Join the Movement!

Nine Reasons Why Assessments Matter

College & Career Readiness | 01/29/2016

Deb Jaquith Marketing and Communications Director

Deborah serves as the marketing communications director for Stand for Children Washington.

So, what’s the big deal about assessments and testing? Well, we believe assessments provide parents and teachers with important information about how a child is progressing. It’s important for parents, education leaders and policymakers to know how our kids and our schools stack up against others in the state, nation and world. There are many reasons why assessments matter and students should take tests.

Here are nine reasons that assessments and testing are important for students and their families:

 #1 Taking tests is a part of life. Whether it’s going to the doctor for an annual checkup or passing a driver’s test to get a license, people take tests throughout their life. State testing is a critical annual academic checkup to make sure student learning is on track.

#2 Graduation exams provide an important measure of basic skills. High school tests, required of all students, ensure students graduate with a basic, foundational set of skills and knowledge that prepares them to pursue college and career opportunities.

 #3 Keeping kids from taking tests is not a solution. If students refuse to take a test, parents and teachers will lose a key measure of how students are doing – whether they need more help or if their learning should be accelerated. We all want what’s best for kids, and part of that is honestly knowing where kids are academically.

#4 Refusing to take tests creates greater inequity in our education system. New state data shows that school districts with the highest test refusal, or opt-out, rates for high school primarily come from wealthier, property-rich areas. In comparison, students in lower-income districts participated in testing in much higher numbers. If all students are not taking the tests, we won’t know where to best target additional resources and support.

#5 Smarter Balanced tests measure whether a student is on the path to college and career readiness. The Smarter Balanced tests in grades 3-8 and high school measure the skills necessary for students be prepared for college or a career. These tests will help provide parents and teachers a better measure of what students need to know to be successful in today’s economy.

#6 The high school Smarter Balanced tests serve as a college placement exam. High school students who score a Level 3 or above on the Smarter Balanced math and English language arts exams can enroll in college level courses without further testing. These college and career ready assessments provide students with a critical opportunity to avoid remedial, or high school level, courses at our state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities.

#7 Students have options if they score a Level 2 on a high school Smarter Balanced test. Our state has designed Bridge to College transition courses that are designed to better prepare students for college-level coursework. Students who score a Level 2 on Smarter Balanced and receive a ‘B’ or better in a Bridge to College transition course will be placed in college-level courses without remediation at our state’s 2-year colleges.

 #8 Our state is working to provide Bridge to College transition courses to more schools. In 2015-16, 80 districts in Washington offered these courses. Scaling this program up to every high school will take a number of years. Talk to your school and district to see what they offer.

#9 Districts and state testing takes up a small percentage of the school year. Required district and state testing takes up about 20 hours out of a 1,000-hour school year, which equals 2%. Highline Public Schools compiled an interesting infographic to show testing time by grade.

**Content created by Excellent Schools Now, a Stand Washington coalition, find the .pdf version here.  

 

