The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) brought high-stakes testing to the forefront of American public education. With its call for teachers and schools to be accountable for academic performance, NCLB has focused the spotlight on yearly progress, as measured by students' test scores. Issues associated with this charge include the questionable reliability of tests, the variation evident in state standards, and the consequences an emphasis on high-stakes testing may have on teaching and learning in the classroom. The purpose of this study was to investigate the consequences of high-stakes testing on teaching and learning in public elementary schools in Utah from the vantage point of school principals. Although policymakers assume a direct correlation between increased test scores and academic achievement, this study went beyond test scores. Analysis of semi-structured interviews with 12 principals, selected through purposive sampling from both Title 1 and non-Title 1 schools, revealed both positive and negative themes. Principals appreciated the focus and collaboration that NCLB testing encourages among teachers, but they disliked the impact of poor test scores on faculty morale. Unlike respondents in previous studies, principals did not feel that NCLB diminished creativity in the classroom; they did worry, however, about the validity of scores as a measure of student learning, particularly in the case of a one-time, year-end test.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





No Child Left Behind, achievement tests, high-stakes testing, Title 1 funding, elementary education, criterion-referenced tests