Policy makers have focused on promoting test-based accountability systems as a tool for correcting a wide variety of educational problems, including low standards, weak motivation, poor curriculum and instruction, inadequate learning, and educational equity. This article argues that the appropriateness of testing, or any other form of assessment, as a solution to such problems should be guided by one primary motivation: whether it enables all students to function at the highest possible level in the wider world. This motivation provides a standard for evaluating the effectiveness of assessment policies. The article looks for evidence that test-based accountability systems, when applied to various educational problems, enhance or impede diverse students' ability to use their minds well. The evidence is, at best, mixed. This article argues for a more balanced use of assessments that can incorporate instructionally timely and useful information about students' performance and concludes with guidelines and recommendations for appropriate test use.
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