Missouri NEA Statement

Statement of the Problem

Missouri NEA recognizes the need for ongoing comprehensive evaluation of
student progress. However, high stakes decisions involving tracking, grade
promotion, admission to dual-credit courses and graduation based on a single testing event present major educational and motivational challenges.
Additionally, tests do not always measure what they purport to measure.


While Missouri NEA believes that testing is a necessary part of the educational process, we also believe that a single testing event does not provide a multifaceted picture of the student as a motivated learner and a member of society.

MNEA believes that students should be held accountable for their learning.
However, a single test is an extremely limited method of demonstrating student proficiency. MNEA believes that assessment of student learning should include, but not be limited to, achievement tests, portfolios, grades, teacher recommendations, attendance, extra curricular activities, community involvement, 504 plans and IEP goals. Taken together, these means of evaluating student performance and accomplishments create a more complete picture of student achievement as well as a greater level of motivation in students.

MNEA supports high standards, curriculum alignment to those standards, tests which measure what they purport to measure and professional development for
teachers to incorporate these academic standards.


Legal Issues

The legal issues and implications for requiring a test for graduation are complex. Essentially, in the landmark Debra P. v. Turlington case (Florida,
1976), students challenged the testing requirement as racially biased. The case “established two major requirements for diploma sanction testing: adequate notice and curricular validity. Adequate notice requires that students be told what a graduation test will cover several years before the test is implemented. Curricular validity means that the schools are teaching what is being tested; under Debra P., the state must collect data to demonstrate curricular validity” (Phillips, 1993).

Alternative Assessments

In the recommendation section of High Stakes (Hubert & Hauser, 1999), diverse means of assessment include portfolios, grades, teacher recommendations, achievement tests, extra curricular activities, community involvement, IEP goals, developmental factors and extenuating circumstances. The public is divided with regard to which method of reporting student progress should be used. According to a September 1999 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, 33% believe portfolios provide the best picture, 27% prefer scores on standardized
tests, 23% prefer letter grades on report cards, and 14% prefer teachers’ written observations of student learning (Rose & Gallup, 1999). High-stakes
educational decisions should not be made solely or automatically on the basis
of a single test score, but should also take other relevant information into account (Hubert & Hauser, 1999).

Curriculum Alignment

The assessment must be aligned with clear, teacher-developed content standards or “benchmarks” that state what should be taught in the schools, and at what level (Barton, 1999).

Accommodations for Special Services

Students with disabilities and English language learners need special
consideration if there is to be an assessment of the achievement of all students. The needs of these students should be considered throughout any test development process (Heubert & Hauser, 1999).

The use of accommodations and alternative assessments will increase the
participation of these students as well as increase the validity of the assessment. It is especially important for decisions about the achievement of these students to include information from multiple sources (Fisher, Roach, & Kearns, 1998).

Professional Development

Teachers must be introduced to new ways of assessing student learning and must refocus their classroom instruction and assessment. These new methods
would address the performance-based testing now being used to make important educational decisions. School districts must invest time and money to train teachers regarding the new assessments and the educational rationale behind their development (Firestone, 1998). According to a FairTest press release,
professional development is a vital component of the assessment process.

States have requirements for beginning teachers and administrators to be
knowledgeable about assessment, including appropriate classroom practices.
[They must] provide sufficient professional development in assessment, including in classroom assessment. States [must] survey educators about their
professional development needs in assessment and evaluate their competence in assessment. Teachers and other educators are involved in designing, writing
and scoring assessments (1998).

Shared Responsibilities

School districts, public officials, educators and students are all partners working toward a common goal. There is a shared accountability for student
outcomes. High standards cannot be developed and upheld by simply imposing
them on students. The public (i.e. parents, educators, and other officials) needs to be informed about the purpose for testing and the impact of testing outcomes. This information should be a focus point in both teacher training and educational programs for principals, administrators, public officials and others. Results from these efforts will ultimately foster more parent involvement and increase public support for schools. When a high-stakes decision is made, accountability is shared between students, parents, teachers, administrators, public officials, school districts and states because high standards don’t happen by imposing them upon students (Heubert & Hauser, 1999).


In Kentucky, teachers reported “students’ morale had deteriorated and virtually none reported an increase in student morale” following the institution of state assessments (Mehrens, 1998). “Many interviewees reported that students exhibit a greater motivation to learn and a greater amount of engagement with performance tasks and portfolio assignments than with other types of assignments” (Kane et al., 1997, p.201 in Mehrens, 1998). “Holding common standards for all pupils can only encourage a narrowing of educational
experiences for most pupils, doom many to failure, and limit the development of many worthy talents” (Coffman, 1993, p.8 in Linn, 1994).

