Competency Tests

August 18, 1978

Report Outline
Setting Academic Standards
Modern Educational Testing
Future of Competency Tests
Special Focus

Setting Academic Standards

Alarm Over Quality of U.S. Education

Parents, educators and employers have voiced new concerns about the quality of American education in the last several years. The worry is that elementary and secondary schools are turning out increasing numbers of high school graduates who are weak in the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. Declining test scores on national and state examinations since the mid-1960s also have prompted questions about the nation's educational system. Last year, a Gallup Poll indicated that many American adults have serious doubts about the quality of American education. Parents nationwide have complained that while education costs are rising, the quality of education is sinking. “Generally, we seem to have seen a nationwide academic achievement decline,” author Frank E. Armbruster wrote last year after studying scores on academic achievement tests given to all grades in most states.

One reaction to this perceived decline has been the movement toward returning to traditional methods of teaching. And one offshoot of the trend back to basics is the adoption by many states of standardized, mandatory minimal competency tests, especially as requirements for high school graduation. Edward B. Fiske Jr., education editor of The New York Times, wrote April 19 that the setting of minimal academic standards in the form of competency tests is “perhaps the most powerful movement in American public education.”

Since 1975, 34 states have established programs that require some form of minimal competency testing, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit organization that promotes cooperation among state and federal government leaders in education. The movement by state legislatures and boards of education to establish minimal competency tests in elementary and secondary schools has been called “one of the most explosive issues on the education scene today” by the Education Commission's research and information director, Russell B. Vlaanderen.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Education Issues
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Sep. 23, 2022  Public Schools' Challenges
Aug. 12, 2022  Parents' Rights
Apr. 01, 2022  Online Learning
Jan. 21, 2022  Teaching About Racism
Oct. 01, 2021  COVID-19 and Children
Jun. 11, 2021  Special Education
Jun. 21, 2019  Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault
May 17, 2019  School Safety
Feb. 02, 2018  Bullying and Cyberbullying
Feb. 03, 2017  Civic Education
Sep. 05, 2014  Race and Education
Jun. 13, 2014  Dropout Rate
May 09, 2014  School Discipline
Mar. 07, 2014  Home Schooling
Dec. 02, 2011  Digital Education
Nov. 15, 2011  Expanding Higher Education
Dec. 10, 2010  Preventing Bullying Updated
Apr. 16, 2010  Revising No Child Left Behind
Mar. 26, 2010  Teen Pregnancy
Sep. 04, 2009  Financial Literacy
Jun. 05, 2009  Student Rights
Feb. 22, 2008  Reading Crisis?
Jul. 13, 2007  Students Under Stress
Apr. 27, 2007  Fixing Urban Schools Updated
Nov. 10, 2006  Video Games Updated
Mar. 03, 2006  AP and IB Programs
Oct. 07, 2005  Academic Freedom
Aug. 26, 2005  Evaluating Head Start
May 27, 2005  No Child Left Behind
Jan. 17, 2003  Home Schooling Debate
Sep. 06, 2002  Teaching Math and Science
Jun. 07, 2002  Grade Inflation
Dec. 07, 2001  Distance Learning
Apr. 20, 2001  Testing in Schools
May 14, 1999  National Education Standards
Apr. 10, 1998  Liberal Arts Education
Jul. 26, 1996  Attack on Public Schools
May 17, 1996  Year-Round Schools
Oct. 20, 1995  Networking the Classroom
Sep. 22, 1995  High School Sports
Jan. 20, 1995  Parents and Schools
Sep. 09, 1994  Home Schooling
Mar. 25, 1994  Private Management of Public Schools
Mar. 11, 1994  Education Standards
Apr. 09, 1993  Head Start
Nov. 30, 1990  Conflict Over Multicultural Education
Feb. 05, 1988  Preschool: Too Much Too Soon?
Oct. 23, 1987  Education Reform
Aug. 24, 1984  Status of the Schools
Sep. 10, 1982  Schoolbook Controversies
Sep. 03, 1982  Post-Sputnik Education
Aug. 18, 1978  Competency Tests
Jan. 26, 1972  Public School Financing
Nov. 03, 1971  Education for Jobs
Apr. 15, 1970  Reform of Public Schools
Aug. 27, 1969  Discipline in Public Schools
Dec. 27, 1968  Community Control of Public Schools
Jun. 14, 1965  Summer School Innovations
Oct. 28, 1964  Education of Slum Children
Jun. 05, 1963  Year-Round School
Mar. 28, 1962  Mentally Retarded Children
Dec. 17, 1958  Educational Testing
Sep. 25, 1957  Liberal Education
Jul. 11, 1956  Educational Exchange
Feb. 02, 1955  Federal Aid for School Construction
Mar. 07, 1951  Education in an Extended Emergency
Nov. 20, 1945  Postwar Public Education
Nov. 07, 1941  Standards of Education
Education Standards and Testing
Elementary and Secondary Education
Research in Education