Discussing What Matters at the National Conference on Student Assessment

Jun 06, 2019

The Latest Insights, Innovations, and Ongoing Inquiries in Assessment and Accountability from the Center Team and Our Partners

Each June, the Center team and our partners gather with others around the country for the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) National Conference on Student Assessment to share our work on K-12 assessment and accountability matters.

CCSSO has said about this year’s upcoming event, “the goal of the 2019 conference is to give states a forum to share the best practices, strategies, research studies, resources, and innovative methods when measuring student learning and holding districts and schools accountable for educational progress.”

This year, as in years past, the work of the Center and our partners is front-and-center at the conference, with seven Center team members participating in 11 sessions over the three-day conference: Damian Betebenner, Nathan Dadey, Chris Domaleski, Brian Gong, Leslie Keng, Scott Marion, and Joseph Martineau. Through their sessions, they will share the latest thinking on issues we have addressed this year on our CenterLine blog, and at the Reidy Interactive Lecture Series (RILS) in September 2018:

  • Designing innovative assessments that effectively and efficiently measure complex student performance
  • Building balanced assessment and accountability systems that value information gathered from and useful at the local school and district levels
  • Using college admissions tests as high school state assessments and as part of states’ school accountability systems
  • Validating and evaluating assessment and accountability systems to ensure they are providing information that can be used to improve instruction and learning for all students

Designing Innovative Assessments to Measure Complex Student Performance

In 2010, the Common Core State Standards raised the bar on the type of performance that state assessments were expected to measure–but that move was just the tip of the iceberg. Since that time, other initiatives have helped change the game when it comes to assessment and accountability systems.

  • The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) present a vision of science education that asks assessment systems to boldly go where no state assessment has gone before.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers states the opportunity to think and design innovative assessment systems outside of the end-of-year assessment box through the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority.

At the same time, the call for innovation has been accompanied by a call for efficiency in testing. Too much of a good assessment, even a high quality, innovative assessment, is not necessarily a good thing. Where do we stand in the effort to develop innovative and efficient assessments to measure a variety of complex student performances?

Several sessions at the National Conference on Student Assessment will attempt to answer that question:

Building Balanced Assessment and Accountability Systems

In response to the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds Act, the last two decades have seen the rise of state-centered assessment and accountability systems at the exclusion of just about everything else. Over the last year, the Center leveraged its 20 years in operation to lead the charge for a renewed focus on balanced assessment and accountability systems.

At the 2018 RILS conference, and at other conferences throughout the year, the Center team has addressed the “tricky balance” of the challenges and opportunities of balanced systems of assessment. That work examines likely reasons for the paucity of balanced assessment systems in practice, and outlines an agenda to improve our understanding for designing and implementing balanced systems of assessment. Doing so helps enhance equitable learning and life opportunities for all students.

Also at the 2018 RILS conference, the Center conducted conversations with innovators who are expanding the concepts of district and school quality and accountability beyond those indicators routinely included on state-level school accountability systems. Later in the fall of 2018, the Center partnered with MassInc to publish a brief on local accountability and its role in a balanced system of local, state, and federal efforts to support school improvement and equity for all students.

Several sessions at the National Conference on Student Assessment address equity in assessment and accountability systems:

Using College Admissions Tests for High School Assessment and Accountability

Across the country, states are abandoning custom state assessments in high school in favor of college admissions tests such as the ACT and SAT.

For college admissions purposes, there is obvious appeal to using a high school assessment that most students in a state are already taking:

  • Reduced time lost to testing
  • Students are already motivated to perform well (which is rarely the case with a custom state assessment)
  • These tests can make a credible claim as being a measure of college and career readiness (at least until there is an agreement on a better definition)

On the other hand, there are issues to consider regarding alignment and access, the unintended consequences of using a college admissions test as a state assessment, and using a test in a different manner than it was designed to support.

So, what should a state do?

Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to that question because there is not a single, state assessment system that meets all needs.

With all of these points in mind, Scott Marion wrote last year in his brief on high school testing policy that the process of answering that question of where to begin starts with state leaders who “outline a theory of action that very specifically describes how the proposed instructional and assessment system will best help to realize the intended outcomes.”

In one of its sessions, the National Conference on Student Assessment will address this topic:

Validating and Evaluating Assessment and Accountability Systems

Over the last decade, we have seen enormous changes in the design of assessment and accountability systems. Each of these changes presents a need for validation and evaluation.

State assessments are now largely computer-based, and these types of tests include new item formats and new test designs. States are responding to the unique test design challenges posed by the Next Generation Science Standards. Attention to competency-based education, a desire to assess a widened set of constructs, and interest in more curriculum-relevant assessments have renewed interest in performance assessments among many practitioners and policy makers.

Growth scores have become a staple in school accountability systems. School accountability systems now include a variety of measures of School Success and School Quality Success, as well as indicators of the progress of English language learners in attaining English language proficiency.

During 2018-19, states first identified schools for various types of support and improvement through the Every Student Succeeds Act: Comprehensive (CSI), Targeted (TSI), and Additional Targeted (ATSI).

Several sessions at the National Conference on Student Assessment will address topics of evaluating and validating recent initiatives in assessment and accountability.

Every conference provides much-needed opportunities to share thoughts and ideas, and collaborate on solutions and approaches using a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives from across the country. However, these events also serve as a reminder that there is much work to be done in assessment and accountability.

We encourage you to join our discussions at the National Conference on Student Assessment and follow along as we continue driving discussions on key issues in assessment and accountability in 2019.

To learn more about the conference, visit the CCSSO’s conference webpage.