In 2012, NWEA released For Every Child, Multiple Measures, a national survey that examined what teachers, district administrators and parents believed about student assessments and their proper use. This study provided valuable data regarding public perceptions on student testing and the value of multiple measures in determining student success.
The richness of the data, and the increased public discourse on the role of testing in our schools, resulted in Make Assessment Matter: Students and Educators Want Tests that Support Learning, which NWEA released today. In Make Assessment Matter, Grunwald Associates surveyed teachers, district administers, and for the first time, students. All in all, more than 2,000 educators and students in grades 4-12 expressed their views on the role of assessment in education. The genesis of the title came from student focus groups in the early stages of the research work. Students let us know loud and clear that they want tests that are relevant to their learning and futures, and to not waste their time on tests that are not key to their education, thus the title, Make Assessment Matter.
These latest findings include:
- Students want a voice on assessments and on their education. Learners in all grades are knowledgeable, thoughtful and frank about different kinds of tests—and their test-taking experiences—and they want to join the conversation about assessment changes.
- Students and educators value assessments—when they support learning. Students recognize that tests play a valid role in their education, while teachers believe they could not be good educators without assessments.
- Collaboration empowers educators to interpret and use assessment results, and those who do collaborate on assessment are more confident in their ability to interpret and use results to support teaching and learning.
- Students and educators see silver linings in technology-based testing – including increased student engagement.
- Major gaps persist in assessment literacy. While most teachers and district administrators think they understand the different types of assessments, the reality is their understanding is limited.
While such observations are compelling in and of themselves, it is our hope as a mission-driven organization that communities will use these findings to broaden the discussion and help improve student learning. For that reason, NWEA has developed five recommendations from the Make Assessment Matter data:
- Encourage district administrators, educators and policymakers to engage with students in policy development processes, especially when making testing mandates at the state, district and classroom levels.
- Realign assessment priorities in support of teaching and learning.
- Establish formal learning opportunities on assessment literacy for every teacher, principal and building administrator. (Assessment literacy, in teacher preparation and professional development, is a significant area of need, especially since teachers’ communications are most important to students and parents regarding testing.)
- Improve student learning by making educator collaboration a priority in every school and district.
- Prioritize technology readiness in every district, focusing on infrastructure and addressing glitches.
As the study’s title intimates, the challenge before us is ensuring that the tests our students take are meaningful and of high quality, and that their results are used to improve the teaching and learning process.
To accomplish that, we need to do more to improve assessment literacy, for administrators and teachers, parents and students, policymakers and the public. That is the only way to begin to address some of the issues raised in this study and to truly make assessment matter, for educator and student alike.