Second Major

Human Development and Family Studies (including Early Childhood Education)


Semnoski, Cathy

Advisor Department





high-stakes testing; accountability; testing accommodations


Standardized testing provides an important means to measure students’ performance relative to their peers and grade-level learning objectives. Over the past twenty years or so, the use of results from standardized testing has been expanded as a measure of performance of schools and school districts. Increasingly, these results are also being used for making decisions regarding graduation, grade promotion, teacher’s pay and employment, school funding, and more. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on highstakes standardized testing, including the impact of this movement towards accountability, what the test scores are used for, implementation of testing and policies, and how their use affects certain populations. I used various search engines, such as Google Scholar, EBSCOhost, AccessERIC, and JSTOR, to find journal articles, news articles, book chapters, and editorials to understand the intended purpose of using standardized test scores for making these decisions and to understand the effects this practice has on students, teachers, and schools. Predominately, results were found in Educational Horizons, Journal of Law and Education, and Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that’s Transforming Education. I found that there can be many threats to the validity of standardized tests in general and, when scores are used in high-stakes situations, the effects can be misleading and detrimental. The intention of implementing accountability and associated policies was to improve the quality of education for all students, but they have actually been shown, in many cases, to do more harm than good. Suggestions put forth in the literature to assess student achievement in a more valid and less harmful way were reviewed and elaborated on.