AERA Position Statement on High-Stakes Testing

The American Educational Research Association is the foremost and most respected national educational research society. Below is their opinions on using high-stakes testing in admissions.

This position statement on high-stakes testing is based on the 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. The Standards represent a professional consensus concerning sound and appropriate test use in education and psychology. They are sponsored and endorsed by the AERA together with the American Psychological Association (APA) and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME).

The Big Problem With the New SAT

The SAT will remain a “norm-referenced” exam, designed primarily to rank students rather than measure what they actually know. Such exams compare students to other test takers, rather than measure their performance against a fixed standard. They are designed to produce a “bell curve” distribution among examinees, with most scoring in the middle and with sharply descending numbers at the top and bottom. Test designers accomplish this, among other ways, by using plausible-sounding “distractors” to make multiple-choice items more difficult, requiring students to respond to a large number of items in a short space of time, and by dropping questions that too many students can answer correctly.