The School Counselor and High-Stakes Testing
(Adopted 2002, Revised 2007, 2014, 2017)
ASCA PositionSchool counselors recognize that standardized test results are one of many measures that can be used to assess student learning and performance across standards. School counselors advocate for the use of multiple criteria when educational decisions such as course enrollment and admissions are made about student performance and oppose the use of a single test to make important educational decisions affecting students, teachers and schools.
The RationaleHigh-stakes testing, which refers to the use of standardized test scores to make important decisions about students, schools and districts, was a prominent part of the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 (NCLB, 2002). High-stakes test results have been used as a method to determine a student’s: academic placement, promotion and retention, graduation and intervention services. Other decisions made using standardized test results for schools and districts include:
- increased or reduced funding at the state or local level
- revision of curriculum
- revision of teacher certification standards
- appropriate accommodations for students with exceptional learning needs and English-language learners
- decisions about school closings
- evaluation of instructional personnel
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in 2015, represents a legislative move toward identifying multiple measures to assess student success. The act encourages an approach to testing that moves away from a sole focus on standardized tests to drive decisions around the quality of schools to multiple measures of student learning and progress, including other indicators of student success to make school accountability decisions (White House, 2015). School counselors continue to advocate for reasonable use of multiple measures to assess student achievement and determine need for school improvement at the local and state levels.
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors recognize that standardized test results provide valuable information related to student achievement. However, school counselors also understand that some students struggle with standardized test practices that prevent these tests from providing an accurate reflection of their capabilities. Additionally, school counselors recognize that standardized tests only provide a partial picture of student learning. When important educational decisions are made, school counselors advocate for the use of multiple criteria in the decision-making process. These criteria may include but are not limited to:
- Standardized tests results
- Teacher input • Portfolios
- Work samples
- Classroom performance
- Recommendation letters
- Personal statement
- Student access to curriculum and courses
- Monitoring student achievement data and achievement-related data (e.g., grades, attendance, school engagement, discipline referrals, retention rates, SAT/ACT)
- Disaggregating data to inform instruction and strengthen curriculum
- Providing support to teachers through collaboration and teaming
- Providing direct student services in the areas of study skills, test-taking skills, stress reduction and test anxiety among other topics
- Working with administrators on home-school communication to aid in maintaining a healthy school and classroom assessment environment (Cizek & Burg, 2006)
- Advocating to postsecondary institutions that students should be considered holistically throughout the admissions process
- appropriate testing conditions and administration of standardized tests with solid psychometric properties
- opportunities to retake a test when a student is unsuccessful in one administration
- opportunities to take comparable tests when a student is unsuccessful in one administration
- the use of standardized tests norm-referenced with representative student populations
- discontinuation of standardized tests that show socioeconomic or cultural bias
SummarySchool counselors work with staff and students in implementing strategies that support students in the test-taking process. School counselors recognize the use of standardized test results as one of many measures of student achievement and success. School counselors reject the use of high-stakes tests or the use of any other single measurement instrument as the only indicator of student success. The school counselor encourages multiple measures when life-influencing decisions are being made.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2019). ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (4th ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.
Duffy, M., Giordano, V. A., Farrell, J. B., Paneque, O. N., & Crump, G. B. (2008). No child left behind: Values and research issues in high-stakes assessments. Counseling and Values, 53, 53-66.
McReynolds, K. (2006). The No Child Left Behind Act raises growing concerns. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 19, 33-36.
Mullen, P. R., & Lambie, G. W. (2016). The contribution of school counselors’self-efficacy to their programmatic service delivery. Psychology in the Schools, 53(3), 306-320. doi:10.1002/pits.21899
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq. (2002).
Whitehouse. FACT SHEET: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind. December 02, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/03/fact-sheet-congress-acts-fix-no-child-left-behind