Quality Assessments Play a Critical Role in Education

Read the full report here. 

Quality assessments play a critical role in education. Educators use this information alongside other feedback tools like observations and student work to measure student performance, track growth, identify specific gaps in knowledge, develop solutions to improve academic outcomes, and effectively communicate with families about their children’s progress. Assessment data highlights inequities between different subgroups of students and helps uncover the potential causes of these disparities.  

While practicing educators grapple with the challenges of standardized testing in their schools each year, such as the class time they must devote to test prep and administration, many understand that testing is an essential tool to ensure that students are on track for success in life. Although standardized testing is by no means a perfect method for measuring student achievement, it is perhaps the most common and comprehensive tool that America's public education system provides.  The expert educators spotlighted in this report want to move the conversation beyond the false choice between testing excessively or not at all.

America Achieves Fellows envision fewer, fairer tests that tell more about what students, schools, districts, and states need and where resources and support should be allocated.

In this report, teachers and principals share their thoughts on the importance of assessment data and offer solutions on how assessments can become better tools to drive good instruction, foster communication, and advance equity.

The viewpoints expressed in this report are those of the primary authors: teachers and principals who are at the heart of this work. It is important to note that these views do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of all America Achieves Fellows, nor do they reflect the viewpoints of the organization as a whole.

Key Findings

Assessments can be used to ensure equity: 

  1. By highlighting gaps and disparities and promoting a sense of urgency for stakeholder action.
  2. By indicating where resources need to be more equitably distributed.
  3. By making sure all students are held to high standards. 

Assessments provide key pieces of evidence to inform instruction:

  1. When data from the assessments is received in a timely manner and is useful to teachers. 
  2. When the tests foster reflection, ownership, and collaboration between educators. 
  3. When the tests are standards-aligned, purposeful, and used to complement, rather than replace, classroom instruction.

Assessment data can spur dialogue between students, teachers, parents, and community leaders:

  1. By helping students and parents become better informed about students’ academic progress. 
  2. By providing a tool for parents to use to become more active in their child’s academic journey.
  3. By providing data that can be used to drive action by policymakers and community leaders.