Negative Consequences

“In some places, tests are being used inappropriately in making promotion
and retention decisions. For example, achieving a certain test score has become
a necessary condition of grade-to-grade promotion. This is inconsistent with
current and draft revised psychometric standards, which recommend that such
high-stakes decisions about individuals should not automatically be made on
the basis of a single test score; other relevant information about student knowledge and skills should also be taken into account” (Heubert & Hauser,

There are inherent dangers in using a test as the sole indicator of student
proficiency. Current research on how students learn indicates that using a
single assessment will only address strengths of certain students at a specific point in time. In order for a test to be valid in a legal sense, all students must have an equal opportunity for success. “Not everyone is equally talented academically. Given a fixed amount of time, some individuals will achieve more than others. As a result, some critics have charged that diploma testing has reduced what is taught in the public schools to the lowest common denominator of what the least prepared students are able to learn. The pressure to do well led teachers to spend weeks before the test drilling students on the specific objectives tested. Meanwhile, these teachers neglected the remainder of the curriculum, from which the specific objectives tested had been sampled” (Phillips, 1993).

In a 1987 Missouri case, St. Louis Teachers Union v. St. Louis Board of Education, a ruling was made against a school system that used student test scores as a measure of teacher evaluation. It was determined that “the student test had not been validated for evaluating teachers, and the resulting unsatisfactory ratings were arbitrary and capricious” (Phillips, 1993).

Research Needed

The role that tests play in tracking decisions is an important and subtle issue. Some scholars believe that reliance on test scores increases the disproportionate representation of poor and minority students in low-track classes. Research suggests that some tests commonly employed for tracking are
not valid for this purpose (Heubert & Hauser, 1999).

Research is needed on the effects of high-stakes graduation tests on teaching, learning, and high school completion. Research is also needed on alternatives to test-based denial of the high school diploma, such as endorsed diplomas, end-of-course tests, and combining graduation test scores with other indicators of knowledge and skill in making the graduation decision.



accountability -- holding individuals responsible for their own educational
growth or professional practice

achievement tests -- a criterion-based evaluation that measures the quantityof a student’s learning over time

adequate notice -- requires that students, parents and teachers be told whata graduation test will cover several years before the test is implemented
(Phillips, 1993)

assessments -- measurable evaluation events that determine the importance, size, or value of a student’s education

curricular validity -- the school is teaching what is being tested and the curriculum is used to formulate the content of these tests (Phillips, 1993)

high stakes assessment -- any assessment activity that is used for accountability purposes (Phillips, 1993). This decision would be based upon a combination of evaluation events.

high stakes testing-- the act of reaching a decision based on a single evaluation event

motivation -- intrinsic or extrinsic incentives that drive student learning

performance-based testing-- evaluation that uses open-response questions to
compel students to apply and explain content knowledge

portfolios -- a compilation of a student’s work that shows growth through learning levels over time

professional development -- the continuing education of teachers, administrators and other school employees. Professional development includes, but is not limited to, college course work, district-based programs, study groups, action groups and peer coaching.

validity -- having legal, grounded and justifiable relevance and meaning

Works Cited

Barton, P.E. (1999). Too much testing of the wrong kind; too little of the
right kind in k-12 education. Educational Testing Service Policy InformationCenter, Princeton, NJ.

Berendt, P.R. & Koski, B. (March, 1999). No shortcuts to success. Educational
Leadership, 45-47.

Firestone, W.A., Mayrowetz, D., & Fairman, J. (1998). Performance-based
assessment and instructional change: the effects of testing in Maine and
Maryland. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis Summer, 20. 95-113.

Fisher, D., Roach, V., & Kearns, J. (1998). Statewide assessment systems:
who’s in and who’s out? CISP Publications and Resources,

Heubert, J.P. & Hauser, R.M. (1999). High Stakes. National Academy Press,
Washington, D.C., p. 273-307.

Linn, R. L., (1994). Performance assessment: policy promises and technical
measurement standards. Educational Researcher, 23 (9), 4-14.

Neill, M. (1998). Testing our children: a report card on state assessment
systems. Fairtest report: high stakes do not improve student learning.

Phillips, S.E. (1993). Legal implications of high-stakes assessment: what
states should know. Michigan State University, North Central Regional
Educational Laboratory, IL.

Rose, L.C. & Gallup, A.M. (September, 1999). The 31st annual Phi Delta Kappa poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools. Phi Delta Kappan, p 42-56.