Do high-stakes tests improve learning?

Michael Hout, Stuart Elliott, Sara Frueh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The US has long performed at a middling level on international assessments of students' math, reading, and science knowledge, trailing many other high income countries. In their efforts to improve K-12 education, US policymakers have increasingly turned to offering incentives- either to schools, to teachers, or to students themselves- to increase students' standardized test scores. In an effort to answer that question, a recent study by the National Research Council took a comprehensive look at the available research on how incentives affect student learning. The study committee, composed of experts in education, economics, and psychology, examined a range of studies on the effects of many types of incentive programs. What it found was not encouraging: The incentive systems that have been carefully studied have had only small effects, and in many cases no effect, on student learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalIssues in Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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