The Truth about Testing: An Educator's Call to Action

The Truth about Testing: An Educator's Call to Action

The Truth about Testing: An Educator's Call to Action

The Truth about Testing: An Educator's Call to Action


With public and political demand for educational accountability never higher, educators are under enormous pressure to raise students' scores on standardized achievement tests. Policymakers are backing large-scale, high-stakes testing programs as the best way to determine which schools are failing and which schools are succeeding, and the only way to ensure the quality of students' schooling.

Nonsense, says distinguished educator and author W. James Popham.

In The Truth About Testing: An Educator's Call to Action, Popham explores both the absurdity and the serious destructive consequences of today's testing programs. He uses actual items drawn from current standardized achievement tests to show what these tests really measure and why they should never be used to evaluate school quality or teacher ability.

But, Popham insists, there's a way out of this measurement mess. And it's up to educators to take the first steps. Throughout this commonsense and conversational resource, the author appeals to educators to build their own assessment literacy, spread the word about harmful testing, and reexamine how they use test data in the classroom. He provides

• Advice for distinguishing between sound and unsound large-scale tests.

• Guidelines to help teachers maximize the instructional benefits properly constructed classroom tests can bring.

• Evidence-gathering strategies for teachers and administrators trying to survive and thrive in an accountability-driven environment.

The book closes with a series of action items for educators interested in ending the score-boosting game, halting the erosion of educational quality, and establishing the kind of testing that can improve student learning.


This is a book about educational testing in the united states. Although its main focus is what people call high-stakes tests, much of the content also applies to the classroom assessments teachers routinely generate for their students.

I believe that today’s high-stakes tests, as they are used in most settings, are doing serious educational harm to children. Because of unsound high-stakes testing programs, many students are receiving educational experiences that are far less effective than they would have been if such programs had never been born.

I also believe that most teachers are missing a major dividend that educational testing can provide. Teachers are failing to take advantage of the instructional benefits that properly constructed tests can bring to themselves and to their students. As I’m using the phrase, a “properly constructed” test is one that significantly illuminates the instructional decisions teachers must make. If all highstakes tests were properly constructed, we’d find that a high-stakes testing program would typically have a positive effect on educational quality.

And that, in a nutshell, is what this book is about. It begins by addressing the current misuses of high-stakes tests, and then explains how we can create tests that can improve, not degrade, instructional quality. To ensure that I don’t make any profound pedagogical mistakes, I suppose I should state this book’s two objectives outright. After completing this book, I want you to . . .

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