Share This Page

Add a comment

Comments

  • Response to items listed: 1. Tests at a doctor's office do not require me to focus solely on passing the tests for months prior to taking them at the expense of everything else in my life like spending time at my job or with my family. In addition, I'm not penalized for not passing them. I might need to adjust my health habits to improve my health but I'm not kept from graduating high school because I failed a health test. I might have an issue with my employer if I fail if my job requires good health like a pilot or driver but those requirements are necessary for public safety reasons. A driver's test is required for public safety. Letting someone who failed a high school math test graduate from high school does not jeopardize the safety of anyone. I equate a driver's test to a classroom test created by a teacher to evaluate whether a student learned the information that was taught in class. I have no problem with those types of tests. 2. Passing classes for 12 years provides students with the knowledge needed to succeed in college and the real world. Can you honestly say that students in private schools who do not need to take the SBAC will not succeed because they didn't take that test? 3. Parents of public education students had no say in education reform, nor did teachers. Opting out of tests is the only way parents have of indicating their disgust with the privatization of public education since we don't have billions of dollars to donate to political campaigns and groups to promote our message. 4. See #3. Refusing tests is our only recourse. 5. The SBAC is too new to know what it does or does not measure. I don't even think it's been proven as a reliable and valid assessment yet major decisions are being made regarding students and teachers based on the unreliable test's scores. 6. Colleges signed up for this prior to the test going live. This is the first year students are in college after taking the first round of live SBAC testing. It's too soon to know if the students passing the SBAC are actually prepared for college and the students failing it are not prepared. Also, colleges allow other means for determining college placement because not all college freshmen are from a state that takes the SBAC. 7. I would argue that if a student happened to fail the SBAC and they were already taking college prep classes that they would be better served to continue their college prep classes instead of taking a transition class. For example, say a student is in AP Calc AB as a junior and the SBAC measures Algebra 1 and Geometry which the student took in 7th and 8th grades. The student is operating at such a high mathematical level that the computerized SBAC marks their answers wrong because they aren't simple enough and the student fails the SBAC. The student then scores a 5 on the AP calc AB exam. Would that student be better served in AP Calc BC or the transition math class? 8. See answer to #7. 9. High schoolers planning to go to college already take a combination of the PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, IB tests. Or, they apply to a test optional college. There is absolutely no value in taking any additional tests. Teachers know which students need help and where they need it. Standardized test results provide them with no useful information. In addition, the results come after the student is out of that teacher's class. The testing craze only benefits private companies that make money off of testing: hardware, software, internet, testing, data mining, and publishing companies. They provide absolutely no value to students and suck up a lot of resources like money and time. If private schools don't need the SBAC, public schools don't either.
    Beth Flynn

    January 31, 2016 4:12 PM

  • Beth- Thanks for your perspective. I would say in response that there would be no need for reforms if we were doing a more effective job of prepping our students for their futures. The testing craze is really about graduation rates, which have been improving since we adopted education reforms; but which in Washington are still only 77%, below the national average. We're not worried about the private school children; we're worried about the children from communities of color and low-income students who are STILL not being served by our current system. By the way, we would agree that we need to fully fund basic education and we support McCleary.
    djaquith

