High-Stakes Assessments in Reading


The United States has recently seen increased reliance on single test scores to make important decisions about students. For example, if a student receives a high score on one test, he might be placed in a gifted program. If another student receives a low score on one test, she could be rejected by a particular college. Results of such tests are sometimes used to influence teachers’ salaries, or to rate a school district in comparison with others.

IRA strongly opposes such high-stakes testing. We believe that important conceptual, practical, and ethical issues must be considered by those who design and implement testing programs. Assessment should be used to improve instruction and benefit students, rather than to compare and pigeonhole them.

In the face of high-stakes testing, teachers should

  • Construct rigorous classroom assessments that will demonstrate the effectiveness of instructional techniques to outside observers
  • Educate parents, community members, and policymakers about classroom-based assessment
  • Teach students how tests are structured, but not teach to the test

Parents and child-advocacy groups should

  • Ask questions about the effects of tests on their children and their schools
  • Lobby for the development of classroom-based assessment that improves instruction and helps develop better readers and learners

Policymakers should

  • Design assessment plans that reflect the complexity of teaching and learning to reading
  • Base decisions on multiple assessments
  • Avoid using test scores as a basis for rewarding or punishing schools or teachers

PS 1035

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