Testing 1-2-3

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3

A blog on state practices around annual assessments by former educator and policy expert Dale Chu! Dale writes about K-12 academic assessments and makes sense of the data, facts, and myths about them.

Meet Dale

Dale’s career includes two decades of work in P-12, serving as teacher, lead teacher, assistant principal, principal, and consultant in both rural and urban districts. He began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member in San Benito, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley along the U.S.-Mexico border. During his second year of teaching, Dale was recognized as the district’s teacher of the year.

 

He later became the founding principal at a high-performing urban charter school. In three years, Dale took the school from a 26 percent to a 96 percent pass rate as measured by the state’s assessment. His school was recognized for achieving the highest African American student performance scores in the state.

 

Dale is a graduate of Cornell University and earned a Masters degree in administration and policy analysis from Stanford University. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, and resides in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and daughter.

 

Connect with the Assessment HQ and Dale on Twitter!

Assessment HQ Blog

We all want assessment innovation, but at what cost?

Dale Chu

June 17, 2024

In a report for FutureEd last month, Lynn Olson and Tom Toch advocate for a “matrix sampling” approach to federally required achievement tests. Basically, instead of testing all kids in grades 3-8, states could test just a sample of students and still get high-level accountability results.

Breaking the assessment stalemate

Dale Chu

June 12, 2024

The fine folks at FutureEd, specifically Lynn Olson and Tom Toch, just released a thoughtful new report titled, “None of the Above: A New Vision for State Standardized Testing.” (Intrepid readers of this blog will recall my interview with Olson a few years back.)

State test results are still too d*mn slow

Dale Chu and Chad Aldeman

June 10, 2024

In April, Alaska published its 2023 state assessment results, making it the final one to publicly release its assessment data for that academic year. This came at a time when students were preparing to take the 2024 exams. Which is to say, states continue to be notoriously slow when it comes to publicly sharing their test scores—with MaineNew York, and Vermont among the most egregious offenders.

Reading the assessment tea leaves

Dale Chu

April 30, 2024

Even though the energy and enthusiasm for standardized testing seems to have stalled out, there’s no shortage of new developments. Here are four worth highlighting, though how to interpret them I’ll leave to you, dear reader:

March Mathness: Using assessments to support student numeracy

Dale Chu

March 26, 2024

This month, the Collaborative For Student Success announced a March Mathness tournament, which aims to shine a spotlight on promising practices to improve upon America’s dismal performance in mathematics. Yours truly was tasked, along with my estimable colleagues Chad Aldeman and Jocelyn Pickford, to wade through an assortment of initiatives—ranging from statewide legislative efforts to innovative tech-enabled solutions—in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The pernicious predictability of anti-testing advocates

Dale Chu

February 14, 2024

A viral TikTok video posted earlier this week served up some freshly warmed-over disparagement of annual assessments. The digital screed was prompted by an opinion column’s review of a new paper by Jamil Maroun and Chris Tienken purporting to debunk the use of standardized tests as a credible measure of student learning. Like many of these types of criticisms, there’s a kernel of truth, but the video’s creator and the study’s authors arrive at the wrong conclusion. No one likes to take tests, but testing—whether its the three Rs, cholesterol, or blood pressure—shows us the realities no matter how much we might not want to see it.

Can AI help bridge the divide between state assessment data and the public?

Dale Chu

January 30, 2024

A new AI tool debuted last December that complements the work we’ve been doing here at AssessmentHQ to monitor the reporting of state summative test results. Developed by Emily Oster, Zelma aims to make assessment data “more widely accessible and engaging for the general public.” USA Today and The 74 covered the release, with the latter reporting that Oster believes the tool will help “democratize” school performance data. Those are mighty lofty ambitions. Does Zelma live up to them?

Portrait of an assessment

Dale Chu

January 17, 2024

It’s the trend that’s sweeping the nation: the “portrait of a graduate.” The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s President Tim Knowles says, “They’re everywhere.” To wit, at least seventeen states have adopted (or are in the process of developing) one with the goal of establishing an agreed-upon sets of skills and attributes students should leave high school with.

