Academy of Sciences, through its National Research Council, for guidance in the appropriate and nondiscriminatory use of such tests.
This study focuses on tests that, by virtue of their use for promotion, tracking, or graduation, have high stakes for individual students. The committee recognizes that accountability for students is related in important ways to accountability for educators, schools, and school districts. This report does not address accountability at those other levels, apart from the issue of participation of all students in large-scale assessments. The report is intended to apply to all schools and school systems in which tests are used for student promotion, tracking, or graduation.
Test form (as mentioned in part B of the congressional mandate) could refer to a wide range of issues, including, for example, the balance of multiple-choice and constructed-response items, the use of student portfolios, the length and timing of the test, the availability of calculators or manipulatives, and the language of administration. However, in considering test form, the committee has chosen to focus on the needs of English-language learners and students with disabilities, in part because these students may be particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of large-scale assessments. We consider, for these students, in what form and manner a test is most likely to measure accurately a student's achievement of reading and mathematics skills.
Two policy objectives are key for these special populations. One is to increase their participation in large-scale assessments, so that school systems can be held accountable for their educational progress. The other is to test each such student in a manner that accommodates for a disability or limited English proficiency to the extent that either is unrelated to the subject matter being tested, while still maintaining the validity and comparability of test results among all students. These objectives are in tension, and thus present serious technical and operational challenges to test developers and users.
In its deliberations the committee has assumed that the use of tests in decisions about student promotion, tracking, or graduation is intended to serve educational policy goals, such as setting high standards for student learning, raising student achievement levels, ensuring equal educational opportunity, fostering parental involvement in student learning, and increasing public support for the schools.