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Testing with accountability improves student achievement

Annika B. Bergbauer, Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann
Published Date: 
September 19, 2018
Countries who expanded the use of standardized testing for external comparison between 2000 and 2015 saw the achievement of their students improve

Testing of students is expanding rapidly in many countries. For example, according to the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission, between 2000 and 2015, eight of the 18 European countries covered by the agency introduced national tests to make decisions about students’ schooling after primary or lower secondary school (Eurydice 2009, 2017). In 23 of the 59 countries in our analyses, the share of schools that use standardised assessments for external comparison increased by more than 20 percentage points in the same period.

The increase in student testing, and the way it is used in schools, have caused heated debate. Proponents argue that increased use of testing and accountability systems are essential to improve educational outcomes. They argue that measuring how students and schools perform, and where they stand compared to others, creates incentives to improve. For example, in its World Development Report that focuses on learning, the World Bank (2018)explicitly calls for expansion of student evaluations and concludes that “[t]here is too little measurement of learning, not too much”