Can Uncle Sam be believed on assessment innovation?

Dale Chu

December 12, 2023

The Monday of the week leading into Thanksgiving, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter announcing changes to the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), the federal government’s underwhelming-to-date mechanism for encouraging states to pilot, develop, and deploy the next generation of state assessments. Under the current administration, Uncle Sam has been, at best, lukewarm to testing, but ultimately the signals being sent from D.C. are a matter of interpretation.

The Biden administration’s unseriousness on PISA

Dale Chu

December 05, 2023

The latest PISA results dropped earlier today and, perhaps to no one’s surprise, they weren’t good. U.S. students saw a 13-point drop in math, which was “among the lowest ever measured by PISA in mathematics” for the U.S., according to the OECD.

States should use test scores to increase student enrollment in advanced math

Dale Chu & Chad Aldeman

December 04, 2023

Of the many ways poor and minority students are often given short shrift by schools, none may be more insidious than being automatically subjugated to remedial level work when they could be enrolled in advanced courses. Six states have endeavored to tackle this problem head on by enacting “automatic enrollment” laws: Washington, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and Texas. Also referred to as “opt-out” or “acceleration” policies, the details can vary, but the shared objective is to minimize bias by defaulting students into more rigorous courses if they meet a specific threshold on state exams.

Now live: 2022-23 state assessment results

Dale Chu 

November 14, 2023

Fans of Assessment HQ will be pleased to learn that 2022-23 state assessment scores from more than two-thirds of states are now available on the site. With this update, Assessment HQ features three years of post-pandemic results for most states and is the only place to find a clear and comprehensive snapshot of statewide testing data.

Guest Post: Standardized tests are good…we should listen to what the results are telling us

Dale Chu & Chad Aldeman

November 07, 2023

Chad Aldeman is a nationally recognized expert on education policy and my compatriot on the EduProgress: Unpacked blog. There are few people in the education sector as well-respected as Chad. He’s also a friend, and incredibly endearing whenever he laments the plodding pace at which states slow walk their assessment results.

Four Texas-sized testing happenings to keep an eye on

Dale Chu

October 23, 2023

While the education talk in Texas revolves around the expansion of school choice, the goings on in the Lone Star State as it relates to standardized testing, lawmaking, and the strategic use of assessment data have largely flown under the radar. I’d like to call your attention to four items in particular:

Bright spots and a missed opportunity in new bipartisan call to action

Dale Chu, Chad Aldeman, and Jocelyn Pickford

October 04, 2023

In a refreshing display of collaboration, the Building Bridges initiative recently released a call to action to “quickly and dramatically improve the learning opportunities for today’s students.”

They diagnose the problems in a clear but sobering way:

Testing in Missouri: Showing how it’s done or worrisome show?

Dale Chu

October 02, 2023

In August, the Missouri State Board of Education unanimously approved a waiver request from nineteen districts and one charter school that allows them to pilot a through-year assessment model and to be exempted from certain provisions in the state’s accountability system for three years. The ability to apply for “innovation waivers” in Missouri is relatively new, as the enabling legislation was just passed in 2022. Nevertheless, these waivers raise several issues that will be worth watching (more on that below).

Years late and a dollar short in Vermont

Dale Chu

September 19, 2023

States are notoriously slow when it comes to releasing annual test results, but the state of Vermont took apathy to new lows a couple of weeks ago when, as part of a Friday news dump, the state finally released its 2022 state assessment results for schools and districts. Some states have already released their data for 2023, so putting 2022 results out now is a unique form of not giving a flying fudge.

Montana gets the green light from the feds

Dale Chu

August 10, 2023

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) officially greenlit Montana’s waiver request. This is big news in the world of large-scale testing as, among other things, it allows the state to move forward with its innovative assessment pilot without “double testing” (more on this below) during the upcoming school year. Alert readers will remember that New Meridian has been working with Montana on this effort (we interviewed their CEO earlier this year).

