes
testing in pre-K-12 education. According to its authors, the
statement presents "a set of conditions essential to sound
implementation of high-stakes testing programs." The conditions,
summarized here, include:

Protection Against High-Stakes Decisions Based on a Single Test

"Decisions that affect individual students' life chances or
educational opportunities should not be made on the basis of test
scores alone . . ." At the very least, the AERA recommends that
students be given multiple opportunities to pass high-stakes tests
and that alternative forms of assessment be provided where there is
"credible evidence" that a test may not measure a child's true level
of proficiency.

Adequate Resources and Opportunity to Learn

Before students, schools, and districts can be "passed" or "failed"
by high-stakes tests, they must have access to the materials,
curriculum, and instruction to enable them to succeed on such
"When content standards and associated tests are introduced as a
reform to change and thereby improve current practice, opportunities
to access appropriate materials and retraining consistent with the
intended changes should be provided before schools, teachers, or
students are sanctioned for failing to meet the new standards."

Validation for Each Separate Intended Use

Tests must only be used for the purposes for which they are valid,
and each use of a particular test must be subject to "a separate
evaluation of the strengths and limitations of both the testing
program and the test itself."

Full Disclosure of Likely Negative Consequences

"Where credible scientific evidence suggests that a given type of
testing program is likely to have negative side effects, test
developers and users should make a serious effort to explain these
possible effects to policymakers," recommends the AERA.

Alignment Between the Test and the Curriculum

The test should reflect the curriculum in both its content and the
cognitive process involved: "High-stakes tests should not be limited
to that portion of the relevant curriculum that is easiest to
measure." To avoid the problem of "teaching to the test," the AERA
recommends using multiple test forms "to avoid a narrowing of the
curriculum toward just the content sampled on a particular form."

Opportunities for Meaningful Remediation

Students who fail a high-stakes test should be given a second chance,
and "remediation should focus on the knowledge and skills the test is
intended to address, not just the test performance itself."

Additional conditions for sound testing implementation outlined in
the statement include: setting valid and appropriate passing levels;
taking into consideration language differences among examinees;
paying appropriate attention to students with disabilities; and
performing ongoing evaluations of the intended and unintended effects
of high-stakes testing.

"These are all criteria that we believe have to be put in place in
order for testing to be fair," says AERA president Catherine Snow.
"Right now, there's not a state in the union that's abiding by all of
them." The full text of the AERA position statement is available
online at . The AERA
website is at .
Michael Sadowski
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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