The belief that the achievement of students in the United States schools was falling behind other countries led politicians in the 1970s to instigate a minimum competency testing movement to reform our schools. States began to rely on tests of basic skills to ensure, in theory, that all students would learn at least the minimum needed to be a productive citizen (Amrein & Berliner).
In 1983, the National Commission of Education released a Nation at Risk, the most influential report on education in the past several decades. A Nation at Risk called for an end to the minimum. The competency testing movement and the beginning of the high-stakes testing movement that would raise the nation's standards of achievement drastically. This was a direct result of the perception that America was falling behind other nations in the education of their youth.
In discussing current high-stakes testing practices, test scores were often promoted as diagnostic tools useful for identifying a student's achievement deficits and assets; they were rarely used for such purposes when they emanated from large-scale testing programs. Two major problems were the cause of this. First, test scores were often reported in the summer after students exited each grade and second, there were usually too few items on any one topic or area to be used in a diagnostic way. As a result of these factors, scores on large-scale assessments were most often used simply to distribute rewards and sanctions. This contributed to the corruptions and distortions predicted by the uncertainty principle.
The researchers discussed results from the scores of the ACT, SAT, AP and NAEP. One outcome that the researchers found was that states that did not have high-stakes testing performed better on the ACT and SAT than states that did have high-stakes testing. Overall, the researchers found the effects of high-stakes, high school achievement tests had a negative effect on ACT, SAT, AP and NAEP performance.
Cronin, et al. (2005) conducted a study on the impact of the NCLB Act on student achievement and growth. This study applied the idea of scientifically-based research to the impact of the law itself. NCLB was a very complex law with aspects as diverse as content standards and school choice. This study was a scientifically- based investigation of the impact of NCLB on student achievement and growth.
The results of this study showed that mathematics and reading scores had improved over the past two years under NCLB. Student growth scores decreased since NCLB was implemented. Students in grades with state tests had higher achievement and growth than student who were not. Changes in performance in mathematics were greater than those in reading since NCLB was implemented. Student growth in every ethnic group had decreased slightly since NCLB was implemented. Finally, achievement growth of Hispanic students in every grade and subject area tended to be lower than the achievement growth of White students with exactly the same initial score.
Popham (1999) conducted a study on why standardized tests did not measure educational quality. The researcher stated that these days if a school's standardized test scores were high, people thought the school's staff was effective. If a school's standardized test scores were low, people saw the school's staff as ineffective. In either case, because the wrong yardstick was measuring educational quality, those evaluations were apt to be in error.
The researcher suggests a three-pronged attack on the problem. First, the researcher thinks that one needs to learn more about the viscera of standardized achievement tests. Second, one needs to carry out an effective educational campaign so that educational colleagues, parents of children in school, and educational policymakers understand what the evaluative shortcomings of standardized achievement tests really are. Finally, the researcher states that one needs to arrange a more appropriate form of assessment-based evidence.
Lombardi and Burke (1999) conducted a study on whether or not to test students. This study examines the use of standardized achievement testing in West Virginia. Participants were students and teachers in Mineral County. The researches results revealed that, in general, all grades improved when the scores of students with individualized educational programs (IEPs) were eliminated. For the most part, general educators felt that too much emphasis was being put on one type of assessment, were very concerned about the inclusion of special education students' scores in aggregate test results, and were concerned that they had not received adequate support to effectively teach special education students in their general classes. Special education teachers indicated that they were under pressure from general educators to exclude standardized testing on students' IEPs.
Gibson (1997) conducted a comparative study of achievement on ninth-grade students who passed and failed sections of the Ohio Ninth Grade Proficiency Test. This study sought to find out if the previous classroom grades were just as useful a tool in identifying those students likely to have trouble passing the Ohio Ninth