The Value of Assessments: Why opting out isn’t the answer

In a new video by the Network for Public Education, Common Core opponent Diane Ravitch claims student assessments provide “no useful information” about student development. “Opt out is the only way you have to tell policymakers that they’re heading in the wrong direction,” Ravitch alleges in the clip aimed at parents. “The testing is not beneficial.”

Evidence from states across the country suggests exactly the opposite—that high-quality student assessments are giving parents and educators an honest evaluation of how well prepared young people are to become college- and career-ready. As Karen Nussle wrote last fall, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career…For parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

A follow-up analysis by Achieve this year finds over half of states have significantly narrowed their Honesty Gaps by implementing rigorous education standards and accurate assessments. “[States] should really be commended for starting to be more transparent with parents and educators about how their kids are doing,” says Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer for Achieve. “It really is the first step in improving outcomes.”

A Harvard University study reaches the same conclusion—that since adopting Common Core State Standards and assessments aligned to them most states have raised their proficiency benchmarks. “The Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States,” writes Paul Peterson, coauthor of the study.

Teachers see the value of accurate student assessments as well. A research project by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year last fall, which asked more than 20 State Teacher of the Year award recipients and finalists to evaluate the strength of exams aligned to Common Core State Standards, concludes tests like PARCC and Smarter Balanced reflect the skills students need and match up well with classroom instruction. “I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take,” wrote Pam Reilly, a participant in the NNSTOY study.

Contrary to the message pushed by Ravitch and other opt-out advocates, high-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development. That’s why national civil rights groups continue to urge parents to “opt-in.” “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?” wrote Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, last year.