What is to prevent our assessment from becoming a high-stakes test? Is our purpose to design assessments that help us learn whether our students are learning what we hope they are learning, or is it to establish a test that our students must pass?
South Dakota, for example, has mandated that their assessment be a high-stakes test. Students must pass it within a year of completing the general education program or withdraw from the university. Universities have one percent of their formula funding dependent upon the results of their students. So, the question is whether we want our assessments to be designed so that students cannot move on to another level (such as graduating) without passing the assessment.
Assessment should be developed by faculty to achieve the appropriate end of assessment: to provide the information that faculty need to improve their students' learning. When faculty assume ownership of the assessment process and hold themselves accountable for assessing student learning as effectively as they can, then they can demonstrate to external constituencies that they are accountable and serving the needs of the students whom they are working with.
If we use a standardized test, such as the ACT CAAP or ETS Academic Profiles test or the Missouri-developed C-BASE, a key question concerns what incentive we need to provide students to do well. South Dakota has provided the incentive—student cannot continue unless they perform satisfactorily on the test.