Improving Quality and Reducing Duplicative Assessments Under ESSA

Spring is here, which for students, educators, and parents means testing season has officially begun. In 2015, several states across the country witnessed the growing opt-out movement, where parents are withholding their children from assessments in protest of the Common Core State Standards and the inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations, as well as the overbearing standardized testing culture.

Last year in New York, more than 200,000 third through eighth graders sat out of standardized tests, and the movement has shown no signs of slowing down in 2016. In February, the NASSP Board of Directors stated its opposition to state and district opt-out policies in a position statement, which also reiterated the importance of high-quality assessments as a means for improving teaching and learning.

In October 2015, President Obama released the Testing Action Plan, which called for reducing the number assessments students take each year, while also encouraging states to improve the quality of assessments. After the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law in December 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) sent a letter to chief state school officers describing how states could improve assessments under ESSA.

capital.US.5432570Large.jpgUnder ESSA, states can apply for the Enhanced Assessment Grant program, which awards funds specifically for improving and reducing the number of assessments. NASSP was very supportive of this provision and had previously endorsed the Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely (SMART) Act, which led to the creation of this new grant program. Last Friday, ED proposed expanding the scope of these grants to include developing innovative assessments, improving scoring and score reporting, and conducting an assessment of state and local assessments to eliminate unnecessary exams. ED also released a series of profiles highlighting states and districts that have already begun improving and reducing duplicative assessments to provide guidance to states planning to apply for the grant. On Monday, ED published a notice in the Federal Register with additional information on the grant program.

In an effort to support states and districts in improving and reducing the number of standardized tests under ESSA, NASSP partnered with the Center for American Progress, the National PTA, and other organizations to create a standardized testing bill of rights. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the value of high-quality assessments amidst the growing opt-out movement while acknowledging the rights of students, teachers, and parents.

As the implementation of ESSA moves forward, NASSP will continue to keep you updated here on the School of Thought blog. Additionally, keep an eye out for a toolkit of resources that the NASSP advocacy team is currently developing as part of our “Making ESSA Work for You” campaign.

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