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A new report indicates a growing educator desire to switch to a balanced K-12 assessment approach

6 key trends shaping the future of K-12 assessment


A new report indicates a growing educator desire to switch to a balanced K-12 assessment approach

Most educators are concerned that summative assessments cause students undue anxiety, adding to growing concerns over the state of K-12 assessments and how they’re created, delivered, and interpreted.

State of Assessment in K-12 Education, a new report from Instructure, the makers of Canvas, explores the current state of K-12 assessments as COVID-19 continues to push schools into crisis

Overall, 81 percent of educators remain concerned that summative assessments are making students anxious, and teachers and administrators want to move to a more balanced assessment approach.

While 94 percent of educators are now using formative assessments and 81 percent are using interim assessments to support student learning, more systems and supports are needed. An overwhelming majority (84 percent) of teachers are having to create their own assessments, and more than half say they spend too much time doing so—a growing problem for a nation of educators already overworked and overwhelmed.

“Districts are increasingly using interim and formative assessment to navigate the pandemic’s constant disruptions, which is critical to addressing unfinished learning and ensuring equity,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. ”As an industry, we must do more to support innovative assessment at state and district levels, which means giving teachers access to high-quality, valid, and reliable assessments, and investing in technology systems that drive meaningful instructional practice and insights. Most importantly, we must approach these priorities without causing more anxiety for students or teachers.”

Before K-12 assessment can be reimagined, one must understand its role in K-12 education today and its impact on administrators, teachers, and, most importantly, students. Instructure’s first assessment-focused research study began in the fall of 2021. Together with Hanover Research, 1,058 K-12 teachers and administrators were surveyed across the United States, revealing six key trends:

  1. Change the way we approach K-12 assessment.

Teachers and administrators feel that state summative assessments are outdated, and want to shift toward an actionable, balanced assessment approach.

  • Only 55 percent of educators positively perceive state summative assessments
  • 81 percent of educators are concerned that summative assessments make students anxious
  1. K-12 assessment is a key part of the learning process.

Formative and interim assessments are widely used by educators to better understand student needs and adjust instruction in the moment.

  • 94 percent of educators use formative assessment, and 81 percent use interim assessment to inform instruction
  • More than half of educators (56 percent) say they spend too much time building their own assessments
  1. Quality and reliability matter.

Four attributes of district and classroom assessments have never been more important: quality, reliability, validity, and alignment to state standards.

  • 84 percent of teachers create their own formative assessments to inform classroom instruction
  • When educators do look to license vendor-created assessments, 66 percent of respondents say that the vendor’s reputation is very or extremely important during an evaluation
  1. Utilizing assessment data in the classroom is essential.

Three-quarters of educators reported that their school provides training and support to help teachers improve K-12 assessment data literacy.

  • Two-thirds of educators (67 percent) are comfortable with using assessment data to inform instruction
  • Fewer are comfortable using data to design interventions (52 percent) or evaluate their own efficacy (58 percent)
  1. The right technology makes a difference.

Districts need systems that support formative and interim assessments, drive meaningful instructional practice, and provide insights that fuel a personalized learning experience.

  • 82 percent of educators administer online assessments
  • The top three assessment technology features are the ability to track student mastery (57 percent), provide real-time data delivery (51 percent), and align content to learning standards (51 percent)
  1. Empowering teachers can lead to a positive assessment culture.

Teachers are the power users of assessment data, so K-12 leaders must ensure they understand how and why data-driven K-12 assessment fuels student success.

  • Three-quarters of educators feel their school district promotes a strong assessment-focused culture
  • School-level administrators (73 percent) and teachers (70 percent) are primarily responsible for reviewing and analyzing assessment results

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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