11 May What parents need to know about state assessments
By Dale Chu
Recently, EdNavigator published an easy-to-use resource for helping parents better understand student test results and why they matter. It’s an important question to answer because the value of large-scale testing is more clearly understood as a benefit to policymakers than as one for educators and families. To figure this out, EdNavigator partnered with the Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) to comb through the test results of more than three million students in three states (MA, NC, and WA).
Through their research, they unearthed four key lessons, the upshot of which, taken together, is that students tend to stay on the same trajectory over time. As an illustration, EdNavigator provides an example of two students at the end of third grade with the same demographic traits. One student, Mario, scores better than average on the state tests and the other student, James, scores below average:
Based on data from a large pool of past students with similar profiles, we can estimate that Mario, with his higher scores, has a 93 percent chance of graduating high school and a dropout risk of about seven percent. For James, who scored lower, the picture is different: He has a 73 percent chance of graduating high school and a dropout risk of 27 percent. In other words, James’ dropout risk is more than three times higher than Mario’s. And we know it when he’s only nine years old.
It’s a disheartening picture, and one that goes doubly so for math, which as it turns out is a better predictor of future success because it provides the essential foundation students need to succeed in the challenging high school and college courses required for graduation.
To be sure, test scores aren’t destiny, but we see time and time again that low performing students in elementary school remain low performing through high school —unless academic interventions are provided. Knowing this, EdNavigator offers some sound advice on what parents can do—all of which require them to take test results seriously and to be proactive in addressing their students if they struggle.
And therein lies the rub. Parents can’t do much about state test results if states don’t put in a good faith effort this spring to test as many students as possible. Here it’s worth considering EdNavigator’s conclusion:
A single test score cannot tell the whole story of a student’s educational journey. But after reviewing the scores and life outcomes for literally millions of students from multiple states, we can confidently say that they do tell us something and should never be simply waved away.
As the U.S. Department of Education continues to review assessment waivers, let’s hope they take these sobering words to heart.