make high-stakes decisions about individuals, but they have generally been reluctant to limit the professional judgment and discretion of educators (Office of Technology Assessment, 1992:72–74). Most major court interventions have dealt with specific uses of tests that sustained earlier patterns of racial discrimination in Southern schools.

Federal legislation has affected the testing of individual students in two major ways: first, by encouraging or requiring testing, for example, in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994 and, more significantly, in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965;2 and, second, by regulating the use of educational tests and information based on them. An example of the latter is the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as the Buckley Amendment. It established the rights of parents to inspect school records and limited the release of those records (including test scores) to those with a legitimate educational need for the information.

Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997, children with disabilities are entitled to several important protections when they are tested for placement. Among these are the right to be tested in the language spoken at home; the right to take a test that is not culturally biased; the right to accommodations or modifications based on special needs; and the right to be tested in several different ways, so that no special education placement decision is based on a single test score. These protections have not, however, been extended to other uses of educational tests, such as awarding or withholding a high school diploma.

Uses and Misuses of Standardized Tests

Tests are used in a variety of ways. As elaborated in Chapter 2, they can provide feedback to individual students and their teachers about


Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, also known as Title I, is the largest federal program in elementary and secondary education, with an annual budget of roughly $8 billion. It is intended to assist low-achieving, disadvantaged students. Title I exerts a powerful influence on schools across the country, particularly in the area of testing. Since the Congress revamped Title I in 1994, the law has required states to develop both challenging standards for student performance and assessments that measure student performance against those standards. The law also states that the standards and assessments should be the same for all students, regardless of whether they are eligible for Title I. This statute is discussed more fully in Chapters 3 and 11.

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