On May 22, 2017 Jim Cowen, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, released the following memo on annual assessments.
Every spring, students in grades 3-8 take a statewide annual assessment—and then they take one more sometime during their high school years. When aligned to a state’s high academic standards, these tests are one of the strongest ways for parents and teachers to know that kids are on track for success and that schools are meeting the needs of all students.
With annual assessments for the 2016-17 school year well underway, here are four key points to remember:
1. Parents Rightly Want to Know How Their Kids Are Doing—and They Favor Good Tests!
Nearly four out of five parents favor annual assessments, and 73 percent of parents support assessments that are comparable among states and school districts, according to a national Education Next survey. Why? Because parents know that annual assessments are one of the best methods for identifying where kids are doing well and where they need support.
2. “Opting Out” Hurts ALL Students.
“Opting out” of standardized assessments is “opting out” on knowing how your student is doing. It undermines the integrity and value of good exams, and does little to improve testing policy in a state. Most troubling, opting out puts students at a disadvantage—and not just children of families that opt out, but all children.
3. Students Deserve Fewer, Fairer Tests.
Assessments should always provide meaningful data on student performance, but with tests at the state, district and classroom levels, there can sometimes be overlap or misalignment. Parents and teachers should know the number of tests students take and whether those assessments provide quality information. It’s not about whether you take a test, it’s about whether you take the right test.
4. States Can Take This Easy Step Toward Better Tests.
Thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states can elect to use federal funding to audit state- and district-level assessments to identify which assessments provide valuable information, and which assessments do not and can be eliminated. Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell recently wrote about the benefits of states taking advantage of this ESSA provision. In addition, Achieve developed this assessment inventory tool for district leaders to take stock of their assessments and assessment strategy, and do so from a student perspective.
At the end of the day, assessments—whether at the federal, state, or local level—must always be in service of student learning. While parents should push for the absolute best assessment, opting students out is not the answer. States should take advantage of the assessment audit option under ESSA and make a commitment to ensuring that all assessments are high-quality assessments.