While accountability is an essential component of education, many teachers believe that excessive testing can limit their creativity and prevent them from adapting their teaching methods to meet the needs of individual students. As such, we must reduce unnecessary testing and allow teachers more flexibility in their teaching strategies to promote creativity and adaptability.

Before I go any further, let me state that I believe in and support accountability for the record. Why? Because we must know if students have mastered the state standards. However, I understand why my teachers felt pressure concerning the high-stakes testing.

I remember my first year as the Assistant Principal for Magnet Curriculum. Over the course of the year, our focus was improving our students’ outcomes. My teachers worked extra hours tutoring and preparing students. When the testing time arrived, we were confident our students were ready. Unfortunately, our student results did not align with our expectations.

After a period of grieving, we conducted a deep dive into our data. As we reflected, we noticed several teachers chose a different approach to teaching their students. The students whose teachers focused on teaching state standards outperformed other students. By shifting the focus back to learning instead of testing, the joy of learning returned, and student outcomes improved.

One of the primary concerns about high-stakes testing is that it places an undue amount of pressure on students and teachers alike. With so much emphasis placed on test scores, students and teachers may feel overwhelmed and stressed, leading to negative consequences such as decreased motivation, anxiety, and burnout.

According to the survey “Educators Feeling Stressed, Anxious, Overwhelmed and Capable” by Dian Schaffhauser published in thejournal.com, 74% of teachers said they feel “somewhat” or “extremely” overwhelmed by tests.

Furthermore, high-stakes testing can limit the curriculum to what is tested, narrowing the educational experience and leaving out other valuable subjects and skills.

Additionally, high-stakes testing can limit a teacher’s creativity and adaptability. Teachers may feel pressured to “teach to the test” instead of creating engaging and meaningful lesson plans catering to their students’ needs. So what happens is that this can lead to a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t account for students’ unique learning styles, abilities, and interests. It may also prevent teachers from utilizing innovative teaching strategies that could better serve their students.

Therefore, we must reduce unnecessary testing and give teachers more flexible teaching strategies to address this issue. For example, instead of relying solely on standardized tests, teachers can use formative assessments, which are more frequent, low-stakes assessments that provide ongoing feedback to teachers and students. This approach allows teachers to adjust their teaching methods as they go, adapting to individual students’ needs and ensuring students are on track to achieve their goals.

Also, teachers should be free to incorporate various subjects and skills into their curriculum, promoting creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Teachers should also be encouraged to utilize innovative teaching strategies like project-based learning, flipped classrooms, and experiential learning to engage students and provide a more dynamic learning experience.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

High-stakes testing is a challenge that teachers face in the education system. While accountability is necessary, excessive testing can limit creativity and adaptability in the classroom. Therefore, we must reduce unnecessary testing and give teachers more flexibility in their teaching strategies, allowing them to create engaging and meaningful lesson plans that cater to individual students’ needs.

Ultimately, this approach will help promote a more dynamic and effective educational experience for students.


Are you a classroom teacher, school administrator, or central office staff member looking for principles and best practices to support student success? Then join me for the Educational Leadership Moment on YouTube.

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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.