The result is that tests are used for purposes for which they were not intended. In such cases, the outcome for individuals may be unfair. Moreover, the tests themselves may be corrupted as valid and reliable measuring devices (Linn, 1998).
As student assessment becomes a more prominent part of education reform strategies, several trends stand out as having significant implications. One is the goal of including most, if not all, students in assessment systems. A variety of recent policy initiatives aims to test even those students who were previously exempted from common assessments or who were tested with alternative instruments. If all students are included in the same assessment system, it is assumed, system accountability will be greater, particularly for students who have often been shortchanged in their schooling. Including more students in large-scale assessments, however, does not necessarily mean that all students will be subject to the high stakes that some states and school districts attach to scores on such tests.
At the federal level, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 are being used as levels to ensure that students participating in these programs take tests that incorporate the same content and performance standards that apply to other students. They are also to be included in state assessment systems, and the states are to determine whether local districts and schools are helping these students make adequate yearly progress toward meeting the common standards. This strategy, in effect, combines several policy purposes of assessment: program evaluation, school-level accountability, and changing classroom instruction. Federal law does not, however, require that all students be subject to high-stakes test requirements.
Policy discussions have focused mainly on whether a standards-based strategy will work for all students, what testing accommodations are needed, and how test scores should be reported. The question of how tests are used is likely to become especially salient in this context, because many of the students who will be included in expanded assessment systems are English-language learners or students with disabilities. For these students, it is important to ensure that the tests truly measure their achievement and are not corrupted by language barriers or lack of appropriate modifications. Appropriate test use for these students, as for all