NRC/GT Running Head

State Standardized Testing Programs: Their Effects on Teachers and Students

Tonya R. Moon
Catherine M. Brighton
Jane M. Jarvis
Catherine J. Hall

A driving force in standards-based educational reform was the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (National Commission of Excellence in Education [NCEE], 1983). The report called for "an end to the minimum competency testing movement and the beginning of a high-stakes testing movement that would raise the nation's standards of achievement drastically" (Amrein & Berliner, 2003, p. 6). This report was predicated on the assumption that the public school system was in dire need of comprehensive reform to increase student and school performance, as it was currently failing to effectively prepare the nation's youth for the workplace and preventing Americans from competing on an international stage (Marcoulides & Heck, 1994; Smith & Fey, 2000). The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of state testing programs on schools, teachers, and students, focusing on selected issues that have arisen separately from previous studies. The trigulated mixed method study was conducted in two phases. The theoretical, conceptual framework that was used for both phases of the study was that of an interpretist theory (Erickson, 1986). Blumer's (1972) framework of symbolic interactionism guided the phase focusing on student perceptions of state testing. For Phase I, survey methodology was used to ascertain the beliefs and self-reported practices of a national sample of elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. Phase II employed a qualitative research methodology to ascertain students' and teachers' perceptions of the influences that state testing mandates have on the curricula and the instructional process. Results from both studies indicated four prominent findings: (a) teachers and students feel a tremendous amount of pressure associated with high-stakes testing; (b) the pressure felt by teachers results in drill and practice type of curriculum and instruction; (c) the pressure felt by high-stakes testing is greater in disadvantaged schools and results in more drill and practice instruction; and (d) gifted and talented students feel pressure to perform well to bring up all scores oftentimes resulting in disengagement from the learning process.

Reference:
Moon, T. R., Brighton, C. M., Jarvis, J. M., & Hall, C. J. (2007). State standardized testing programs: Their effects on teachers and students (RM07228). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.


NRC/GT Bar

State Standardized Testing Programs: Their Effects on Teachers and Students
Tonya R. Moon
Catherine M. Brighton
Jane M. Jarvis
Catherine J. Hall


Conclusions

  1. Teachers and students feel a tremendous amount of pressure associated with high-stakes testing to produce high student test scores.
  2. The pressure felt by teachers associated with high-stakes testing results in drill and practice type of curriculum and instruction.
  3. There appears to be a consistent increase in test preparation activities in the period immediately preceding the administration of a test, ending abruptly following the test.
  4. Teachers generally perceive a top-down filtering of test-related pressure, beginning with central office administrators down to the classroom level.
  5. There is a clear feeling among most teachers that the focus on minimum standards and basic skills has diminished both the richness and depth of the curriculum and professional autonomy over curricular and instructional decisions.
  6. The pressure felt by high-stakes testing is greater in disadvantaged schools and results in more drill and practice instruction.
  7. There is a firm belief among teachers in both low-stakes and high-stakes testing environments that the pressure to improve student scores is steadily increasing.
  8. Gifted and talented students feel pressure to perform well to bring up all scores, which can often result in disengagement from the learning process.
  9. Many gifted students report frustration and resentment at the slow pace of learning and repetitive nature of test preparation.
  10. It appears that the current high-stakes testing movement affects gifted students by providing a curricular ceiling that is well below their own academic potential.