Test-based Incentives

As a trained skeptic, I’m hesitant to conclude anything from the results of a large-scale test until I know something about the test itself.  Who wrote it? What were they trying to measure?  Did they test-drive their test?  What were the stakes for the students, teachers, and administrators?  So a new book — actually the prepublication version — called Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education from the National Research Council has caught my attention.  So far I’ve only read the summary (the whole book is available for free here; the resolution is a bit fuzzy), but I’m intrigued.  From page 3:

“Conclusion 1:  Test-based incentive programs, as designed and implemented in the programs that have been carefully studied, have not increased student achievement  enough to bring the United States close to the levels of the highest achieving countries…”

But this is not an anti-test polemic; the recommendations are for caution and careful study.  From the Introduction (page I-2):

“…the goal of the report is to inform educational policy makers about the use of … incentives and to recommend ways that their use in test-based accountability systems can be improved.”


About Priscilla Bremser

Professor of Mathematics Middlebury College
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