These issues have been considered by the Congress in its deliberations on voluntary national testing, and it has called on the National Academy of Sciences to carry out studies addressing several of them. 1 This report addresses the set of questions bearing on the appropriate, nondiscriminatory use of educational tests. Congress has asked the Academy, through its National Research Council, to "conduct a study and make written recommendations on appropriate methods, practices and safeguards to ensure that—

  1. existing and new tests that are used to assess student performance are not used in a discriminatory manner or inappropriately for student promotion, tracking or graduation; and
  2. existing and new tests adequately assess student reading and mathematics comprehension in the form most likely to yield accurate information regarding student achievement of reading and mathematics skills."
  • The questions the Congress has framed reflect concern about the increasing reliance on tests that have a direct impact on students, including the impact of high-stakes testing on various minority communities and on children with disabilities or whose native language is not English. This study therefore focuses on tests that have high stakes for individual students, although the committee recognizes that accountability for students is related in important ways to accountability for educators, schools, and school systems. Indeed, the use of tests for accountability of educators, schools, and school districts has significant consequences for individual students, for example, by changing the quality of instruction or affecting school management and budgets. Such indirect effects of large-scale assessment are worth studying in their own right. This report is intended to apply to all schools and school systems in which tests are used for promotion, tracking, or graduation.


    Results of the study addressing questions related to the feasibility of a common reporting metric appear in Uncommon Measures: Equivalence and Linkage Among Educational Tests (National Research Council, 1999b). A third study, Evaluation of the Voluntary National Tests: Phase 1 (National Research Council, 1999a), is an evaluation of the first year of the VNT development process.

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