Personalized Learning

Report: ESSA Gives Opening to Innovate on Assessment

The term "assessment" is often thought to mean the end-of-year state tests used for state and federal accountability. That's too narrow of a focus that will lead to "limited outcomes," asserted a new report from iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, which advocates for personalized learning. The organization would like to see an expansion of the meaning of assessment to incorporate certification of student mastery of knowledge and skills and as a resource for giving teachers "timely feedback" on where students are in their learning and what supports they need to succeed.

In its brief, "Redesigning Systems of Assessments for Student-Centered Learning," iNACOL urged states to use the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as an opportunity to redesign their systems of assessment specifically to support more-student-centered learning. For example, the report offered, new state systems of assessment could include

  • Adaptive assessments to better identify where students are in their learning progressions;
  • Formative assessments to understand whether students are ready to demonstrate mastery on interim or summative assessments;
  • Interim assessments to measure the progress of a learner's growth and knowledge over a given period;
  • Summative assessments to provide certification of learning; and
  • Performance assessments to measure demonstrations of mastery with multiple aspects of learning evidence.

What states need to do, the report suggested, is "take a leadership role" in helping districts and schools advance their "assessment literacy"— understand the different forms of assessment and when they're best used; explore new forms of assessment with willing educators in pilot programs; and create a working group to audit existing systems of assessment to determine their "fit for purpose" and come up with recommendations for improving "system coherence" or achieving a "balanced system of assessment."

"There is a need to rethink the purpose and role of assessment in education systems. Systems of assessments that align to student-centered learning are important for the transformation to personalized, competency-based education systems that prepare all students for success," the report insisted.

The brief is openly available on the iNACOL website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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