Common Core | Viewpoint

Who Can Best Assess the New Assessments?

A recent study reveals that most students understand the need for testing and prefer to do it on a computer — but their parents still have issues.

Christopher Piehler

With districts in the 44 Common Core states field-testing new online assessments, plenty of critics have voiced their opinions. The most extreme are exhuming the twin bogeymen of Communism and Nazism to attack the standards themselves, while moderate opponents have shown reasonable concern about the impact of testing on teaching and learning.

A recent study brings a much-needed constituency to the conversation: students. The Northwest Evaluation Association’s “Make Assessment Matter: Students and Educators Want Tests that Support Learning” surveyed 1,042 students, 94 percent of whom agree that tests are “important for understanding what they are learning, getting into a good college and knowing whether they will move on to the next grade.”

You can read more about the study here, but I think one more number merits mention: 78 percent of the students surveyed believe that taking tests on computers has a positive impact on their engagement during these assessments.

So in this sample, large majorities of students understand the purpose of the new tests and prefer to take them on computers — yet I still hear a steady chorus of parents who are unhappy about the impact of assessments on their kids. For example, I recently read the following on a college friend’s Facebook feed: “I had a child come out of standardized testing crying today because he thought he got his teacher in trouble with his score. Just UGH.”

I understand this. No mother wants her child to come home from school in tears. Fortunately, though, that was not the end of the story. Later, my friend posted this: “We e-mailed his teacher and she is being super and understanding — this all has to do with how he interpreted something she said about growth targets in response to another student’s question about it…. I feel almost as bad for her as I do for him. This isn’t good for anyone, but we’ll get through it.” 

Clearly my friend was not converted into a pro-assessment evangelist, but her comments were a good reminder that the key to this transition is not the technology or the cacophony of opinion; it is engaged parents and responsive teachers working together to do their best for students.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.