The growth of high-stakes testing in the USA: accountability, markets and the decline in educational equality


David Hursh, Associate Professor, Teaching & Curriculum, Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development Dewey Hall, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA, E-mail:


Over the last decade education in the United States has undergone perhaps its most significant transformation. Where in the past public schools have been primarily under the control of the local community, control has shifted to the state and federal levels. Furthermore, state and federal governments have introduced standardized testing and accountability as a means to hold teachers and students responsible. These reforms have been successfully introduced because reform proponents have provided three principal rationales for the reforms: they are necessary within an increasingly globalized economy, they will reduce educational inequality and they will increase assessment objectivity. After describing the reforms implemented in New York and Texas and by the federal government through the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act, the author discusses a range of evidence that the reforms have not achieved their ostensible goals and that resistance to the reforms is beginning to emerge from US educators and citizens.