The Role of Testing

Appropriate assessments are an integral part of a high-quality public education. Countries with high-achieving education systems do not rely on frequent high-stakes testing with multiple choice tests that are of little use to teachers in understanding students’ needs or how to design instruction. High-performing nations increasingly use performance assessments and curriculum-embedded assessment to give students opportunities to demonstrate their abilities to organize information to solve problems, to frame and conduct investigations, to analyze and synthesize data, and to apply learning to new situations. Skilled teachers who assess students using high-quality, relevant and timely formative assessments employ the results to modify, refine and individualize instruction. Summative assessments can play a role by ascertaining if students are on track to graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary for college or career—and to inform educators and the public if and when extra help is needed to get students on track. We must continue to disaggregate reporting on such tests—by race, ethnicity, poverty level, English language proficiency status and disability. However, testing of every student at every grade level every year should not be required. Instead, sampling methodology should be employed to determine how well the system is meeting its goals.

Assessments and Accountability

We must move away from “test-and-punish” systems to accountability systems that “support and improve.”

Learn more