Assessment Literacy: An Urgent Call to Action

Assessment Literacy: An Urgent Call to ActionThe 47th PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools was released on August 24. The poll is an invaluable barometer of changing sentiments about K-12 education, and this year the results included an extensive review of attitudes toward testing in America.

Among the key findings:

  • The majority of parents said they would not excuse their own children from tests, yet this same majority feel there is too much emphasis on standardized testing, and believe they should have the right to opt their children out of those tests.
  • Nearly one-third of African-American parents say results from standardized tests are very important to improve schools and compare school quality, while only 15% of white parents said the same – a perspective supported by the ongoing advocacy by the NAACP and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for the inclusion of accountability measures in the reauthorization of ESEA.

One read of these results is that they reflect a growing negative public perception of testing due to the time and money spent on mandated accountability tests, and the painful rollout of new versions this past year. A logical reaction is to reduce this burden, but there is a risk of an overreaction.

America’s students deserve a system where accountability does not trump learning – a comprehensive approach to ensure that kids get their needs met, and that we as a society are fulfilling our obligations to our most vulnerable learners. Significant improvements must be made – and the PDK/Gallup poll underscores the urgency of the issue.

Public opinion research conducted for NWEA showed parents clearly value assessments.In fact, these data highlight a critical gap in public understanding about assessments and the different ways they serve the learning process – a topic we have been researching for several years. Public opinion research conducted for NWEA showed parents clearly value assessments when they support student learning, provide timely results and take minimal time to conduct. When students were asked, they showed a sophisticated understanding of the difference between assessments that help them grow, and those that do not.

For this reason, NWEA is announcing a major initiative focused on improving assessment literacy for all. The initiative includes a Task Force comprised of both in-service and pre-service experts that will guide efforts to improve assessment literacy nationwide, a newly expanded AssessmentLiteracy.org website offering extensive resources to foster understanding of assessment and its role in learning, and professional learning opportunities for educators.

As a mission-driven not-for-profit, NWEA is committed to helping teachers, education leaders and parents build assessment systems that efficiently and effectively measure student mastery and growth. We are equally committed to helping ensure families, communities and our nation as a whole have the data we need to support each student’s success.