The Positive and Negative Consequences of High-Stakes Testing for Students with Disabilities

The Positive and Negative Consequences of High-Stakes Testing for Students with Disabilities


The concept of high stakes testing has been in operation in the US for quite some time now. Students are required to partake in the tests before they progress to the next grades. Although the concept is largely applied, it has numerous ramifications for both students and educators. High-stakes testing affects both educators and students all across the United States. While the concept is not new in the education sector, its effects on students with disabilities is a source of concern (Needs, 2008). In particular, the requirement that all students including those with disabilities undertake high-stakes testing in their studies has far reaching impacts. There is a general consensus regarding the impacts of high-stakes test on students across the country. In addition, it is known that high stakes testing has profound impacts when administered on students with disabilities. However, the exact negative and positive impacts of the tests on students with disabilities need to be identified.

It is no doubt that high stake testing has serious ramifications for students with disabilities. Results from studies in the past point to a clear relationship between high-stakes testing and increased pressure on the students (Amrein & Berliner, 2002). There are links to the effect that high-stakes testing results in improved performance among students. It is not however clear whether these results are realized when students with disabilities are involved. There is an urgent need for information on the specific effects of high-stakes testing of students with disabilities. For instance policy makers and decision makes at different levels of administration require this information to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy. Moreover, the identification of both negative and positive impacts of high-stakes testing is significant in improving the concept in general. This study is therefore very significant in the development of education.


The review study aims to evaluate and describe existing research results of the consequences of high-stakes testing for students with disabilities. In this undertaking, the paper will attempt to suggest the implications of these consequences on the educational development of both students and educators. Consequently, the review paper purposes to identify the specific impacts of high-stakes tests on students with disabilities. This paper focuses on both negative and positive consequences thus finding a balance in the concept’s application. In addition, the study aims to contribute to existing literature on the concept of high-stakes tests among students with disabilities. The paper also intends to raise awareness on the important factors to put into consideration before the application of high-stakes tests. Ultimately, the review purposes to identify areas of improvement in the administration of high-stakes tests.


Research Question

The review paper approaches the subject of discussion through one research question that is relevant to the topic. The criterion used in selecting the research question is dependent on the frequency of application in past literature. Moreover, the research question is guided by the objective of the review paper to ascertain the implications of high-stakes testing in children with disabilities. The selected research question is testable and forms the backbone of the study by influencing the methodology to be used. The review paper will be guided by the research question with an intention of providing answers to the question posed. The main objective of the review study is to, therefore, answer the research question:

  • What are the consequences of high-stakes testing for students with disabilities?

Description, Comparison, and Evaluation


The subject of high stakes testing dominates the seven papers under review with a focus on the consequences on students with disabilities. In Christenson et al. (2007), the consequences of high stakes assessment for students with and without disabilities is explored. The same was achieved through an examination of school professionals on their perspectives regarding the anticipated effects of high-stakes tests. A total of 249 participants drawn from 19 states and 99 schools were interviewed including school psychologists and educators. The survey was structured to include observations of the consequences of high stakes tests on students. The findings pointed to the existence of a range in the effects of the assessments with a number of the consequences having increased in frequency due to the implementation of high-stakes testing.

Ysseldyke et al (2004) take the test further by exploring the perceived consequences of high-stakes tests on students with disabilities. The paper studies the gap between the alleged consequences, both negative and positive, and the empirically proved impacts. The researchers integrated empirical and anecdotal evidence in surveying the different consequences as they have been advanced in the past. Some of the factors analyzed in

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