March 28, 2001 2 min read

Annual Testing

Testing every student every year is a “costly and inefficient way to evaluate schools and districts,” the National Association of State Boards of Education argues in a new publication.

The Alexandria, Va.-based group released “A Primer on State Accountability and Large-Scale Assessments” this month to help reporters, legislators, business leaders, and others understand major issues in educational measurement.

“Congress is rushing headlong toward approving new state testing requirements for every student in grades 3-8 each year,” said Brenda Welburn, the executive director of NASBE. “We want to make sure that lawmakers understand what this will entail and to ensure that federal law does not undermine all of the progress states have made in this area to date.”

For More Information

For a copy of the report, call or write NASBE at 277 S. Washington St., Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 684-4000.

The pamphlet argues that in states that hold schools or districts accountable for results, it would be more efficient to evaluate schools and districts by testing a sample of students, thereby freeing up resources to devise higher-quality assessments.

The report also cautions that fluctuations in year-by-year test data tend to be statistically insignificant. What matters, the report argues, are “not small, year-to-year fluctuations, but multiyear trends that demonstrate clear movement of scores in one direction.”

Nearly 400 and Counting

Almost 400 higher education institutions now admit applicants without requiring scores on college-admissions tests, according to an analysis by the National Center on Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit group that has long opposed the use of standardized college-entrance exams.

The 383 institutions represent about one-fifth of all those granting bachelor’s degrees, said Christina Perez, who directs the group’s efforts to change universities’ testing policies. The FairTest count, out this month, is based on a review of the College Board’s 2001 College Handbook, information posted on college and university Web sites, and interviews with school officials.

The long-running debate over whether to require admissions tests was reignited last month, when the president of the University of California system proposed eliminating SAT scores as a requirement for UC applicants. (“UC President Pitches Plan To End Use of SAT in Admissions,” Feb. 28, 2001.) The list of institutions is available online at

—Lynn Olson

A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2001 edition of Education Week