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Obama Administration moves to limit how frequently assessments are used in the classroom

assessments-federalStudents and educators will have to prepare for fewer assessments under a new federal focus that, while preserving the role that high-quality assessments play the classroom, also removes practices that have “burdened classroom time or not served students or educators well.”

“One essential part of educating students successfully is assessing their progress in learning to high standards. Done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. …Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms. …It is essential to ensure that tests are fair, are of high quality, take up the minimum necessary time, and reflect the expectation that students will be prepared for success in college and careers,” according to an Oct. 24 announcement from the U.S. Department of Education.

Some states are already taking action to reduce assessments.

The Rhode Island Department of Education and local superintendents joined forces to develop guidelines on how to improve decisions and practices around state and local assessments. The project aims to streamline testing, eliminate tests that do not advance teaching and learning, and ensure tests inform instruction.

In Delaware, a review of all tests administered by the state, districts, and individual schools operates with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing the time available for teaching.

A new report from the Council of the Great City Schools, released the same day at the Department of Education’s announcement, delves into the assessment discussion and examines its impact across the nation.

The federal announcement also notes that, however unintended, certain populations, such as English Language Learners or students with disabilities, have often been at a disadvantage when it comes to assessments.

The Department of Education outlined seven principles for fewer and smarter assessments:

1. Worth taking
2. High-quality
3. Time-limited
4. Fair–and supportive of fairness–in equity in educational opportunity
5. Fully transparent to students and parents
6. Just one of multiple measures
7. Tied to improved learning

President Obama has asked the Department of Education to review its current assessment policies and correct any that “may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time.”

Some of those steps include:

  • Financial support for states to develop and use better, less burdensome assessments
  • Expertise to states and school districts looking to reduce time spent on testing
  • Flexibility from federal mandates and greater support to innovate and reduce testing
  • Reducing the reliance on student test scores through our rules and executive actions

For more details about the assessment action plan, see the official announcement.

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Laura Ascione

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