Raising Academic Standards or Stepping Backwards
High stakes testing is a step backwards for education. Tests that determine grade advancement, teacher pay, school funding and accreditation are becoming increasingly popular. Politicians and corporate leaders support these tests in an effort to "reform" public schools. Instead of reform, high stakes tests force schools and teachers to narrow curriculum to "teach to the test" rather than increasing real knowledge. The emphasis on test-oriented education is on memorization of facts. While there is nothing wrong with facts, no real knowledge exists if they can't be applied to real world problems.
A study done by Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA), a peer-reviewed scholarly journal from Arizona State University, indicates that high stakes tests not only have no benefit to student achievement, but also cause harm to school and student performance. The test was designed to determine whether or not high stakes tests increase transfer of learning, the goal of education.
The basis of the study included comparisons of states that implemented high stakes testing for graduation, and other reliable tests that measured similar knowledge. If the state tests truly were beneficial to knowledge transfer, then when the state tests scores went up the scores on tests such as the SAT, ACT should increase at a similar rate during overlapping time periods. Their study showed that SAT and ACT and other standardized tests did not increase at the same rate as the state implemented tests. Even worse, the study showed that ACT, SAT scores decreased during the period of overlap. In the conclusion of the study report, the EPAA states "Both the uncertainty associated with high-stakes testing data, and the questionable validity of high-stakes tests as indicators of the domains they are intended to reflect, suggest that this is a failed policy initiative."