New report offers guidance, insight on important assessment features
As many states begin to implement online assessments to gauge student learning under the Common Core State Standards, administrators are faced with a number of important considerations that accompany implementation.
A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) presents four important assessment questions that policy makers and educators should ask.
“College- and career-ready standards without high-quality assessments aligned to them to advance learning is like peanut butter without jelly,” said Bob Wise, AEE president and former governor of West Virginia. “Current tests are insufficient to measure these higher learning goals and fail to deliver the information that students, teachers, and parents need to ensure that students are on a trajectory to be ready for college and a career by the time they graduate from high school.”
(Next page: The four assessment questions that have important implications for teaching and learning)
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and several other states that have not adopted the Common Core have upgraded their standards and assessments to reflect the learning challenges and requirements today’s students face.
Two groups formed from a consortia of states, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are developing assessments aligned to the Common Core.
The report notes that other groups, including the ACT, are developing Common Core-aligned assessments.
1. What do the assessments measure?
Assessments should test the complete range of standards in order to accurately reflect how students are engaging with and learning from the new standards. New assessment strategies such as performance tasks measure student learning in a way that multiple-choice questions cannot.
2. How do the assessments help teachers?
When teachers have timely and accurate data and information from assessments, they can adjust their instruction accordingly and differentiate instruction to meet learners’ varied needs. Having access to digital resource libraries, such as those that Smarter Balanced and PARCC are creating, will help educators focus their instruction and reinforce learning concepts for students.
3. How do the assessments help students and parents?
The report notes that “research on student learning shows that students learn best when the expectations for their knowledge and skills are clear. Standards help provide clear expectations by spelling out what students should know and be able to do; assessments help make those expectations concrete by laying out exactly how students should demonstrate what they know and can do.”
Parents also benefit from these clear expectations, and when parents know what their children are supposed to be learning, they can reinforce those concepts and ideas at home, building a stronger school-to-home link.
4. How much do the assessments cost?
PARCC assessments are estimated to cost $29.50 per student, and Smarter Balanced assessments range from $22.50-$27.50 per student. While state education budgets are stretched thin as it is, new assessments can shed light on valuable and previously-unknown student information.
Research from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education reveals that states could in fact afford higher-quality assessments if they reduce spending on interim and benchmark assessments currently in use and not aligned to the Common Core, the report notes.