High stakes testing

High stakes testing

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High stakes testing

High stakes testing refers to tests that are used to make important decisions about students and other education stakeholders for the purpose of accountability. The aim of such tests is to ensure that the education that the students are offered is suitable. It analyses both the curriculum and the effectiveness of the teaching methods that the teachers employ in a school set up. High stakes are mainly used to determine the action that will be taken in case the standards are not met. This may come in form of sanctions, penalties or positive moves like advancement. Promotion or graduation of the students.

High stakes testing, has, without doubt improved the test scores considerably. This is because of the punishments that have to be avoided and the rewards that come from it. No school or district would want sanctions to be passed down on them. On the other hand, the rewards are handsome. For those in charge of education, promotions are guaranteed and for those who are studying, they can graduate to the next level (Madaus & Russell, 2010). The improvement is not seen in learning though. This is due to the focus on exams and little regard when it comes to the entire learning. The whole process is focused on passing tests and graduating. This makes learning very ineffective.

High stakes testing is very important in improving performance in exams. I realized that one is more likely to be prepared in a situation where the end goal is clearly set. In order to pass exams, there are more preparations that are needed. These include thorough revision of class material and general revision of past exams. Unfortunately, this makes one to be focused only on doing well in exams. The non-examinable aspects of education are left out. This results in a result that is only exam based, without a regard on the other things learnt in class.

This method has its own advantages and disadvantages. One of its advantages is that it encourages hard work on both the student and the administrators (Au & Tempel, 2012). With goals to beat at the end of each semester, efforts are put to ensure that the goals are met. The second advantage is that it improves overall performance in tests. Without a focused test, it is not possible to get a benchmark to base performance upon. With a benchmark set, all efforts are put towards meeting that goal. Apart from that. High stakes testing serves to ensure that standards of education are up held. It covers almost every sector of education, increasing accountability across board.

On the downside, high stakes testing increases focus on tested areas, neglecting the areas that do not look worthwhile to the people. This means that focus is shifted from crucial aspects to focus on tests. Students end up being focused only on the tests without a regard for the rest of the content and activities. The method also may put the students under pressure (Reddell, 2010). The ability to take tests is not the strength of each student. Some of them end up failing due to over-emphasis on tests. In addition to that, high stakes testing tends to punish students for common reactions like anxiety and fear. If a student fails due to these factors, they will fail to go to college even if they were bright.

Using this method has had both positive and negative impact on the student and the entire education system. The measure of its success is only om tests and nothing else. This reduces the education to a few examinations that students have to learn to take with little or no anxiety which may not be possible. The idea may have been good but it locks out the important aspects of education that are not examinable.


Au, W., & Tempel, M. B. (2012). Pencils Down: Rethinking High-stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools. Rethinking Schools.

Madaus, G., & Russell, M. (2010). Paradoxes of High-Stakes Testing. Journal of Education190(1-2), 21-30. doi:10.1177/0022057410190001-205

Reddell, S. (2010). High Stakes Testing: Our Children at Risk.

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