Two Decades of Assessment Reform: Fairtest's Achievements Over Time

FairTest News

Since 1985, FairTest has advocated for assessment systems that are fair, open and accountable, and worked to eliminate unfair barriers to equal opportunity posed by standardized tests.


FairTest supports the use of multiple, nonbiased measures of student achievement – including performance-based assessments – and discourages the misuse and overuse of standardized, multiple choice, and norm-referenced tests. Recognizing that such exams have harmful effects on curriculum, instruction and opportunity, particularly for children of color and those from low-income families, FairTest has become a leading advocate for alternatives to standardized testing.


Often fighting an uphill battle against well-resourced proponents of high-stakes testing, FairTest has built a track record of accomplishments – not least of which that we are still here fighting for fair and high quality assessment.


FairTest’s achievements include:


Leaders of major education, civil rights, student and feminist groups found FairTest to promote equity and excellence in assessment.


FairTest holds kick-off conference in Washington, DC with Ralph Nader and Eleanor Smeal as keynote speakers.


Launch of quarterly newsletter, the FairTest Examiner
FairTest staff and Board Chair testify at congressional hearings on “Gender Bias in Standardized Tests.”


FairTest works with key legislators in Washington, DC to win safeguards in reauthorization of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) testing.
FairTest leads campaign that removes Educational Testing Service as overseer of the federal information center on assessment.
FairTest report Fallout from the Testing Explosion details consequences of misuse and overuse of standardized testing in public schools.
FairTest letter signed by more than 50 civil rights, feminist and student organizations urges National Merit Scholarship Corporation to end reliance on biased tests as the sole qualifying factor for millions of scholarships dollars.


FairTest calls on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to justify or repeal its rule requiring students with athletic scholarships to have an arbitrary minimum score on SAT and ACT admissions exams.

In FairTest-initiated case, federal court finds gender bias, strikes down New York State’s policy of awarding state scholarships based solely on the SAT.


FairTest organizes national coalition of more than 75 education and civil rights organizations to block permanent expansion of NAEP to state-level scores, concerned that NAEP testing could undermine the school reform movement.


FairTest releases Standardized Tests and Our Children: A Guide to Testing Reform, an inexpensive pamphlet for parents, teachers and the public; more than 40,000 sold.
FairTest organizes large coalition of national education, civil rights and advocacy groups to oppose Bush Administration plan for national testing.
FairTest publishes The SAT Coaching Cover-up, a review of research studies showing that students taking commercial test preparation courses increase their SAT scores by an average of 100 points or more.


U.S. Congress hears concerns of education and civil rights advocates organized by FairTest, rejects development of Bush proposal for national assessment system.
New York adopts Test Takers’ Bill of Rights, which FairTest advocated for many years.


FairTest launches project to develop indicators for student assessment systems.


FairTest files complaint with Office for Civil Rights charging the Education Testing Service (ETS) and the College Board with violating equal education law by cosponsoring the biased testing process used to select National Merit Scholars.
Reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) drops requirement to test every Title I student with a norm-referenced test, requires states to test only once each in elementary, middle and high school, a proposal FairTest supported.


Release of Implementing Performance Assessments: A Guide to Classroom, School and System Reform.
Release of Principles and Indicators for Student Assessment Systems, signed by 80 national and regional education and civil rights organizations.


FairTest works with Black and Hispanic caucuses to continue to block Clinton Administration’s proposal for a national test in 1996 and 1997.


FairTest launches web site: With more than 800,000 unique visitors a year, the site is an excellent resource for testing reform materials, including fact sheets, the Examiner and other publications.
FairTest report Testing Our Children, based on Principles and Indicators, is first evaluation of all 50 state testing programs.


FairTest introduces the Assessment Reform Network, a listserv and tool for people to discuss testing and share assessment reform ideas and strategies.
FairTest releases Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit: Enhancing Equity & Excellence in College Admissions by De-emphasizing SAT and ACT Results. The report identifies more than 280 colleges in the U.S. that are “test-optional” for most applicants.
Texas adopts “Top 10 Percent” law advocated by FairTest guaranteeing university admission to high-performing students without regard to test scores, as tool to enhance diversity in face of affirmative action bans.


A federal judge rules that NCAA test score requirements are “racially discriminatory and not educationally necessary.”
FairTest helps organize the Massachusetts Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE).


FairTest leads national coalition of organizations to oppose the high stakes testing being promoted by presidential candidates, Al Gore and George W. Bush.


FairTest initiates campaign against Bush administration plans to radically increase federally mandated testing, but Congress passes law titled No Child Left Behind.
FairTest announces that over 386 colleges are now “test-optional.”


FairTest and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) challenge Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program as racially discriminatory by filing a test bias complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.


FairTest files Supreme Court amicus brief in the Michigan affirmative action case, directly challenging claim that scores on standardized tests, such as the SAT and LSAT, should be the primary tool used to rank candidates for admission.
FairTest releases update of list of “test optional” colleges showing more than 700 institutions admit substancial percentages of students without considering ACT or SAT scores.


FairTest produces, Failing Our Children: How “No Child Left Behind” Undermines Quality and Equity in Education; and An Accountability Model that Supports School Improvement.
FairTest-initiated alliance of major national education and civil rights groups issues “Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB”; more than 55 groups have now signed.
FairTest release of fact sheet on latest SAT revisions, “The “New” SAT 2005: A Better Test or Just a Marketing Tool?” is covered in 100+ media outlets.


Forty-five members of the alliance that produced the “Joint Statement on NCLB” send letter to Congress opposing President Bush’s plan to expand mandated NCLB testing to grades 9 – 11; Bush's plan is rejected.