Unintended Consequences of Test-Based Accountability when Testing in 'Milepost" Grades

by Brian M. Stecher, Sheila Barron

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price
Add to Cart Paperback23 pages Free

Educational accountability systems that use test scores as the primary measure of performance are in use in many states. Research has shown that such high-stakes testing can have negative consequences, including narrowing of the curriculum and overemphasizing decontextualized skills. This study examined the impact of a particular form of high-stakes testing, dubbed milepost testing, in which tests are only given at selected grade levels. Data were gathered in Kentucky at a time when state-mandated tests were given in some subjects in grades 4, 7, and 11, and in other subjects in grades 5, 8, and 11. This approach was used to reduce the cost and the burden of assessment and accountability. The study found that many of the effects identified in previous research were present when tests were only given in selected grade levels. This study documents substantial differences in practice between tested and nontested grades and draws implications for national testing proposals that are currently being debated.

Originally published in: Educational Assessment, v. 7, no. 4, 2001, pp. 259-281.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.