Alternatives to High-Stakes Testing

School districts around the country use high-quality assessments that do not require high-stakes standardized tests.

Here are some prominent examples.

Learning Record. A program developed by American and British researchers for use with multi-lingual, multi-cultural populations. It assesses progress in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Using a structured format, the teacher regularly observes and describes each student and his/her work, then attaches samples to the recording forms, thereby providing multiples sources of evidence. Student progress is summarized in writing and placed numerically on a developmental scale. Learning Records have been re-scored with very high inter-rater agreement across dozens of schools, from California suburbs to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Studies have supported its validity. See:

New York Performance Standards Consortium. The dozens of New York high schools that belong to this consortium have obtained permission to use just one standardized state exam, English Language Arts (ELA). The Consortium requires the ELA test and four consortium-supervised performance tasks/projects for graduation. Students develop their own tasks in each subject. Student work is evaluated by teachers and independent reviewers using a common scoring guide for each subject across the participating schools. The system has been reviewed and approved by independent experts. See and

Peer Assistance and Review (PAR). Originally developed in Toledo, Ohio, the PAR program is designed to assess and support new teachers as well as experienced teachers who have been identified as needing to improve. Teachers in the program receive focused attention from specially trained mentors as well as other support. Peer Assistance and Review panels made up of teachers and administrators monitor teachers placed in the PAR program, and make decisions about when teachers are ready to leave the program, or whether they should be dismissed. It is used in several school districts, including Toledo and Montgomery County, Maryland. An overview of these programs can be found at