Uncle Sam moves against state assessments

Dale Chu

August 02, 2023

In the latest episode of never sleep on assessments, the Senate Appropriations committee just passed a funding bill before going on August recess that underscores the deteriorating support for state testing on Capitol Hill. In what could be a harbinger of things to come, the proposal would cut ten millions dollars from the State Assessments Grants program. As context, Uncle Sam most recently appropriated $390 million in funds via both formula grants and a competitive program to help improve statewide exams.

Instructional transparency hits a dead end

Dale Chu

July 26, 2023

One year ago, EdReports and the Center for Assessment announced a joint effort to bring greater transparency to the commercially available, and financially lucrative, interim assessment market. That project recently collapsed when assessment publishers demurred, citing a laundry list of misgivings ranging from timing, capacity, proprietary concerns, and skepticism about the need for an independent review. It was a disappointing and somewhat surprising denouement, given the success of EdReports’ disruption—a long overdue one—of the curriculum industry.

 State tests that are useful for both instruction and accountability: A conversation with New Meridian’s Arthur VanderVeen (Part II)

Dale Chu

June 12, 2023

Arthur VanderVeen is the founder and CEO of New Meridian, an assessment design and development company. Today, it works with over 2,500 districts in five states. Because of New Meridian’s leadership in response to the call for better measures, I wanted to take a closer look under the hood of their efforts. In the second part of this two-part interview, Arthur peers into his crystal ball and discusses the future of state assessments, including the leveraging of artificial intelligence. Here’s what he said.

State tests that are useful for both instruction and accountability: A conversation with New Meridian’s Arthur VanderVeen (Part I)

Dale Chu

June 07, 2023

Arthur VanderVeen is the founder and CEO of New Meridian, an assessment design and development company. Today, it works with over 2,500 districts in five states. Because of New Meridian’s leadership in response to the call for better measures, I wanted to take a closer look under the hood of their efforts. In part one of this two-part interview, Arthur talks about the process and possibilities of developing large-scale assessments that are useful for both instruction and accountability. Here’s what he said.

Four recommendations for improving IADA

Dale Chu

May 17, 2023

Earlier this month, the Collaborative for Student Success proudly joined a group of thirteen signatories in submitting a response to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for information (RFI) on the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) pilot. A putative first step of re-regulation, you can read more about the RFI here.

Demystifying state assessments

Dale Chu

April 12, 2023

Bellwether just released a set of briefs—six in total—that offer a primer on how state standardized assessments are developed, scored, and reported. With spring testing season now upon us, the timing of Bellwether’s latest publication is right and comes as standardized exams continue to face political headwinds. More myth-busting, as is the case with this new resource, could be helpful in an environment that has become increasingly skeptical of testing and accountability.

IADA intrigue

Dale Chu

April 04, 2023

The U.S. Department of Education just put out a request for information (RFI) on the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) pilot. The feds are asking whether there are better ways to measure comparability, if states could use a planning period (one or two years), and what other barriers are preventing states from applying. This would seem to be the first step of re-regulation.

The tortuous road to more inclusive and innovative assessments

Dale Chu

March 27, 2023

Last month, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) released an important and insightful report titled, “Inclusive, Innovative Assessments for Students With Learning Disabilities.” It reflects findings gathered from surveys and focus groups NCLD conducted in 2022—with educators of students with disabilities, caregivers, and young adults with disabilities—to better understand their perceptions toward annual assessments. Notably, caregivers had a more positive perspective on state testing: 78% of caregivers said state exams should be given annually—as required by federal law—as compared to only 48% of educators.

Guest Post: To catalyze assessment innovation, Uncle Sam must step up

Dale Chu

March 09, 2023

Lindsay Fryer is the president and founding principal of Lodestone DC, an education consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. She’s also a friend, and one of the few people I know who geeks out on state testing as much as I do.

