Can We Test for Liberation? Moving from Retributive to Restorative and Transformative Assessment in Schools

Wayne Au


Schools in the United States are inundated with high-stakes, standardized tests, which are used as the central tool for educational policy and accountability systems there - often under the guise of promoting racial justice and civil rights. In this article the author uses empirical research on the impact of high-stakes to argue that, rather than promote educational equality, high-stakes testing in fact causes harm to working class and Black and Brown students as a form of retributive justice, which seeks to punish "wrongdoers" rather than addressing the actual material issues and conditions that contribute to educational achievement. Alternativey, in this article the author suggests that we can conceive of forms of restorative and transformative assessment that can be healing to our schools and communities as well as activist in nature.


Assessment; Restorative Justice; Social Justice; High-Stakes Testing

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ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education