NWEA is pleased to present the third installment in our ongoing investigation into public perceptions of K12 assessment, Make Assessment Work for All Students: Multiple Measures Matter. The study comes at a crucial moment as the nation transitions K-12 assessment policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Among the provisions, this law shifts from a single measure – grade level proficiency – under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to multiple measures under ESSA. The findings from this year’s study confirm the importance of this shift, as well as the need to improve awareness and understanding of how assessment data adds value to teaching and learning.
We launched our first assessment perception study in 2012 by surveying parents, teachers and administrators. In 2014, we added a first-ever look at what students think about assessment. This year, in partnership with Gallup, we present our most comprehensive survey to date, including more than 4,200 students, parents, teachers, administrators – and, for the first time, principals.
Some of the key findings of this year’s study include:
- Three-quarters of students and more than half of parents believe that students spend the right amount of time or too little time taking assessments.
- Parents consider multiple types of assessments, including interim and formative assessments, helpful to their child’s learning; however, they are skeptical that state accountability tests improve the quality of teaching.
- More than 6 in 10 parents say their child’s teachers rarely or never discuss their child’s assessment results with them.
- The majority of principals and nearly half of superintendents are not yet familiar with ESSA.
- Most teachers, principals and superintendents do not believe that state and federal policymakers understand the purpose of different types of assessment.
The findings highlight the need for greater communication and understanding between all stakeholders in assessment, especially as states re-think and re-balance their assessment systems in the coming months. It’s our hope that these findings will help change the dialogue – and influence the policy – around K-12 assessment.
Our four recommendations based on the findings are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The negative impact on learning is of particular importance to us at NWEA, where our mission is to help all kids learn. The diverse voices represented in the study bring to light an early finding about equity and assessment: some parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents in low-income districts view assessments differently than those in middle- and high-income districts. We felt it was significant enough to connect to the report title, Make Assessment Work for ALL Students.
As states rebalance their approach to assessment, it is imperative we foster a robust dialogue which includes perspectives from all stakeholders – and we hope that the voices represented in this study can provide real and important input.