Policy & Assessment

When Do States Share Assessment Data?

A big argument for moving high-stakes testing online in the first place was that the results could be made available to schools more quickly so they could respond appropriately. Several years after states have adopted online testing, however, very few are getting assessment results to teachers before the school year ends. Just one state delivers final results to educators in the spring; nine others provide preliminary results. Most supply state test scores during the summer of the year when the test was given; seven states issue preliminary results, and 22 provide final results.

Those are some of the findings in a survey among 45 state deputy superintendents of education or their designees issued by the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. The survey was given in September and October 2017 to learn about states' early efforts in implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Most of the findings were covered in an earlier CEP report, "Planning for Progress: States Reflect on Year One Implementation of ESSA." However, this more recent report, "Planning for Progress: After the Tests: How States Share Assessment Data," covers states' work in sharing assessment results with principals, teachers and parents.

When states typically provide teachers with student assessment results in math and ELA. Source: Planning for Progress: After the Tests: How States Share Assessment Data from the Center on Education Policy.

When states typically provide teachers with student assessment results in math and ELA. Source: Planning for Progress: After the Tests: How States Share Assessment Data from the Center on Education Policy.

ESSA stipulates that states provide their teachers and principals with student test data. Forty-two respondents said their states were delivering math and English language arts (ELA) results to teachers, and 43 said they were providing them to principals. More than half are using online data portals to make the results available to teachers (23 states) and principals (25 states). Fourteen states use both online portals and hard copies to get assessment results to teachers, and 13 are doing the same for principals.

Oddly, two states reported that they are not providing the results to either teachers or principals, and one state is providing this information to principals but not teachers.

To expedite delivery of test results to teachers, three states told CEP they intend to issue multiple state assessments throughout the year instead of one test near the end of the year.

The data most states are providing to educators for math and ELA cover individual students as well as summarized classroom results. Nineteen states communicate results at the individual student level as well as classroom, grade, school, district and state. Most of the other states give some combination of those results. Of the 32 states that provide individual student results to teachers and principals, a majority supply detailed reports about students' performance by subject and domain within a subject. Fewer states give details about students' performance on constructs (such as addition) within a domain.

States could do a better job of preparing teachers and principals to know what to do with the data they're being given. Among states that provide assessment to educators, just 17 said their states provided professional development to teachers on working with test results; 18 provide the training to principals. Eight additional states said that while they don't currently give PD on this topic, they're considering doing so in the future.

Optional provisions in ESSA that allow states to reduce testing time aren't getting much pick up among states. As the report noted, "many parents, teachers and others have complained about how much time students spend taking tests." Yet 24 respondents--more than half--said their states don't plan to set targets for the total amount of time devoted to testing. Even more--28 states--reported that they plan to take no actions to reduce the timing or number of state-mandated tests in subjects other than math and ELA or to eliminate tests.

All respondents said their states supply parents with their students' data; and 29 states reported seeking feedback from families on how the assessment results are communicated. Ten states provide data on subject, domain, and construct; 22 offer data on subject level; and 19 do so by domain. Among the 29 states that ask for feedback from parents, all but one are "specifically engaging" with them to find out if they understand the results; the results for that are mixed.

While the survey was addressed "many issues about state assessments, some questions remain unanswered, including the impact of state efforts to reduce testing time, or what states [are] doing to improve teachers' and principals' access to and understanding of student test data," the researchers wrote. "Our findings point to areas for additional research, as well as policy options for states to consider."

The new report is openly available on the CEP website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.