Reassessing the Role of Standardized Testing in Schools

One of the more contentious issues in ESEA reauthorization is testing and accountability. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has eliminated Adequate Yearly Progress and sanctions from his proposed ESEA legislation and is open to giving states flexibility on testing requirements. The HELP Committee’s first hearing on ESEA concerned “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.” Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s lead education blogger, has published a new book The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be (PublicAffairs, 2015) that examines the history of standardized tests, what they can and can’t do for students, and what concerned parties can do about them. In two articles for NPR, she discusses what she learned from her research and possible replacements for standardized tests.


  1. Sampling: Administering the same tests, but fewer of them.
  2. Stealth assessment: Passively collecting data from educational software over the course of a semester, school year, or education career through services already provided by learning resources.
  3. Multiple measures: Incorporate more, and different, kinds of data on student progress and school performance into accountability measures, including graduation rates, discipline outcomes, demographic information, teacher-created assessments and, eventually, workforce outcome. Additional measure could include social and emotional skills surveys, game-based assessments, and performance-or portfolio-based assessments.
  4. Inspections: Based on methods used in Scotland, government officials visit schools, observe classes, and interview staff and students.

Kamenetz does not advocate for one method over another, but believes that schools and districts could be using multiple assessment methods at the same time to discover what works for their students.

Read an interview with Kamenetz on NPR.

Read more about Kamenetz’s recommendations on NPR.

Assessment and Accountability