Assessment | News

Study: Most Students Unaware of New State Accountability Tests

The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) has released the study “Make Assessment Matter: Students and Educators Want Tests that Support Learning.” Conducted by Grunwald Associates, the study highlights the perceptions of 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. The study includes responses from 1,042 students, 1,004 teachers and 200 district administrators.

Matt Chapman, president and chief executive officer of NWEA, said, “As a not-for-profit organization, NWEA strongly shares the belief — voiced by everyone in the survey — that assessments must be student-focused and should be used to improve teaching and learning. We are especially excited to bring the student into the conversation. Who better to help guide us toward a more student-centric educational system?”

Some key highlights from the study include the following:

  • 95 percent of students agree that tests are “very” or “somewhat” important for helping them and their teachers know if they are making progress in their learning during the year and for getting into a college;
  • 55 percent of students believe they take state accountability tests to evaluate their schools;
  • Despite all the attention on assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, 80 percent of students say they have not heard of new state accountability tests;
  • 58 percent of high school students believe college entrance exams accurately predict college success; and
  • 81 percent of students think student test scores reflect how well teachers teach.

Also, 78 percent of students believe that taking tests on computers has a positive impact on their engagement during tests, while most district administrators (95 percent) and teachers (76 percent) agree that adaptive technology-based assessments are “extremely” or “very” valuable for engaging students in learning.

While 80 percent of teachers and 91 percent of district administrators report that they work with their peers to use assessment results to shape instruction, 55 percent of teachers report that they never took a course in assessment literacy in their pre-service programs.

Despite the lack of formal assessment preparation, the 96 percent of teachers who say they use assessment results do so to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. Of those teachers who use assessments, 74 percent use results to adjust instructional strategies; 67 percent use them to plan and differentiate instruction for high-, average- and low-performing students; and 58 percent use them to set learning goals for their students.

Based on the findings in “Make Assessment Matter,” the NWEA offered five recommendations to help focus assessments on student learning:

  1. Engage with students in policy development processes, especially when making testing mandates at the state, district and classroom levels.
  2. Realign assessment priorities in support of teaching and learning.
  3. Establish formal learning opportunities on assessment literacy for every teacher, principal and building administrator. Assessment literacy, in teacher preparation and professional development, is a significant area of need, especially since teachers’ communications are most important to students and parents regarding testing.
  4. Improve student learning by making educator collaboration a priority in every school and district.
  5. Prioritize technology readiness in every district, focusing on infrastructure and addressing glitches.

About the Author

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