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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

1999 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Denver, Colorado


Background: Over the past 30 years, the National Council of Teachers of English has promulgated many resolutions opposing high-stakes testing, culminating in the 1998 resolution detailing “the limitations of standardized testing with regard to authentic assessment of the English language arts classroom” (On Testing and Equitable Treatment of Students). This resolution condemned retention based on test scores alone, the “usurpation of the English language arts curriculum” by test preparation, and testing students in English who are “not sufficiently proficient in English.” Nevertheless, the intervening year has seen all of these practices escalate and in some places even be enacted into law.

NCTE joins with its sister organizations, the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education in support of their Standard for Educational and Psychological Measurement 8.12 which states, “In elementary or secondary education, a decision or characterization that will have a major impact on a test taker should not automatically be made on the basis of a single test score” (1975, p. 54). Neither states, nor districts, nor schools, nor test publishers are currently abiding by this clear standard.

Further, NCTE opposes single measure assessment for the initial credentialing or licensing of teachers and the continuing appointment of teachers. The Executive Committee of the Conference on English Education has declared that “to endorse such a single measure assessment violates the fundamental principles of effective teacher preparation, is in direct opposition to NCTE’s Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts, and undermines both teacher preparation programs and performance-based field experiences. Such single measure assessments are historically antithetical to NCTE’s commitment to diversity in the teaching profession. The National Council of Teachers of English will not support, endorse, or participate in any assessment for the initial credentialing of teachers that consists of a single test. Any assessment program must include multiple measures in multiple norms.”

Although NCTE has widely distributed its very strong positions on high-stakes testing and norm-referenced testing in general, it has, so far, not been able to derail the political engine of high-stakes testing. It is time to plan specific action. Be it therefore


Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English appoint, staff, and fund a committee charged with the development of an action plan to accomplish the following goals:

  1. To gather and synthesize current findings and to encourage continued research regarding the political, educational, and social impact of high-stakes testing;
  2. To publicize and disseminate such research findings to those professional and public stakeholders impacted by high-stakes testing;
  3. To support and mobilize growing opposition and resistance to high-stakes testing conducted by private testing agencies, states, and other agencies;
  4. To work constructively on the above resolutions with other organizations concerned with high-stakes testing; and
  5. To report back to the Executive Committee with its action plan.

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