Blowing the whistle on Maine’s flagrant fouls with testing

Dale Chu

February 27, 2023

I’ve made no bones about Uncle Sam’s laissez-faire approach to state testing throughout the pandemic, so count me as pleasantly surprised at the news last Friday that the U.S. Department of Education (USED) lowered the boom on the state of Maine, one of two states that have still not released statewide test results for 2022.

Houses, macarons, and state testing data

Dale Chu

February 24, 2023

Earlier this month, we refreshed the Assessment HQ website to reflect student proficiency data and information on participation rates for the 2021-22 school year. An update to the press release was also issued, regarding the progress of students in math. Instead of calling out the slower rate of recovery in mathematics versus ELA, it’s more accurate to say that progress in math remains uneven across grade levels. Perhaps more importantly, state testing data so far suggests the jury is still out as to how fast and how far students have come vis-à-vis getting back on track. Indeed, one year of data a trend does not make.

New Assessment HQ Update

Dale Chu

February 14, 2023

On this Valentine’s Day, may you be surrounded by love, romance, and glitteringly exquisite assessment data that would sweep both Jared and his paramours off of their feet! All kidding aside, there’s a lot to love about our latest update to Assessment HQ, which keeps the state of play on educational progress a heartbeat away. Specifically, state testing data from the 2021-22 school year, for nearly all 50 states, is now available on the site.

The State of Assessment

Dale Chu

February 07, 2023

Ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address tonight, where he is expected to do a victory lap for his handling of the economy as he weighs another run for the Oval Office, the mood is decidedly more mixed when it comes to the state of K-12 education—especially as it relates to assessments. His education secretary, Miguel Cardona, recently gave a speech in which he hedged on the need for federally required exams. Although it wasn’t the first time Cardona expressed his lukewarm opinion of standardized testing, his was but the latest example of a broader, shifting perspective on the role of state assessments in shaping education policy.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of (Data) Disarray

Dale Chu

December 06, 2022

Indiana Jones is back! For better or worse, the legendary archaeologist will have his hands full again with Nazis and their grotesque ilk, but at least Dr. Jones is not dealing with the disarray that has been the hunt for 2022 statewide test results. Following closely on the heels of the assessment snapshot we published last month, Education Reform Now recently released their landscape analysis and found “a big gap” between states that simply made their data available versus those that did so in an accessible and intelligible way.

The state of play on summative testing

Dale Chu

November 22, 2022

As of this writing, nearly thirty states have released test score data from the 2021-22 school year. It’s worth underscoring how important summative assessments are in understanding how students are faring after three years of Covid-disrupted schooling. A complete state-by-state accounting is now available on Assessment HQ via this spreadsheet, which will be updated periodically as more information is released by state departments of education.

Broadening perspectives on testing

Dale Chu

September 15, 2022

On Tuesday, I attended a convening in New York City hosted by the National Urban League (NUL) and UnidosUS on the future of assessment and accountability (FOAA). Coming on the heels of last week’s NAEP release (more on that here and here), the timely event—titled “Broadening Perspectives: Education Assessment, Accountability, and Equity”—summarized over sixty focus group sessions and interviews held last summer with 260 participants from various stakeholder groups. A final report will be issued later this year, with potential next steps to include mapping out FOAA policy and advocacy considerations (i.e., for whenever ESEA is reauthorized).

The glitter of assessment innovation

Dale Chu

August 31, 2022

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced nearly $30 million in awards to 10 states under the 2022 Competitive Grants for State Assessments program (CGSA). (For more on the CGSA, see this earlier post). The ten states are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina. A few things to note: (1) Louisiana received two awards, totaling nearly $6 million; (2) Nebraska’s award involves “three partner states” (not mentioned, but likely other NWEA states like Georgia); and (3) Arkansas’s project brings together two other states—North Carolina and West Virginia—so you could say at least 11 states are beneficiaries of this latest round of CGSA funding.

