The American Educational Research Association (AERA)is the nation's largest professional organization devoted to the scientific study of education.
The AERA seeks to promote educational policies and practices that credible scientific research has shown to be beneficial, and to discourage those found to have negative effects.
Many states and school districts mandate testing programs to gather data about student achievement over time and to hold schools and students accountable.
Certain uses of achievement test results are termed "high stakes" if they carry serious consequences for students or for educators.
Schools may be judged according to the school-wide average scores of their students.
High school-wide scores may bring public praise or financial rewards; low scores may bring public embarrassment or heavy sanctions.
For individual students, high scores may bring a special diploma attesting to exceptional academic accomplishment; low scores may result in students being held back in grade or denied a high school diploma.
These various high-stakes testing applications are enacted by policy makers with the intention of improving education.
For example, it is hoped that setting high standards of achievement will inspire greater effort on the part of students, teachers, and educational administrators.
Reporting of test results may also be beneficial in directing public attention to gross achievement disparities among schools or among student groups.
However, if high-stakes testing programs are implemented in circumstances where educational resources are inadequate or where tests lack sufficient reliability and validity for their intended purposes, there is potential for serious harm.
Policy makers and the public may be misled by spurious test score increases unrelated to any fundamental educational improvement; students may be placed at increased risk of educational failure and dropping out; teachers may be blamed or punished for inequitable resources over which they have no control; and curriculum and instruction may be severely distorted if high test scores per se, rather than learning, become the overriding goal of classroom instruction.
This statement sets forth a set of conditions essential to sound implementation of high-stakes educational testing programs.