Validating high stakes testing programs

This theme issue focuses on the use and consequences of high stakes tests. The problem, some experts say, is that states have tried to do too much too soon without the proper preparation and support for everyone involved. " by Sherry Freeland Walker, introduces the topic and related issues, outlining the pros and cons of high stakes testing by the states.First, the standards of testing professionals—who practice the science of psychometrics (see Chapter 4)—are often invoked in legal challenges to high-stakes testing, and testing programs are more likely to withstand legal challenges if professional standards have been met.

Law plays a dual role as far as educational tests are concerned.

This chapter looks at the second role that law can play with regard to testing: as a source of rules that define the circumstances in which test use may be discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate. And although a comprehensive treatment of state law is beyond the scope of this report, many of the issues discussed are affected in significant ways by state law.

In terms of the committee's congressional mandate, the law constitutes one set of norms relevant to whether existing or new tests are used in a discriminatory manner or inappropriately for student promotion, tracking, or graduation.

Legal considerations also play a part in discussions of how best to measure the reading and mathematics achievement of English-language learners and students with disabilities and whether to include them in large-scale assessments.

This chapter describes the legal frameworks that apply generally when tests have high-stakes consequences for students and considers how courts have applied these principles to situations involving student tracking, The first section considers issues of discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or sex; it includes discussion of English-language learners.

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