The future of assessments

Dale Chu

August 01, 2022

Back in March, I kicked off a series of blog posts coinciding with the refresh of the Assessment HQ website (links to the first six installments below). I looked back on state testing during the last couple of years and lamented the lack of leadership and conviction vis-à-vis state assessment systems. I called out encouraging examples like Mississippi’s third-grade reading results, which underscore the importance of having reliable and valid data as part of the long and arduous process of education recovery. Parents understand the importance of having this information and will likely play a significant part in helping to shape the future of state assessments.

Parents are back in backing state testing

Dale Chu

July 05, 2022

As the father of a rising second grader, I’ve got another year before my daughter begins annual state testing as required under federal law. Like many parents, I’m looking forward to the data these exams will provide—above all as a check upon the local assessments she’s been taking since she entered grade school. This information will be particularly important for families in understanding how well their schools are doing in getting students back on track following the disruptions prompted by Covid.

Kiss my assessment

Dale Chu

June 07, 2022

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.

Teachers, particularly BIPOC teachers, value state testing

Dale Chu

May 19, 2022

new survey conducted by Educators for Excellence offers some intriguing insights into how teachers see the process of education recovery and what schools might need to help get students back on track. Based on a representative sample of 1,000 full-time public school teachers, the survey, sponsored by NWEA, also included an additional, nationally representative sample of 300 BIPOC teachers to better understand how they view policy issues. Notably, BIPOC teachers had more positive opinions of state assessments.

Who will lead on assessment innovation?

Dale Chu

May 10, 2022

One of the few things that have become increasingly clear in the fog of the standardized testing debate is the glaring lack of leadership from education officials: state, national, or otherwise. Indeed, in an interview I did with FutureEd’s Lynn Olson a few years ago, she suggested this was a problem in light of the state of disarray in testing:

Are annual assessments old hat?

Dale Chu

April 19, 2022

The state assessments happening now in 2022 closely mirror students’ testing experience back in 2002 at the advent of NCLB: they are largely multiple-choice and they are designed to gauge student progress towards a basic level of achievement. In some respects this is understandable. Twenty years ago, policymakers were constrained by the limitations of the tools that were available to assess student academic performance at a large scale. Advancements in technology during the intervening years have since raised fair and important questions about whether states should update their approach to measuring student outcomes.

Comprehensive or convoluted? Testing in 2021 painted a cloudy picture

Dale Chu

April 04, 2022

State testing is now underway. With luck and hopefully some leadership (more on that later in this series), the disruptions of the past two years will be put behind us. It’s likely we’ll see the bottom drop even more, but in too many states we won’t know because of shoddy data resulting from ill-advised decision-making. Thankfully, faithful readers of this blog now have an easy way to see who the leaders and laggards were: the recent refresh of the Assessment HQ platform maps out the states on both ends of the spectrum.

Where’s the (assessment) data?

Dale Chu

March 24, 2022

With testing season right around the corner and uncertainty brewing around how state exams will be administered this spring, it felt timely to kick off this series on the present and future of statewide annual academic assessments. Coinciding with this effort is a refresh of the AssessmentHQ platform after a months-long scouring of state education agency websites for the most up-to-date numbers on student testing participation and performance. There is an imperative to understand this information now, especially as schools and students emerge from two years of pandemic-constrained learning.

Will complacency be assessment’s coup de grâce?

Dale Chu

March 22, 2022

During The Hill’s The Future of Education summit held last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that he’s more worried about complacency than he is about the pandemic. He has good reason to be: after two awful years of Covid-constrained learning, students have fallen further behind and the gaps between poor and affluent students have widened. At the same time, many cite the pandemic as a reason for doing away with standardized testing—the primary tool by which we identify these gaps—though by using Covid as cover, these calls come off as being disingenuous.

