Everything is “High Stakes”

Student assessment has been under assault for years now.  And that assault usually begins with the attack on “high-stakes” tests.

We hated No Child Left Behind because of its high-stakes tests, with student assessments determining whether schools were making adequate yearly progress and ultimately if the school doors would stay open or not.
We hated the current batch of end-of-year “high-stakes” tests offered by the states, particularly now that the student performance numbers are being used by some states (and encouraged by others through NCLB waivers) in their teacher and principal evaluation process.
And we hate the “high-stakes” Common Core Assessments, whenever they come on line, as they blend our fears from both NCLB and state tests and wrap them up into one easy package.
Today, The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has applied the “high-stakes” label to another target — the SAT and the ACT.  In writing about how Common Core State Standards could <SHUDDER> actually have an impact in all states, even in those that haven’t adopted CCSS, she notes that “Students in every state take the high-stakes college admissions exams, the SAT and the ACT.”
Eduflack understands “high stakes” is a powerful term and it can raise the hackles of everyone from the left who oppose stricter accountability measures to the right which recoils from a greater federal footprint on the local classroom.  And he gets that Strauss is using the phrase as fighting words, hoping to generate continued negative feelings toward CCSS.  But sometimes, can’t a test just be a test?
Aren’t there some assessments that should have some stakes attached?  Shouldn’t high school exit exams be “high stakes” as they determine whether a student has earned a high school diploma or not?  And shouldn’t we want the SAT and ACT to have stakes, as they determine who gains entrance to a four-year college, particularly when the costs of college are about as high stakes as they come?
Tests have consequences.  And all tests should have stakes attached.  Driver’s exams are “high stakes” as they determine if you get a license and have access to the freedom that comes with it.  Eye exams are “high stakes,” particularly when anything less than 20/20 will keep you from becoming a pilot in the Armed Forces.  DNA tests are “high stakes” as they determine one’s family lineage, an essential to knowing your history and your health future. The new Google/Bing taste tests are “high stakes,” as they could determine marketing campaigns and huge swings in search usership. 
So if there are no stakes attached, and some seem to advocate, is it even a test?  

6 thoughts on “Everything is “High Stakes”

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