Publications & Resources

Alignment, High Stakes, and the Inflation of Test Scores

Jun 2005

Daniel Koretz

There are many reasons to align tests with curricular standards, but this alignment is not sufficient to protect against score inflation. This report explains the relationship between alignment and score inflation by clarifying what is meant by inappropriate test preparation. It provides a concrete, hypothetical example that illustrates a process by which scores become inflated and follows this with more complete discussion of the mechanisms of score inflation and their link to teachers’ responses to high-stakes testing. Policymakers embarking on an effort to create a more effective system less prone to the drawbacks of simple test-based accountability cannot rely solely on alignment and should consider several additional steps: redesigning external tests in other ways to minimize inflation, setting attainable performance targets, relying on multiple measures, and reestablishing a role for professional judgment. Developing more effective alternatives will take us beyond what is well established and will require innovation, experimentation, and rigorous evaluation.

Koretz, D. (2005). Alignment, high stakes, and the inflation of test scores (CSE Report 655). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).