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with scheduling considerations, dictates track placements in other subjects (Oakes et al., 1992; Gamoran, 1988); relying on subject-matter tests in English, without appropriate accommodation, in placing English-language learners in certain classes; and failing to reevaluate students periodically to determine whether existing placements remain suitable. It is also inappropriate to use test scores or any other information as a basis for placing children in settings in which their access to higher-order knowledge and skills is denied or limited.
Recommendation: Since tracking decisions are basically placement decisions, tests and other information used for this purpose should meet professional test standards regarding placement.
Recommendation: Because a key assumption underlying placement decisions is that students will benefit more from certain educational experiences than from others, the standard for using a test or other information to make tracking decisions should be accuracy in predicting the likely educational effects of each of several alternative educational experiences.
Recommendation: If a cutscore is to be employed on a test used in making a tracking or placement decision, the quality of the standard-setting process should be documented and evaluated.
Promotion and Retention
The intended purposes of formal promotion and retention policies are (1) to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills they need for successful work in higher grades and (2) to increase student and teacher motivation to succeed. Many states and school districts rely on large-scale assessments, some heavily, in making decisions about student promotion and retention at specified grade levels. In the great majority of states and school districts, promotion and retention decisions are based on a combination of grades, test scores, developmental factors, attendance, and teacher recommendations (American Federation of Teachers, 1997). However, the trend is for more states and school districts to base promotion mainly on test scores.
Much of the current public discussion of high-stakes testing is motivated by calls for an end to social promotion. For example, in the Clinton