On February 22, 2021, the US Department of Education (ED) announced its guidance for states regarding statewide assessment and accountability this spring. We support ED’s provision of flexibilities for accountability as well as its recognition of the value of high-quality assessment data and opportunity-to-learn indicators in evaluating student learning. This information is critical to understanding where students are and who is most in need of support in a year that has illuminated longstanding educational inequities.
We recognize the value of having the most complete picture possible to help facilitate informed planning and equitable allocation of funding and resources. As a provider of assessment for nearly 12 million students across the US, we are ready to support states and districts in leveraging local data from interim assessments to complement statewide summative data and other information they are evaluating to understand the impact of the pandemic on student learning.
It is important to note that locally administered interim assessments, such as MAP® Growth™, our flagship assessment, are not designed for summative or state accountability purposes and are best used in connection with teaching and learning decisions, whether at the classroom or systems level. States can use MAP Growth data to inform decisions focused on supporting students and schools, taking into consideration differences in student participation and performance compared to prior assessment administrations. For example, the number of students tested across the state in a given grade, subject, and term can be compared to prior terms to better understand participation rates that may reveal access issues or attendance declines. Such data can provide context and caution around longitudinal comparisons of the assessment data and provide further insight on the potential impact of the last year.
This kind of information, when considered alongside non-academic data, can help states develop a more nuanced understanding of student learning needs and aid in the development of differentiated interventions and resources in recognition of the variable impacts of the pandemic across communities. Consideration of other data is key, because a school’s assessment data on their own do not tell a story; rather, a number of factors can contribute to understanding more holistically and completely how a group of students are performing and how best to support their learning needs.
ED recognized this in its guidance to states, suggesting that “transparency on opportunity to learn measures, such as chronic absenteeism and access to key resources like technology, can help inform decisions about student supports for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.” Factors such as mode and length of instruction also play a role, as do social-emotional learning and community indicators, including increases in families experiencing homelessness, joblessness, and/or food insecurities. When carefully interpreted in context of other information, assessment data is a useful tool in planning and resourcing efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.
We are committed to supporting state and district leaders in understanding where students are in their learning and making informed decisions so that resources can be targeted in a timely fashion to address the most pressing needs for schools and communities. Our partners can expect to receive additional information from us in the coming weeks.
NWEA® (formerly known as Northwest Evaluation Association) is a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency—and provide insights to help tailor instruction. Educators in more than 10,000 schools, districts, and education agencies in 146 countries rely on our flagship interim assessment, MAP® Growth™; our reading fluency and comprehension assessment, MAP® Reading Fluency™ ; our personalized learning tool powered by Khan Academy, MAP® Accelerator™; and our state solutions that combine growth and proficiency measurement. Visit NWEA.org to find out how NWEA can partner with you to help all kids learn.
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