What Is Campbell’s Law?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Everyone interested in understanding how the ceaseless pressure to raise test scores can corrupt the tests should be familiar with Campbell’s Law.

This is an adage written by social scientist Donald T. Campbell in a 1976 paper. It says:

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” (You can google the paper, or find it linked on Wikipedia: Campbell, Donald T., Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change The Public Affairs Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, USA. December, 1976.)

Campbell’s Law explains why high-stakes testing promotes cheating, narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, and other negative behaviors..

In his 1976 paper, Campbell also wrote that  “achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under…

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