The purposes of this critical analysis are to clarify why high stakes testing reforms have become so prevalent in the United States and to explain the connection between current federal and state emphases on standardized testing reforms and educational opportunities. The article outlines the policy context for high stakes examinations, as well as the ideas of testing and accountability as major tenets of current education reform and policy. In partial explanation of the widespread acceptance and use of standardized tests in the United States, we argue that there is a pervasive testing culture, in addition to other contributing factors such as administrative utility, profit motives, and political ideology. Finally, we offer a critique of high stakes testing reforms in light of concerns about equality of educational opportunity.

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