The American Educational Research Association has joined the growing ranks of national groups urging caution in the nationwide movement toward high-stakes student tests.
Representing 23,000 researchers, the Washington-based group rarely takes a stand on controversial issues. But its leaders said they were moved to take action on the testing issue because districts and states are ignoring professional testing standards in their zeal to improve learning.
“In cases where high-stakes testing programs are implemented in the absence of appropriate educational resources or in situations where the tests are flawed in design or interpretation,” a statement from the AERA says, “reliance on misleading or misrepresentative results may cause serious harm.”
Issued last month, the group’s statement draws on 1999 testing guidelines written by the American Psychological Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the AERA.
It outlines 12 conditions that researchers say should govern high-stakes testing. The AERA cautions, for example, against relying solely on test scores to determine whether a student should graduate or move on to the next grade.
And the researchers warn against holding schools, teachers, or students accountable for test results when they may not yet have the resources to meet higher standards. The group says policymakers and test developers should also:
• Avoid using tests for purposes for which they were not intended;
• Fully disclose possible negative consequences of their programs;
• Align the tests with what is taught in schools; and
• Conduct ongoing evaluations of the programs’ impact.
“If you have a 10th grade exit test, and 10th grade performance is going up, up, up, but more students are being stalled indefinitely in 10th grade, you need to have data on that,” said Lorrie A. Shepard, the AERA’s immediate past president. The full text of the statement is available online at www.aera.net/about/policy/stakes.htm.
A version of this article appeared in the August 02, 2000 edition of Education Week