Skip to Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed student achievement standards and testing, focusing on: (1) the costs and extent of domestic testing; and (2) Canadian student testing and standards. GAO noted that: (1) in 1990 and 1991, U.S. student testing totalled $516 million, an average of $16 per student, and students spent an average of 7 hours annually on systemwide testing; (2) traditional multiple choice tests were used more often, cost less, and provided stronger comparative data than performance tests; (3) nationwide performance testing would cost approximately $330 million, add a half hour of testing per student, and could provide more realistic student achievement results; (4) testing officials had concerns regarding the purpose and quality of and locus of control over national tests, and over possible misuse of results; (5) Canadian student tests and standards were administered and set provincially, promoted educator and teacher involvement in test development, administration, and scoring, assessed both student accountability and educational effectiveness, utilized multiple testing methods, combined test scores with teacher evaluations, and provided equal funding; (6) safeguards in the Canadian system included specification distribution, multiple opportunities for success, rescoring, and accommodating students with disabilities; and (7) Canadian system benefits on student achievement were unclear, and difficulties in establishing a Canadian national test raised questions surrounding the development a U.S. national test, including its feasibility, accuracy, and issue complexity.

Full Report