    February 4, 2016 11:40 AM

  • At the risk of disagreeing with the comments made in your blog we offer the following counterpoints. Hopefully you will allow our posting: Nine Reasons Why Assessments Matter #1 Taking tests is a part of life. Whether it’s going to the doctor for an annual checkup or passing a driver’s test to get a license, people take tests throughout their life. State testing is a critical annual academic checkup to make sure student learning is on track. Comment: So going to the doctor for an illness is like taking tests in school? Where is the data or proof that “annual academic checkup is critical”? None of the tests are benchmarked. The SBAC can't be compared to any prior test. The ACT and SAT have shown...ZERO...correlation with college or life or job success. Drivers license test is what...every 4 years or so and it's much more important (you could kill people with a car) so if that test isn't necessary more often why should high stakes testing be? So, rather than make a blanket statement about being “critical” please do people the courtesy of showing facts. #2 Graduation exams provide an important measure of basic skills. High school tests, required of all students, ensure students graduate with a basic, foundational set of skills and knowledge that prepares them to pursue college and career opportunities. Comment: Do students take tests at every grade as they work through courses? Do they take quizzes? Do they get a grade for taking all those quizzes and tests? Is the grade of any value? Haven't they proven that they have mastered the content of the subject already? Why should they need to take another test to prove what they already proved? Either the work done as they go through school has value or not. If it does then why is more proof needed? #3 Keeping kids from taking tests is not a solution. If students refuse to take a test, parents and teachers will lose a key measure of how students are doing – whether they need more help or if their learning should be accelerated. We all want what’s best for kids, and part of that is honestly knowing where kids are academically. Comment: Again, as in #2 the students are already taking quizzes and tests in every course for their entire school year. Are you suggesting that we drop grades altogether and just use an annual test to determine whether the student has mastered content? If we all want the best for kids why not honestly focus on that which makes a difference, reduce high stakes testing stress and focus on the classroom? #4 Refusing to take tests creates greater inequity in our education system. New state data shows that school districts with the highest test refusal, or opt-out, rates for high school primarily come from wealthier, property-rich areas. In comparison, students in lower-income districts participated in testing in much higher numbers. If all students are not taking the tests, we won’t know where to best target additional resources and support. Comment: Since students take quizzes and tests on a regular basis for each and every course they take are you saying those tests are somehow creating inequity in the education system? What new state data are you referring to? Rather than toss out the statement please...please do the right thing and share your references so people can study the validity (or not). What about philosophical differences? What of parents who don't agree with the testing itself? Are you saying only rich parents pay attention or decide not to allow their children to test? This entire premise sounds oddly racist and prejudiced. #5 Smarter Balanced tests measure whether a student is on the path to college and career readiness. The Smarter Balanced tests in grades 3-8 and high school measure the skills necessary for students be prepared for college or a career. These tests will help provide parents and teachers a better measure of what students need to know to be successful in today’s economy. Comment: This is unsupported. Please provide any...any study proving this. What of those students not going on to college? What value is any of this testing if their goal is a high school diploma? Where is the proof that what is being tested shows the skills necessary? These tests will provide a better measure of what students need to know...again...please...please show your proof. The fact is there is no proof. There is the HOPE that your premise will be accurate. Thus, this type of statement is not just misleading it is actually a lie. #6 The high school Smarter Balanced tests serve as a college placement exam. High school students who score a Level 3 or above on the Smarter Balanced math and English language arts exams can enroll in college level courses without further testing. These college and career ready assessments provide students with a critical opportunity to avoid remedial, or high school level, courses at our state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities. Comment: This is an agreement of some colleges/universities in Washington State. However, there is no proof that the students skill sets will be any different. If one looks at the curriculum of colleges and universities across the US they have made no notable changes given Common Core standards. Since the SBAC/PARCC are merely measures of how well the student can show they have followed the CC Standards how is this any different from any other high stakes testing system? This is also a convenient coincidence given that state's control of all levels of education. #7 Students have options if they score a Level 2 on a high school Smarter Balanced test. Our state has designed Bridge to College transition courses that are designed to better prepare students for college-level coursework. Students who score a Level 2 on Smarter Balanced and receive a ‘B’ or better in a Bridge to College transition course will be placed in college-level courses without remediation at our state’s 2-year colleges. Comment: So the State, which approved the use of Common Core and the SBAC testing system without any review or analysis, which also controls the higher education decided to set up a system to support it's actions and beliefs. Is this not the fox guarding the hen house? How about the number of states that have dropped out of SBAC/PARCC (and it continues) with more states dropping Common Core? How about the fact that both the Democrat and Republican parties in Washington State have taken formal positions against Common Core?  #8 Our state is working to provide Bridge to College transition courses to more schools. In 2015-16, 80 districts in Washington offered these courses. Scaling this program up to every high school will take a number of years. Talk to your school and district to see what they offer. Comment: So the state, which controls all the decisions and pieces is still “trying” to transition to more schools? How about surveying parents and educators? Any idea how many educators secretly are against the High Stakes testing but are afraid to speak up because they fear for their jobs? How many districts have made it clear that teachers who speak up and encourage parents to Opt-Out may be fired? #9 Districts and state testing takes up a small percentage of the school year. Required district and state testing takes up about 20 hours out of a 1,000-hour school year, which equals 2%. Highline Public Schools compiled an interesting infographic to show testing time by grade. Comment: Horse hockey! Take the quizzes, course tests then the assessment tests and then the SBAC and add all the time “prepping” for the exams. How about the fact that the SBAC is taken in the spring cutting off several months of teaching and learning? How about the results not being available for any action during the school year taken? Have you talked to teachers across the state about the TRUE amount of time taken for all this testing rather than citing one district that seems to fit your views?
    SWWEducation

    February 1, 2016 4:05 PM