An honest check on state and district recovery practices

Dale Chu

February 02, 2022

Last week, the Collaborative for Student Success—in concert with the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Edunomics Lab—launched EduRecoveryHub, a one-stop online resource spotlighting promising practices for pandemic recovery. From accelerating learning to using data to drive decision-making, the new platform calls attention to innovative and noteworthy practices from states and school districts across a broad range of topics.

California lays a not-so-golden egg on state testing

Dale Chu

January 12, 2022

Last Friday’s news dump by the California Department of Education was as disappointing as it was woefully overdue. Student tests scores in the state plummeted, as did the number of students who took the assessments at all. Indeed, less than a quarter of California students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced tests last spring.

As the assessment world turns

Dale Chu

January 10, 2022

With school accountability drawing some attention at the top of this new year, the elephant in the room continues to be what Uncle Sam has in store for its red-headed stepchild – spring testing. There’s a growing sense that the feds plan on taking a hands-off approach once again, by issuing matter-of-fact statements about the law being the law while—with a wink and a smile—doing little to actually enforce it.

Curriculum and Assessment: The Peanut Butter Cup of Education

Dale Chu and Jocelyn Pickford

December 09, 2021

As part of the recent launch of AssessmentHQ’s new sister site, CurriculumHQ, Dale Chu sat down with his Curriculum A-B-C counterpart, Jocelyn Pickford, to talk about the important links between curriculum and assessment. Both former teachers, Jocelyn and Dale had a lot to say on the synergy between the two – including how, like a favorite candy, they’re better together. The following is a snippet of their conversation.

Will assessment history repeat itself?

Dale Chu

December 01, 2021

As conversations about the opportunity to rethink standardized testing gain steam following two years of pandemic-related interruptions, it’s worth remembering what happened the last time we got roped into an assessment rodeo of sorts. I’m referring, of course, to Race to the Top and the $330 million award that was made to PARCC and Smarter Balanced to develop a new generation of assessments back in 2010

Lots and lots and lots of assessment activity

Dale Chu

November 16, 2021

At first glance, a new report from KnowledgeWorks on emerging trends in K-12 assessment innovation is impressive. Indeed, it paints one of the rosiest pictures I’ve seen on the current state of play on this important yet precariously fraught topic.

Trick or trade-offs: The tensions in assessment innovation

Dale Chu

October 29, 2021

With Halloween right around the corner, I’ve been catching up on some light reading and came across this gem by the Center for Assessment’s Scott Marion and Carla Evans titled, “Following their Lead: Conversations with Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority State Leaders.” Their piece summarizes lessons learned from state officials in three of the five states implementing assessment pilots as part of IADA, exploring key challenges and advice for other states interested in pursuing their own pilot programs. It’s an easy read, and helpfully broken up into sections featuring short video clips from their interviews.

Latest NAEP results suggest we’re at a critical inflection point

Dale Chu

October 19, 2021

The bad news keeps on coming. A different iteration of the nation’s report card, the “Long-Term Trend Assessment (LTT),” raises additional concerns about how our students were faring even before the pandemic took hold (i.e., the results are from late 2019/early 2020). The upshot: the gap is growing between the highest and lowest performers, with scores for 9-year-olds flat since 2012, and the scores for 13-year-olds falling in both reading and math for the first time in the 50-year history of these exams.

Asking the wrong questions about the 2021 standardized test scores

Dale Chu

October 06, 2021

Is testing a failed strategy? This was the implication by a prominent testing critic in a recent piece for The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, in which he outlined eleven pointed questions for state lawmakers and other policymakers as part of what he called an “assessment of the assessors.” Punctuated with an emphatic “Testing is not learning!,” the author’s thick layer of snark clouds what could have otherwise been a thoughtful and constructive piece on the future of state testing.

Florida man causes stir on state assessments

Dale Chu

September 20, 2021

All eyes are on the Sunshine State in the wake of Governor Ron DeSantis’ call for retiring the state’s annual assessment system in favor of shorter “progress monitoring” tests. The move took some of the heat off of the state’s contentious mask debate while generating broad support within Florida’s education community. The political stars have been aligning against standardized testing for quite some time, but the governor’s announcement came as surprise nonetheless in light of Florida’s long history as a staunch proponent of annual testing and accountability.

