HIGH 
STAKES 
STANDARDIZED 
TESTING 
IN 
THE
 UNITED 
STATES:
 TRENDS, 
CONSEQUENCES, 
AND 
ISSUES

Open Access
Author:
Smith, Heather Christine
Area of Honors:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jacqueline Edmondson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jacqueline Edmondson, Honors Advisor
  • John Tippeconnic, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • standardized testing
  • educational reforms
  • No Child Left Behind
  • high-stakes testing
  • consequences
Abstract:
Education is ever changing to provide future generations the best possible education. In spite of past educational reforms, there still remain gaps in student achievement that occur in predictable ways on socioeconomic status and race. Policymakers have turned to standardized testing to resolve this apparent problem. The implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in public school has created clear positive and negative consequences. There exists a set of very long-term historical testing data. The Chinese government first administered written exams, known as the Keju, to candidates working in the Civil Service, a highly respected occupation. As the system with the longest and best-preserved records, the Keju system exhibited the same positive and negative consequences seen in today’s public schools as a result of high-stakes testing. In the mid-1800’s, testing began on American soil in the form of entrance exams. Since then, pressure for high scores on standardized tests has increased from diagnosis testing, to evaluation testing, to test-based accountability. The pressure for good test scores, high stakes, reached an all-time high after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in 2001. Public schools are now rewarded or punished based on their student population test scores. Punishments range from closing schools to losing government funding. With severe punishments lurking on test results, standardized testing has created a very negative environment in public school systems. Teaching to the test, test cheating, and unhealthy competition between schools are a few of the issues surfacing in public school systems as a result of high-stakes testing. It is important to note that standardized testing is a good indicator of a student’s performance, but not an exact measure of a student’s academic ability. Standardized testing is very practical in the sense that they are easy to grade, easy to track progress, fast, and relatively inexpensive. Standardized tests only have negative consequences when they are used as the sole measurement of a student or school district’s educational quality. In light that past reforms have not fixed all gaps in student achievement, are policymakers correct in turning to standardized testing to solve this apparent problem?