History Of AssessmentTesting In The United States – SS

History Of Assessment/Testing In The United States – SS

Assessment practices in the United States are not something that started yesterday. Assessment and testing in the United States began many years ago and they have taken several transformations throughout time. For over a century use of standardized testing for the assessment of aptitudes and achievement has played a major role in shaping the educational thinking in America. Today such tests are quite common .The paper will look at the history of assessment or testing in the United States from 1900 to 2010.a timeline of dates, significant events and the importance of these dates and events in the history of assessment and testing in the United States.

Assessment practices began in early 1900’s with the United States government being the predominant driver. In public schools, IQ tests and other standardized tests became quite popular. The main focus of these early tests was the determination of a student’s ability as opposed to the assessment of learning which the trend is today. The first standardized test in United States was Thorndike Handwriting Scale developed in 1910 used to measure the level of mastery in students handwriting (Fletcher,2009).1920 saw the creation of SATs which were used to determine the ability of potential students to benefit from higher education. SAT and ACT tests are still currently being used for the same purpose. However, this standardization tests has been opposed by many who claim that the test are bias against race, gender and socio-economic background (Cobb, 2004).

There were five waves of educational reforms that took place between 1950’s and 1990’s.In 1950’s there was the emphasis of the role of tests in selection and tracking. In the 1960’s tests were used for program accountability. Emphasis on use of test to make important decisions regarding students, teachers and administration in secondary and elementary schools as well as the evaluation of schools and their systems came to existence in 1965 as a result of the authorization of Elementary and secondary education Act. This was aimed at ensuring that there was quality in what was taught in American schools. From 1965-2001 most middle school and elementary students took standardized tests such as CAT (California Achievement Test). In 1970’s there were programs of minimum competency created. The minimum competency movement was the first in a series of education reforms whereby tests were not only meant for effectiveness of reform but act as primary drivers of reforms. In 1980’s emphasis was on school and district accountability. This was through the introduction of high stake testing programs which had serious consequences to educators and students. High stake tests are important since their outcomes determine important things such being promoted to the next grade, graduation, school rankings and merit pay for teachers.

In 1990’s the system of standards-based accountability was created. This continued to the beginning of the twenty first century. These served as both a rejection and an extension of reforms that had been previously done (Cobb,2004).This movement rejected traditional curricula especially rote activities it called for development of a curricula that was more challenging and its main focus being reasoning, conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge. The movement relied heavily on large scale accountability assessments which were to be used to bring changes in instruction. There have been many issues of concern being raised regarding bias in many types of tests. The No Child Left behind Act was passed in 2001 and enacted as law in 2002.it is the reason why there is the current spread of high-stake testing in the United States (Fletcher, 2009).

Early on assessment activities in colleges and universities were mainly related to accreditation. Today assessment practices are still very important when it comes to accreditation but educators have recognized the value of assessing of students purposely for the improvement of instructional practices.in short we can say that assessment began as recitation and oral assessment, at the beginning of the 19th century written examinations became common.in the 20th century standardized tests became quite widespread.

Timeline of dates and significant events

1910-development of Thorndike Handwriting Scale the first standardized test in the United States.

1920 – The creation of SATs

1950’s- the emphasis of the role of tests in selection and tracking

1960’s -tests were used for program accountability

1965 -the authorization of Elementary and secondary education Act

1965-Standardized tests

1970’s- programs of minimum competency

1980’s emphasis was on school and district accountability

1990’s the system of standards-based accountability

2001-The No Child Left behind Act was passed

2001-2010-High stake testing


Fletcher, D. (2009). Standardized Testing. Retrieved September 8, 2013 from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1947019,00.htmlCobb, S.(2004).History of assessment practices in the United States. Retrieved September 8, 2013 from http://learn.midsouthcc.edu/learningObjects/assessment/history_of_assessment.pdf