Publications & Resources

A Historical Perspective on Validity Arguments for Accountability Testing

Jun 2005

Edward Haertel and Joan Herman

Using achievement tests to hold students and schools accountable seems an obvious idea. Students come to school to learn. Tests show which students, in which schools, are meeting learning standards and which are not. Those students and schools that are falling short should be held accountable. Of course, the rationales for accountability testing programs are much more complex than that, as are testing’s effects, both intended and unintended. In this chapter, we describe various rationales for accountability testing programs over the past century. This history forms the backdrop for current test-driven reforms, including Public Law 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which was signed into law in January 2002. Our goals are first, to illustrate the diversity of mechanisms whereby testing may affect educational practice and learning outcomes; and second, to show that while many of the same ideas have recurred over time in different forms and guises, accountability testing has become more sophisticated.

Haertel, E., & Herman, J. (2005). A historical perspective on validity arguments for accountability testing (CSE Report 654). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).