Retool Assessments and Accountability.

De-emphasize standardized tests. Create new methods of assessments to give students choices for how and when they’re tested.

In the past century, evaluation of student learning has been primarily focused on determining the level of student achievement through traditional testing. However, research suggests that, while important, this type of assessment has little or no influence on student learning. Experts today believe that we need to rethink assessment so that it becomes a tool for learning rather than an indicator of learning.

Adopt a more equitable system of assessment to account for the fact that students not only learn in different ways, they also demonstrate their mastery of information in a variety of ways.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Current models of assessment and accountability are usually based on paper-and-pencil testing, which offers limited educational value and typically reflects a low level of proficiency in the skills that studentsneed to master.

Even more disheartening is that “the process of test construction, determination of content and theuse of only one method—multiple-choice tests—all build in cultural biases that favor some ways of understanding and demonstrating knowledge more than others.” Not surprisingly, the Partners in Education Transformation (Intel, Microsoft and Cisco, 2008) contend that “existing models of assessmenttypically fail to measure the skills, knowledge, attitudes and characteristics of self-directed and collaborative learning that are increasingly important for our global economy and fast-changing world.”4

Actions Needed

  • Use a variety of assessment opportunities to determine student success in learning.
  • Schedule an assessment whenever an individual child is ready to be assessed—rather than having allchildren in the class assessed at the same time.
  • Leverage technology not only to give assessments, but to provide quicker results to students and ongoing data to teachers.
  • Incorporate standards-based grading as part of assessments. Provide information on progress, which will allow teachers to adjust instruction to respond to any weaknesses, if necessary.
  • Use performance-based assessments instead of selected-response questions in state-mandated testing to better measure depth of understanding and problem-solving skills.
  • Involve teachers in the design and scoring of assessments to increase their commitment to and understanding of state tests and ensure their teaching reflects requirements for mastery.

Make accountability transparent, tailored to different uses and able to communicate student progress.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Today, the accountability system for schools is punitive and fails to recognize and reward success. It is primarily focused on year-to-year standardized test results and fails to consider other types of factorsthat impact schools and districts, such as instruction, leadership, resources and parental involvement. In addition, it is not implemented consistently across all schools and districts, and it doesn’t address progress in reducing the achievement gap in the state.

Actions Needed

  • Develop a comprehensive, state-wide accountability system based on clearly stated goals for transforming public education.
  • Base academic accountability on language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, and on allother disciplines considered necessary for students to learn.
  • Base school accountability on the success of students at the next level. For example, elementary school accountability should be based partially on student success in middle school.
  • Include rewards/incentives for schools in the state accountability system based on student performance and reduction in the achievement gap.
  • Align accountability systems for schools with state education goals.