A new National Research Council (sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering) finds that offering incentives or threatening punishment to schools does not result in improved student learning.

The report, Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education, finds that high-stakes testing can result in “teaching to the test” and, therefore, are not an accurate measurement of student learning. Instead, the report looks:

at students’ scores on “low stakes” tests — such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress — that are not linked to incentives and are therefore less likely to be inflated, the report says.

Using that more accurate measurement. the study’s authors finds minimal or no positive change in student achievement caused by the punishments and rewards provided in No Child Left Behind.

In addition, the report:

…examined evidence on the effects of high school exit exams, which are currently used by 25 states and typically involve tests in multiple subjects, all of which students must pass in order to graduate. This research suggests that such exams decrease the rate of high school graduation without improvements in student achievement as measured by low-stakes tests.

Of course, none of this is new to educators actually teaching in schools, but it’s nice to have research backing-up what we see.

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad).

(Ed Week has just published a more in-depth article about the study — Panel Finds Few Learning Gains From Testing Movement.)