The role of assessment data in driving educational opportunity

Dale Chu

September 07, 2021

The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) recently published an interview with Dr. Sean Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education at Stanford University. Reardon is known for his scholarship and commitment to measuring educational opportunity, as well as bucking conventional wisdom with studies like the one he did in 2017 that examined standardized test scores in ways that challenge how we often look at wealth and education in America. For instance, without Reardon’s work, we might not recognize the progress of large urban districts like Chicago.

Rising above the zero sum, anti-testing din

Dale Chu

August 19, 2021

Today, an impressive coalition of fifteen leading policy, advocacy, and member organizations wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking for clarity on how the federal government will provide guidance and oversight to states in fulfilling ESSA’s testing requirements for the 2021-2022 school year. Importantly, the group includes recommendations for the future of assessments as well as a set of principles and suggested sources for stakeholder input.

Cheers, jeers, and chandeliers: Assessment edition

Dale Chu

August 17, 2021

The assessment-related news keeps on coming! Here are some noteworthy happenings in three states:

Five states that are “doing it” on testing and recovery

Dale Chu

August 09, 2021

Tracking the dismaying trend in states like Texas and Indiana, test results in FloridaTennessee, and now Louisiana have also shown dramatic dips in student performance—with bigger drops in math than in reading. In Florida, 52 percent of students are on grade level in ELA and 51 percent in math. In Tennessee, only 29 percent of students are on level in ELA, and 25 percent meet that bar in math. Louisiana’s figures are 40 percent and 27 percent respectively. Granted, these results come from different exams, but the through-line is abundantly clear: Covid has taken a heavy toll on student learning nationwide.

Are another round of federal assessment waivers in the cards?

Dale Chu

August 02, 2021

As state testing data continues to roll in and as schools gear up for a new academic year, it’s not too soon to ask how the feds might handle assessment waivers in 2022. Indeed, the question is almost certainly not if, but when states will begin lining up for flexibility in foregoing annual assessments. To wit, one need look no further than the current rhetoric about keeping remote learning in place to see why states might be back on bended knee once again.

A bitter pill makes for strong medicine in Texas and Indiana

Dale Chu

July 19, 2021

On the heels of some particularly depressing test results from Texas, last week saw the release of another state’s spring assessment scores where the picture was no less grim. Results from Indiana revealed steep declines, highlighting the uneven toll of the pandemic that adversely affected low-income students and families in particular. Although the rough news from Texas and Indiana was anything but unexpected, the abysmal numbers underscore the years-long task ahead of schools as they begin the long process of education recovery.

Is it time for “forward-looking” assessments?

Dale Chu

June 28, 2021

As predicted, two consecutive years without state testing has provided the permission structure for some to begin questioning the utility of statewide standardized assessments. Take California as a prime example, where Uncle Sam afforded local jurisdictions an escape hatch from federal testing requirements via some dizzying verbal gymnastics, which resulted in many districts foregoing state exams altogether. To wit, one local superintendent recently wrote in an Education Week opinion piece that he doesn’t “see much educational value” in the annual ritual of administering the Smarter Balanced test—which he describes as “backward-looking”—and much prefers what he calls the “forward-looking” information provided by his district’s formative exams.

The complexities of K-12 testing

Dale Chu

June 23, 2021

The original eduwonk, Andy Rotherham, penned a worthwhile read recently on where we find ourselves on K-12 testing, along with the inescapable tensions that are part and parcel of the competing interests and aspirations involved. Rotherham correctly observes that the “holy grail” are exams that can “yield good information for parents, teachers, and in aggregate for policymakers, about what students know and are able to do but is embedded in the day-to-day of schools in ways that make it less visible and intrusive.” But is such a test attainable?

