High-Stakes Testing: Accountability and Problems

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Testing Bias, Cultural Bias & Language Differences in Assessments

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:35 High-Stakes Testing Defined
  • 1:33 Accountability Defined
  • 1:48 Use of High-Stakes…
  • 2:02 Advantages of…
  • 2:35 Disadvantages of…
  • 3:32 High-Stakes Testing Guidelines
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst

Melissa has a Masters in Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology. She has worked as an instructional designer at UVA SOM.

Do high test scores equal high achievement? Many politicians and educational reformers think the answer is yes. High-stakes standardized testing has become commonplace in American schools. This lesson will define high-stakes testing and accountability and present problems associated with these types of tests.

Educational Reform and High-Stakes Testing

In America, many people, including politicians and educators, are calling for reform of education. Low achievement levels and a limited labor pool of skilled graduates (especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields) stimulate talks of overhauling education. The solution, for some, is high-stakes testing. This lesson will define high-stakes testing and accountability and also discuss some problems associated with these tests.

High-Stakes Testing Defined

High-stakes testing is defined as the practice of basing major decisions on individual student performance, school performance and school personnel on a single assessment.

The most recent and well-known establishment of standardized high-stakes testing is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The act requires states to develop standards and assessments for basic skills (such as reading and mathematics) and assess these skills annually. Federal school funding is tied to these assessment results. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is covered in more detail in another lesson.

High-stakes testing places pressure on schools and teachers to produce high test scores each year or face consequences such as reduced funding, salary restrictions and personnel termination. Administrators and teachers are held accountable for the students' performance in their classrooms and schools.

Accountability Defined

Accountability is defined as an obligation of educators to accept responsibility for students' performance on high-stakes assessments. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandates some form of accountability in all schools for grades 3-8.

Use of High-Stakes Testing Results

High-Stakes testing results are regularly used:

  • To determine yearly progress in meeting state-determined standards
  • For promotion to the next grade level
  • For awarding high school diplomas

Advantages of High-Stakes Testing

Although high-stakes testing is a controversial subject among educators, it does have certain advantages:

  • Tests are based on clearly defined standards and provide important information on students' performance growth and declines
  • Tests can highlight gaps in an individual student's knowledge, classroom achievement gaps or school achievement gaps
  • Tests may also motivate students to improve their performance, especially when test results are tied to high school diplomas and grade promotion

Disadvantages of High-Stakes Testing

The controversy over high-stakes testing deals with how results are used and how reliable results really are in determining what a student knows and is capable of.

Some disadvantages of high-stakes testing include:

  • The tests may lead to inaccurate inferences of student performance, due to non-test factors, such as anxiety and motivation, of the test-taker
  • Teachers and educators are burdened with more standards to teach and end up teaching to the tests (as opposed to more individualized curriculum to meet student needs)
  • High-stakes testing does not assess higher-level critical thinking skills
  • Since each state can determine standards, different test criteria may lead to different overall conclusions on student and school achievement and performance
  • There is an emphasis placed on punishing lower-performing schools and personnel and not enough emphasis on helping those schools improve

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account