FairTest was founded in 1985 by leaders of civil rights and education groups to advance academic achievement and equal opportunity by ending the misuse, overuse and flaws of standardized testing practices. As the only national organization dedicated to this mission, FairTest has directed campaigns against the over-reliance on standardized tests, while advocating for alternatives that enhance equity and quality in education. FairTest educates the public and policymakers, organizes collaborative assessment reform alliances, and provides training and support to parents, students, educators, civil rights and community organizations. The group focuses on testing in the public schools (K-12) and university admissions. Its efforts have a national focus, such as on federal testing requirements and college admissions tests (e.g., SAT and ACT), while also working with state and local testing reform activists.
SAT optional schools
FairTest alleges that a standardized test (all students take the same test under the same conditions) such as the SAT or ACT "consistently under-predicts the performance of women, African-Americans, people whose first language isn't English and generally anyone who's not a good test-taker." Fairtest maintains a list of nearly 850 SAT optional schools.
FairTest also works to stop misuses of standardized admissions exams, such as the National Merit Scholarships, which it alleges create unfair barriers to equal opportunity and educational quality by relying on test scores to award millions of dollars in tuition aid.
FairTest also explores kindergarten through 12th-grade assessment issues. It educates the public on the negative consequences of high-stakes testing and advocates better ways of assessing students and providing accountability. It also works to remove state and local policies that require students to pass a standardized test (one where all students take the test under reasonably similar conditions) to graduate or be promoted to the next grade. It also has many materials on authentic, performance assessments and their uses for teaching and school improvement.
FairTest's current focus is reforming the federal No Child Left Behind law to make it an effective tool for school improvement and mobilizing those who oppose the current version of NCLB to advocate for a better law.
Beginning in 2004, FairTest brought together more than 128 national education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic organizations to endorse a Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB. Out of the Joint Statement came a working group called the Forum on Educational Accountability, which developed recommendations for a new federal law that would:
- Improve schools through high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators.
- Involve parents more deeply in school improvement, and enable families to better participate in their children's education.
- Continue to assess and report student learning, but base this on multiple measures, not just test scores. Expectations for achievement would be realistic, based on rates of improvement actually achieved by schools. Targeted assistance would replace sanctions. 
In 2009, FairTest created an annual award to acknowledge educational leaders who have strongly advocated for principles shared by FairTest. The award is named the "Deborah W. Meier Hero in Education Award." Recipients have included Deborah Meier. Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, and Michelle Fine.
"The College Board, which owns the SAT college entrance exam, is demanding that a nonprofit group critical of standardized tests remove from its Web site data that breaks down scores by race, income and sex." FairTest refused, and the College Board backed down claiming that an intern had written the threatening letter without authorization.
Right-wing bloggers have launched an attack on FairTest claiming that the lack of credentials, false claims, and political connections of those who run the organization; the unnamed sources of funding, and the organization's tax returns have all raised questions.. "[T]est-optional policies at colleges and universities lead[ing] to artificially inflated average SAT scores among incoming freshmen, ... which is fueled in large part by FairTest political activists, ... provides sufficient reason for media and academic organizations to reassess their reliance on FairTest and other political organizations for meaningful input in the college admissions debate." In January 2012, FairTest released a report detailing its claim of the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act program
- "SATs Not for Everyone, But Reality for Most". National Public Radio. 21 February 2007.
- Test Score Optional List
- "FairTest". fairtest.org.
- "FairTest News". fairtest.org. Retrieved 2014-06-03.
- Schemo, Diana Jean (December 4, 2004). "College Board Asks Group Not to Post Test Analysis". New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
- Grabar, Mary (February 11, 2009). "Who Is Fair Test?". CNSNews.com (Alexandria, VA: Cybercast News Service). Retrieved February 22, 2009.