The Case Against High Stakes Testing

The materials selected for this page make the case against relying on test scores to make critical educational decisions about students or schools - or what is called high stakes testing. Common examples include retaining a child in grade or withholding a students high-school diploma solely on the basis their score on a test, or relying on test scores to determine whether a teacher or school should be sanctioned or rewarded.

A large body of evidence exists against using standardized tests for such decisions. New evidence is being collected as states and district increasingly use tests for such purposes. This page presents the arguments and evidence to help you build a case against high-stakes testing in your own community.

Be sure to check out:

FairTest Fact Sheets on:

Additional resources created by FairTest, ARN and others


The harmful impact on curriculum and instruction

Widening the gap: How high-stakes testing exacerbates inequities between wealthy and poor communities; white and students of color

Dropouts, grade retention and high-stakes testing - what you should know

The harmful impact on bilingual education students and English language learners

Testing Special Needs Students: Inclusion into flawed assessment policies and exams does more harm than good

Pitfalls of relying on tests to measure and reward teachers and schools

Why so called "value-added" testing schemes don't add value

Why Federally Mandated Testing won't work to improve education in the nation

Testing and Young Children

Scoring, reporting and other errors made by testing companies in high-stakes testing situations

Analysis of the content and questions of various tests:

Student voices on testing

High-stakes and other "incentives" may not motivate, will discourage many students

Test pressure results in physical and psychological harms for some children

  • See Alliance for Childhood statement by leading child development specialists and educators
  • See section above.
  • Quote from Sacramento Bee, "Test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it." March 14, 2002

High-stakes testing impedes local decision making


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