Kiss my assessment

Kiss my assessment

By Dale Chu

For the first time in a long time, results from state standardized tests administered this spring will soon be available to help guide educators and policymakers through the long-term education recovery effort. Or will it? While no states begged out-of-state assessments entirely this year, there are already reasons to be concerned about the extent to which, if at all, this important “post-Covid” test data will be leveraged to strategically allocate resources moving forward.

Consider the mess in New Mexico, a state that’s no stranger to face plants when it comes to measurement and accountability. Last month, staff from the state’s education agency revealed that their spring test results wouldn’t be available to districts until late October or early November. This delay is simply inexcusable at a time when students have fallen woefully behind; doubly so in New Mexico, which kept its school doors shuttered longer than most states during the pandemic. To be fair, the long lag time between test administration and results is nothing new, but it’s discouraging to see this plodding pace persist after two years of Covid-disrupted learning.

But on an encouraging note: Mississippi just released results from its third-grade reading test and third graders there scored close to pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 74 percent of students passing the exam on the first go-round. Bucking conventional wisdom, these promising numbers from the Magnolia State suggest that the problem of learning loss isn’t an insurmountable one—if the ‘conditions’ are right (see Curriculum HQ). At the same time, it would be prudent for policymakers to “trust, but verify” these results by keeping an eye on how they square with state and national exams (i.e., NAEP).

Without reliable and valid data, states will effectively be going about the work of recovery in the dark. As troubling as this might sound, some states appear perfectly copacetic about being blindfolded. Indeed, during our in-depth review of state assessment websites as part of the recent refresh of the Assessment HQ platform, we found that some states had no public plans at all to use data from this spring’s tests to help support education recovery (looking at you New Mexico and New York). These decisions had nothing to do with delays or potential delays with reporting; it simply reflected a sentiment brewing across the country that annual assessments have outlived their usefulness.

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