High Stakes Assessment is exactly how it sounds. The assessments have more than just a financial cost attached to them, they can impact a student’s life severely, and not always in a positive way.
Traditionally, these level of testing were used to demonstrate progress annually. Schools used this metric to provide an additionally statistic that helped provide another perspective of academic achievement. My husband describes a test that he took annually when he was a child in New Jersey; it was called the IOWA tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). It’s a standardized multiple choice timed test that covers, math, reading science and social studies. He said that teachers made a very big deal about them but that ‘they’ were told that it does not affect ‘grades’ in anyway. He didn’t feel pressured and also mentioned that it was sort of fun… wasting a week and filling in bubbles with a #2 pencil. However, as a teacher with twenty years experience, he knows that schools place a lot more emphasis on these ‘assessments’. For one thing, the assessments cost a lot of money. Two, higher student achievement usually equals more state/federal funding or at the very least, maintaining the current level of funding without penalty or auditing. Thirdly, schools uses these scores to attract students/parents: It’s a marketing’ tool.
My personal school experience is outdated as also in Russia they getting into idea of big test a bit more . Though I went trough standard -state education , we definitely had end of the year exams but only big exam was end of the school and in the end it was not the one to use for university. We were trained for exam process and one needed to go through entry exam to get to college. So mentality of learning to exam was in a system to the extend.
US is very big on all sorts of standardized tests – seems much more than other countries with a mainstream trend to place a greater emphasis on the exam. ‘Teaching to the test; this is how it seems now. Many teachers are pressured to just get through the ‘basics’ without having the time to explore more in-depth. This might also make it more difficult to differentiate instruction and/or support top students or those with learning disabilities.
I think teaching to the test, lessons the quality of education. It also detracts from the fun and spontaneity of learning. Other subjects like: art, music, dance, technology are not given priority. How does this impact engagement and creativity? Furthermore, the opportunity for cross-curriculum teaching is limited because the tests are strictly subject oriented.
The school year is generally 180 days long, but for some schools/districts, these tests can possibly represent a passing or failing grade for students. It’s really quite absurd that schools rely so heavily on these scores because it places so much negative stress on students and educators. In some instances, students experience mental health test anxieties that can lead to serious mental health disorders and even suicide. Additionally, the pressure can force some student to consider ‘cheating’ as the only option to pass the grade or graduate. Overall, it’s counter-productive to many ‘best practices’ that describe how the ‘process’ or the ‘act of learning’ is genuinely more reflective of a student’s comprehension and achievement.
High Stakes tests are contextually limited in scope. It caters to students in the middle class majority. In many cases, the assessments are culturally biased and do not reflect the lives and values of diverse communities and minorities.
Some US schools use the results to justify bonuses, demotions or even expulsions of their teachers! (that is also practice in China which also famous for result oriented pressure on students ). However, this practice seems neither fair, just or in the best interest of the student because of the numerous factors that can impact test scores, like socioeconomic status, family life and opportunities for professional development. Take away the high-stakes tests and get back to the joys of teaching and learning!