5 Assessment Trends for the New School Year

row of students working on laptops

Education will see changes in how assessment is done in the new school year, according to education nonprofit NWEA. The organization, which develops preK-12 assessments and professional development, recently issued five trends that it expected will permeate the measurement of learning outcomes.

CEO Chris Minnich said he anticipated a "paradigm shift in assessment," wherein school leaders and policymakers will seek new approaches that do away with "the barrier between assessments that measure school performance and those that drive student learning." Among the goals: to reduce testing time and promote other "innovative methods" such as "through-year models" and "performance-based assessment" to replace the traditional end-of-year summative testing cycle.

The measure of school growth will also get some updates, according to NWEA Research Consulting Director Andy Hegedus. "In 2019-2020 we will begin to see a much-needed shift in the school accountability paradigm — away from a heavy reliance on achievement measures to evaluate school performance in federal and state education policy and toward a school rating policy that appropriately weighs both growth and achievement." New forms of school accountability will go further in reducing the bias experienced against those schools serving high-needs students. Hegedus suggested that the trend "aligns with recent research analyzing the relationship between poverty and school performance," wherein even schools with low achievement were still producing growth, a sign of school effectiveness.

Teresa Krastel, a Spanish solution lead, predicted that education will see a "growing focus on the role of equity in the assessment of English learners," of which there are currently about five million in public schools (three-quarters of which are Spanish-speaking). She said she expects to see "a rise in dual-immersion and biliteracy programs" and an increase in "availability of assessments in languages other than English." As a result, teachers will gain "a deeper and more accurate picture of how much ELL students know and are ready to learn next."

Student disengagement during testing will get some attention this school year, said Steve Wise, senior research fellow for NWEA. The rise of computer testing, he noted, allows assessment experts to identify "rapid guessing behavior." That, in turn, has given researchers a better understanding of student test engagement and its possible impact on the achievement scores. Test makers will use such findings to introduce new techniques "to increase student engagement and motivation during assessments."

That goes hand-in-hand with testing technologies to individualize student assessments, which will also begin to surface this year, said Mike Nesterak, NWEA's senior director of the Product Innovation Center. For example, rather than assessing students against some "average level of the class," testing will be done on particular skill sets they might possess as individuals. Plus, there will be more research in augmented reality, speech recognition, automatic scoring and artificial intelligence, all of which may lead to "more precise measurement, deeper insights and more personalized learning," he added.

About the Author

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