Four Recommendations for a Balanced Assessment System that Works for All Students

Four Recommendations for a Balanced Assessment System that Works for All StudentsOne of the most common criticisms of high-stakes accountability tests is that they force schools and teachers to narrow their curricula and “teach to the test,” thereby undermining a teacher’s ability to individualize instruction according to the needs of each student. However, high-quality, balanced assessment systems do just the opposite. They provide education stakeholders — from state officials to teachers and principals, to students and parents — with the necessary information to adapt the learning process at various levels to meet the needs of each and every student.

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the American public’s views of testing requirements in U.S. schools grew steadily more negative. In a 2015 PDK/Gallup poll, 64% of Americans and 67% of parents with children in public schools said there was too much emphasis on standardized testing in the country’s public schools. Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) enables schools and districts to change the public dialogue about assessment systems, clarifying how each component — formative and interim evaluations, as well as summative, year-end tests, etc. — contributes to the education value chain.

A recent report from NWEA and Gallup – Make Assessment Work for ALL Students – clearly showed the need for greater communication and understanding between all assessment stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and students. The study prompted some recommendations from us at NWEA, which we shared earlier this year. To recap, they were:

  1. Let’s get ESSA implementation right. Provide education and communication now about the new law to ensure that leaders and educators use ESSA flexibility to their best advantage.
  1. Keep student learning at the center of assessment systems, and keep students and families informed. Students value assessments that provide timely and relevant feedback, and we should involve them in school, district and state planning processes. Couple these efforts with improved communication around assessment throughout the year.
  1. Dedicate resources for assessment knowledge and data-use training, especially in low-income schools. Support districts in understanding available funds for ongoing assessment education for teachers.
  1. Change the national dialogue about K12 assessment. All stakeholders value assessments that support teaching and learning. But misunderstanding the types and purposes of assessment can have a negative impact on student learning.

How does assessment affect students, parents, teachers and principals? Check out the study and see the data for yourself.

You can download the study here: Make Assessment Work for All Students