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Reconsidering the Impact of High-stakes Testing


"Over the last fifteen years, many states have implemented high-stakes tests as part of an effort to strengthen accountability for schools, teachers, and students. Predictably, there has been vigorous disagreement regarding the contributions of such policies to increasing test scores and, more importantly, to improving student learning." In this article, the author undertakes an extended reanalysis of state policies, focusing on the performance of states, over the period 1992 to 2000, on the NAEP mathematics assessments for grades 4 and 8. "When we examine the relative gains of states over the period, we find that the comparisons strongly favor the high-stakes testing states... On the other hand, when we follow a particular cohort (grade 4, 1992 to grade 8, 1996 or grade 4, 1996 to grade 8, 2000), we find the comparisons slightly favor the low-stakes testing states, although the discrepancy can be partially accounted for by changes in the sets of states contributing to each comparison. In addition, we conduct a number of ancillary analyses to establish the robustness of our results, while acknowledging the tentative nature of any conclusions drawn from highly aggregated, observational data."