Parents and Teachers Don’t Need Incentives to Prove the Value of Assessments


Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post yesterday that “school districts around the country” are now having to incentivize students to take “Common Core” standardized tests to avoid students opting out. Strauss’ anecdotal evidence fails to reflect the fact that most parents and teachers recognize that assessments are one of the best tools to accurately measure student development and ensure students are college and career- ready.

As we’ve written in the past, annual assessments are an important part of the learning process for students, teachers, and schools by providing valuable feedback on student performance that can inform student supports, instructional practices and school resource allocation.  When parents keep students out of end-of-year tests, it doesn’t just hurt their child, it hurts all children in their school.

That’s why a majority of parents and teachers oppose opting students out of annual assessments, and why parent, educator, and civil rights organizations are taking a stand against opting out. Nearly four out of five parents favor annual assessments, and 73 percent support assessments that are comparable among states and school districts, according to a national Education Next survey.

Most schools that adhere to high, comparable standards recognize this and see no need to offer incentives to their students. They know how opting out hurts students more than it helps them. And they are achieving results without the use of incentives.

Ironically, Strauss attempts to use New York as an example of how incentives are being widely used across the nation to get students to take Common Core tests. It’s important to note that New York does not use either PARCC or Smarter Balanced – the two assessments that were specifically designed to align to the Common Core State Standards.

If schools really want to improve their students’ chances of success, they need to have measurable data to determine what’s working and what is not. The fact of the matter is that the incentives Strauss mentions have nothing to do with the “Common Core” and everything to do with the belief that assessments are a valuable tool for measuring progress. Unfortunately, some states use incentives – but these are not connected to their academic standards. The use of incentives should not be promoted or encouraged any more than we should mislead parents and students about the value of standards and assessments.

“Parents and educators deserve honest, accurate information about how well their students are performing, and the extent to which they have a solid foundation for their continued learning,” explains Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “Tests are not the only source of this information, but they are certainly an important one. We don’t do our students any favors if we don’t level with them when test results come back.”