Eric.ed.gov – Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act: Toward a Coherent, Aligned Assessment System

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In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as the nation’s major law governing public schools. ESSA retains the requirement that states test all students in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school, as well as the requirement that states ensure those tests align with states’ college- and career-ready standards. However, the law makes significant changes to the role of tests in state education systems. For example, ESSA requires states to include a broader set of factors in school accountability systems rather than just test scores; provides funding for states and districts to audit and streamline their testing regimes; and allows states to cap the amount of instructional time devoted to testing. It also eliminates the requirement under the Obama administration’s NCLB waiver program that states evaluate teacher performance based on, in part, student test score growth. Taken together, these provisions greatly reduce the stakes of state tests for schools and teachers. They also give states substantially more autonomy over how they define school success and the interventions they employ when schools fail to demonstrate progress. The likely result would be a significant reduction in the level of angst regarding testing among teachers and parents. Today, states have an opportunity to use the new flexibility embedded in ESSA to develop stronger testing systems without the pressure of NCLB’s exclusive focus on summative tests. They also have the opportunity to innovate: Through a new pilot program that will allow seven states to develop radically new approaches to assessments, states can experiment with performance based and instructionally embedded tests and use technology to advance testing. These pilot states will have the freedom to imagine a testing system of the future in which standardized tests taken on one day each year are no longer the typical way of assessing student learning. Over a six-month span, researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) interviewed dozens of parents, teachers, school leaders, system leaders, advocates, assessment experts, and policy leaders in an attempt to identify what can be done to ensure that tests are being used in service of teaching and learning. Although they are few and far between, models of coherent, aligned teaching and learning systems do exist. In these systems, the curriculum and end of year summative assessments are aligned with high academic standards. Interim tests, administered at key points throughout the year, provide a check on whether students are on track to meet the grade level standards. Short, high-quality formative tests give real-time feedback to teachers and parents so that they can use the results to inform instruction and to course correct when needed. School and system leaders use data to determine if all students receive the high-quality education they deserve and to provide more support or intervention if the results show that individual students, entire classrooms, or schools are off track. Unfortunately, these models are the exception. Because the problems with testing are structural and systemic, they do not lend themselves to an easy fix. Nevertheless, ESSA provides an opportunity for a fresh start, and system leaders can capitalize on the flexibility in the new law to make changes in the short and long run to develop a system of better, fairer, and fewer tests. What’s important to keep in mind is that in the new education policy world of ESSA, testing systems continue to need to be refined–not discarded. Parents and teachers want annual standardized testing to continue. Despite media reports to the contrary, there remains significant support for tests. But parents also want tests to be useful and to provide value for their children. Within this changing policy landscape CAP recommends that states: (1) Develop assessment principles; (2) Conduct alignment studies; (3) Provide support for districts in choosing high-quality formative and interim tests; (4) Demand that test results are delivered in a timely fashion; and (5) Increase the value of tests for schools, parents, and students. CAP also recommends that schools should provide parents with the data from all assessments–including formative, interim, and summative assessments-along with individualized resources to help their children improve. CAP recommendations for school districts, schools, and the U.S. Department of Education are also detailed in this report

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Troels Gannerup Christensen

Jeg er ansat som adjunkt hos Læreruddannelsen i Jelling, hvor jeg underviser i matematik, specialiseringsmodulet teknologiforståelse, praktik m.m. Jeg har tidligere været ansat som pædagogisk konsulent i matematik og tysk hos UCL ved Center for Undervisningsmidler (CFU) i Vejle og lærer i udskolingen (7.-9. klasse) på Lyshøjskolen i Kolding. Jeg er ejer af og driver bl.a. hjemmesiderne www.lærklokken.dk og www.iundervisning.dk, ggbkursus.dk og er tidligere fagredaktør på matematik på emu.dk. Jeg går ind for, at læring skal være let tilgængelig og i størst mulig omfang gratis at benytte.

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