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The Impact of High-Stakes Testing on Elementary Teachers and Students

High stakes testing refers to a situation where test results are used to influence decisions that affect teachers and students. The resultant verdicts could lead to a student’s retention or advancement, the teacher’s salary decisions, the disbursement of funds to districts and schools and in some situations, closure of schools. The repercussions of the decisions, whether beneficial or not, lead to the adoption of policies to help the students achieve higher scores in tests.

High stakes testing means that the instructor is answerable for the performance of his or her students. There is increased pressure in the working environment for the teachers and as such, there are relatively higher levels of stress because of the state mandated tests. The educators also have to change the curriculum and teaching process to suit the tests. These changes leave the teachers feeling powerless and uncertain of whether their work is in the best interest of the students. The choice to only teach tested material compromises on the quality of education and hence renders the process of learning redundant.

In regards to the students, as the entire school organization turns focus on attempts to improve test scores, there is an increase in bullying. A blind eye is turned to negative actions in school and the subsequent rise in cases of indiscipline within the system. The administration is undecided between preparing for tests and meeting the students’ needs.

For the students, the goal of schooling becomes limited to passing tests. This focus is bound to affect the students’ learning and comprehension of content that is not tested. When only tested material is taught, the students resort to memorizing rather than understanding the concepts and as such, the learners do not get the most out of the learning process. In addition to that, when students are put under pressure to attain good grades, their self perception is changed. The learners are likely to tie their self perception to their performance in school. When a student views himself or herself as lacking sufficient learning ability, he or she does not practice patience when challenges are experienced and consequently, will not reach their potential in testing. Therefore, the students will develop a low self image in instances where they do not perform well in examinations. Such a perception will lead to less effort put in concurrent tests causing progressive dismal performance and eventual detachment.


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