High-Stakes Tests - Definition & Meaning

High-stakes tests are standardized assessments that have significant consequences or high stakes attached to their results. These consequences can affect individuals, educational institutions, or even entire school systems. High-stakes tests are often used to make important decisions, such as graduation eligibility, promotion to the next grade, teacher evaluations, school rankings, or funding allocations.

Key characteristics of high-stakes tests include:

  • Consequences: The results of high-stakes tests can lead to significant outcomes, such as determining whether a student graduates from high school or advances to the next grade level.
  • Accountability: High-stakes tests are often used to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for academic performance and achievement.
  • Standardization: These tests are typically standardized, meaning they are administered under consistent conditions and use predetermined scoring criteria.
  • Impact: The results of high-stakes tests can influence educational policies, funding allocations, curriculum decisions, and instructional practices.
While high-stakes tests can provide valuable data for educational assessment, they are also subject to criticism for potential negative consequences, such as teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, and creating undue stress for students and educators.

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