A Preview of this Year’s ASCD Workshop:
Assessment Systems are the cornerstone of assessment-centered schools. The new ESSA regulations hold promise with these local systemic changes.
1. Multiple Measures: Annual high-stakes Common Core tests will no longer be the primary indicator of success. Overall, the law reduces Washington’s control over local decisions and offers more flexibility in choosing and using multiple assessments while maintaining an emphasis on evidence of improvement and excellence in educational practice.
2. Local Systems: For the first time, states will be required use more than academic factors in their accountability systems. Assessment plans must include challenging academic standards and annual measures of ELA, math, graduation rates in HS/growth in Elementary, and one additional indicator such as student engagement, postsecondary readiness, access to advanced coursework, or school climate. This is where in-house decisions will be made and priorities set.
3. For schools and districts, “adequate yearly progress” has been eliminated along with sanctions. Locally decided measures will replace predetermined national tests. In addition, the law empowers local decisions over the development and maintenance of school improvement plans when evidence shows that that schools or groups of students are falling behind.
4. For classrooms and teachers there will be a cap on the amount of time allocated to testing and in turn, test preparation. Teachers will no longer be evaluated primarily on their students’ standardized test scores. A new “Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund” will provide grants to build and support teacher quality.
5. Pilot programs, aimed at replacing summative tests with competency-based assessments and performance-based measures, are being planned. Although this has been tried in the past, it is intended that these new measures will incorporate the best of what behavioral and cognitive sciences offers in relation to best-practice in learning and assessing.
Conclusion: Only time will tell how these guidelines are interpreted and implemented, if this law will make the difference we need in education, and whether it will support a transition from telling educators how to do their job to helping educators do it.