A Balanced Approach to High-Stakes Achievement Testing:An Analysis of the Literature With Policy Implications, 7(4)


  • John M. Burger
  • Monte Krueger


This article examines the intended and unintended impacts of large-scale, high-stakes achievement tests on teachers and students through analysis of the arguments put forth by testing advocates and critics. A key objective is to inform both the evolving dialogue around testing and assessment policy development. Attention is given to: (1) the role of values and beliefs as determiners of one’s approach to testing, (2) methodological issues, (3) the impacts of testing on teacher and student behaviours, and (4) accountability and political implications of testing. A key conclusion of the article is that many of the arguments for and against testing concern the issues of fairness and usefulness of testing for teachers and students, juxtaposed with the public’s and government’s need to know how well schools are performing. Reconciling the two sides in the interest of advancing assessment policy is a matter of building the case that a balanced approach to testing exists. Such an approach must give appropriate attention to the multiple functions of classroom assessment relative to the functions of high-stakes achievement testing. Summative, formative, criterion-referenced, and norm-referenced testing models all have specific attributes and benefits that fit varying testing needs in given situations. However, finding the right balance in their applications and usages is the key to building a fair and integrated model of classroom assessment.