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ASSESSING THE ASSESSMENTS: Chief State School Officers and Urban School Leaders Announce New Project to Improve Student Assessments

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"The answer to too much testing is not no testing."

On October 15, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) announced a new partnership to evaluate and improve the quality and quantity of student assessments in U.S. public schools.

“Assessments are a critical part of public education because they help measure how every student is learning and making progress toward the goals we have set,” said Chris Minnich, CCSSO executive director. “Yet we as state leaders understand there is always room for improvement. As we transition to new assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards in every state, this is a great opportunity for state leaders to take a look at all assessments and make sure they are of the highest quality and deliver meaningful results.”

As part of the announcement, the two organizations released Commitments on High-Quality Assessments, a list of three principles to guide state leaders and district leaders in making sure every assessment administered is of high-quality, part of a coherent system of measures, and meaningful to students, parents, and teachers. The document also outlines steps that CCSSO and CGCS will take to improve assessments and assessment systems at state and local levels, including publishing an easily accessible list of all state assessments, eliminating redundant assessments, and improving the use of assessment results to enhance classroom instruction.

In a statement, the Alliance for Excellent Education applauded the decision to review the full array of tests that students are required to take and urged states and districts to eliminate those that are duplicative or yield little valuable information to school systems. The Alliance also cautioned that standardized tests, when done well, can inform important educational decisions and said the federal government should continue to require states to administer tests.

“Those who call for a halt to all standardized testing, or a halt to the federal requirement that states administer end-of-year tests, go too far. The answer to too much testing is not no testing,” the statement reads. “State tests allow teachers, parents, and policymakers to know whether schools are working and to make adjustments accordingly so that every child, regardless of zip code, receives an excellent education.”

The Alliance also outlined three principles to guide federal policy on state tests: (1) measure what matters; (2) yield actionable information; and (3) ensure equity.

The CCSSO/CGCS announcement is available at http://bit.ly/11TXwIO.

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