Preservice teachers’ beliefs about high-stakes testing and their working environments


  • Sharon L. Nichols University of Texas-San Antonio
  • Shon Brewington University of Texas at San Antonio



preservice teachers, high-stakes testing, teacher beliefs


In this exploratory mixed methods survey study, we assess preservice teachers’ (n=379) experiences with and beliefs about their high-stakes testing experiences and analyze how they relate to their beliefs about the role and efficacy of high-stakes testing in education and their future profession. Using Likert, vignette, and open-ended response opportunities, we gauged preservice teachers’ beliefs about accountability and the role of high-stakes testing in three ways: (a) what are their personal experiences with high-stakes testing, (b) what are their their beliefs about accountability and high-stakes testing in general, and (c) what role does accountability (and testing pressures) play in their future workplace preferences? Results indicate that preservice teachers’ experiences with and beliefs about high-stakes testing accountability vary based on gender, ethnicity, and previous experiences with high-stakes tests. Importantly, although in aggregate our participants reported they generally disliked the high-stakes tests they personally had to take in high school, subgroup analyses reveal that for those who took them during the NCLB era, they also saw high-stakes tests as good thing for education overall. Preservice teachers who were younger and “grew up” under NCLB and the height of high-stakes testing believed high-stakes tests to be a waste of time for them personally, but a useful way to evaluate teachers as an educational policy. Vignette and qualitative analyses of workplace preferences and rationales underscore some of the assumptions our preservice teachers hold about high-stakes testing as a policy mechanism to help explain this finding. We conclude with implications for policy and future research.


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Author Biographies

Sharon L. Nichols, University of Texas-San Antonio

Sharon L. Nichols is Professor of Educational Psychology at UTSA. She teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in learning theory, motivation, and development. Dr. Nichols has authored over three dozen books, journal articles and book chapters related to youth development and motivation and educational policy. She is the editor of Educational Policies and Youth in the 21st Century: Problems, Potential, and Progress (Information Age, 2016), and coauthor of Collateral Damage: How High-stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools (with D. C. Berliner, Harvard Education Press, 2007). Her current work focuses on the impact of test-based accountability on teachers, their instructional practices and adolescent motivation and development.

Shon Brewington, University of Texas at San Antonio

Shon Brewington is a graduate student who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in educational psychology and data analytics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Before these programs, he received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and served in the United States Air Force for six years. His research interest is in student motivation, educational policy, STEM education, program evaluation, and quantitative research methods.




How to Cite

Nichols, S. L., & Brewington, S. (2020). Preservice teachers’ beliefs about high-stakes testing and their working environments. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28, 30.