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High Stakes Testing

High-stakes testing is standardized achievement tests that work as a primary mechanism for evaluating the performance of students and educators. It has significant consequences or forms the basis of a momentous decision. 

High stakes testing meets the following three criteria:

1.  Being a single defined assessment

2.  Draws a simple line between who is passing and failing

3.  Has something at stake or the direct consequences of passing or failing

Stakes are high for students and educators with high stakes testing. It decides whether the students qualify for higher education, teachers are efficient enough to teach, and schools are competent sufficient to provide the right education.

High stake tests come in many forms, with a variety of purposes to students and educators that include:

  • For students, it determines whether they are qualified or disqualified for the next grade level, and of giving scholarships or declining it, and many others.
  • For teachers, it decides whether to hire or fire them, apart from extending their tenure, increasing salaries, pay bonuses, among others.
  • It determines imposing penalties for not offering quality education, giving negative public ratings, or even closure for educational institutions.

High stakes testing was the US government’s answer to Russia’s Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite. It started competency tests to allow students to leave school with the minimum reading capability and do basic math. The US government started the competency tests in 1965, authorized by the ESEA or Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

High stakes testing started as minimum competency tests over half a century ago have revolutionized the US and many developed countries’ education system. It differs from high-pressure testing like SAT exams. Only the scores of the SAT or scholastic assessment exam will help to get admission in reputed universities. But the high stakes testing determines whether the student is eligible for the next grade levels.

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