In most states, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – or other, more rigorous standards – are in full swing. As a result, student expectations have increased and new accountability systems and assessments, such as Smarter Balanced or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are being used to assess student achievement against these new, higher standards. This means that student achievement scores and proficiency levels are likely to drop. Higher bar, lower scores – at least for the first year or so. Putting this drop in context will be challenging for administrators and teachers, and communicating about it to parents and students will be critical.
NWEA’s Jean Fleming recently penned an article for AASA, the School Superintendents Association, titled Communicating Student Achievement in a Time of Change: Assessment can Help, that addressed this challenge. In it she discusses how new student proficiency scores are not necessarily indicative of declining student achievement. She cites some research that NWEA researchers John Cronin and Nate Jensen did on the decline in New York’s student proficiency rates, and that Rebecca Moore blogged about late last year (Phantom Test Results and the Need for Assessment and Data Literacy). You can tell we’re quite busy working on this topic, as, John Cronin’s recent blog post – What’s the Likely Impact of the Smarter Balanced Test on School Proficiency Rates? – addressed how higher cut scores associated with Smarter Balanced will actually be driving proficiency rates and not changes in the actual performance of students.
In her article, Jean also shares some valuable insight into how longitudinal data from some interim assessments like MAP can help educators make sense of these phantom assessment results, and support the communication challenge that awaits teachers and administrators. She effectively answers the questions:
- What should administrators do?
- What should teachers do?
- What should parents do?
The combination of higher standards and new assessments are likely to cause confusion and perhaps frustration for some, it’s important to remember the real purpose of the higher standards: They are designed to help all students graduate ready to tackle the challenges of post-secondary life effectively, whether that’s college, the military, or other pathways. We want all students ready to pursue their dreams.
Be sure to read Jean’s article, which can be found here.