WEBINAR: How ed leaders are using state test data for pandemic recovery

Dale Chu

May 25, 2021

On Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Collaborative for Student Success will be hosting a webinar with the state schools chiefs from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi to discuss the benefits of state assessments, and how they plan on using student test data to drive pandemic recovery. I’ll be moderating the event with questions about how each of these leaders plan on communicating the value of assessments, to say nothing of the broader need to improve upon the way we talk about state testing in our schools. I’d welcome any questions you have for them too.

New Mexico: And the Razzie goes to…

Dale Chu

May 18, 2021

As I’ve made my way through states via the assessment power rankings, a question I sometimes get is which one has been the most egregious. An argument can be made for the nation’s capital, the only jurisdiction to receive an official pass from state testing, but they can’t be entirely faulted for Uncle Sam’s complicity. MichiganGeorgia, and New York would also be in the mix for being woefully underwhelming, but there’s one state in particular that’s fallen down on the job in spectacular fashion. That ignominy goes to New Mexico, which earns the “Razzie” for worst approach to spring testing in 2021.

What parents need to know about state assessments

Dale Chu

May 11, 2021

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).

Indiana: Using test data to study the pandemic’s effects

Dale Chu

May 03, 2021

The time for states to make their case for waiving out of testing this spring is likely at an end, but the period for mischief-making is just getting started. In the coming weeks and months, in addition to examining assessment waivers, I’ll be using this space to look at how states have encouraged or discouraged schools and families—actively or subtly—from testing their students, as well as how they’re using assessment data to help get students back up to snuff. Sadly, there are some lousy and lazy practices being effectuated, but let’s start with a bit of positive news from the Hoosier state, which has taken a pole position on using state testing data to help drive their education recovery efforts.

Arkansas: Every student should test

Dale Chu

April 20, 2021

As some states and districts duck out of testing for a second consecutive year, it’s easy to forget that others have been resolute and standing firm. Arkansas is one such paragon, where state leaders have remained steadfast in their commitment to state testing and the concomitant understanding of Covid’s impact upon schools. To wit, a spokesperson for the state’s education agency said, “It’s important that we measure student learning. We weren’t able to test last spring, so it’s even more important that we test this school year.”

Oregon: Setting a low bar

Dale Chu

April 07, 2021

Late last night, the U.S. Department of Education approved Oregon’s amended waiver request. The verdict itself was expected given the similarities with Colorado’s approved waiver (more on that below) coupled with the opening of Oregon’s testing window next week (i.e., April 13th). Nevertheless, the state’s plan is still worth reviewing on its merits as part of our assessment power rankings.

Michigan: If at first you don’t succeed…

Dale Chu

April 05, 2021

Last summer, Michigan became the first state to formally seek federal permission to suspend state testing in 2021—a full ten months before the assessments were even slated to begin. Former education secretary Betsy DeVos appropriately denied that request, but Michigan was undeterred and submitted a second application in January. Instead of administering the statewide exams, Michigan is proposing the use of local “benchmark assessments”—an approach that’s popular among the dozen or so other states currently in the mix for assessment waivers.

Washington: Will the feds go for its NAEP-like proposal?

Dale Chu

March 31, 2021

Last week, Washington state filed their assessment waiver request with the feds, proposing to conduct a NAEP-like sampling of approximately 50,000 students—in selected grades and content areas—in lieu of attempting to test the 700,000 students across the state ordinarily eligible in a given year.

Assessment power rankings: States with the best approach to measuring student progress

Dale Chu

March 29, 2021

With testing season about to begin (or in some cases, having already begun), states are wrestling with a host of tricky decisions regarding the administration of annual assessments. The hurdles are particularly daunting in states where schools have continued to remain shuttered (i.e., the West Coast and Maryland), creating cascading tensions along class and race. It’s important to be upfront about these challenges and to acknowledge the efforts of state and district leaders across the country as they grapple with a school year like no other.

Will the feds waver on waivers?

Dale Chu

March 08, 2021

Despite last month’s letter from the U.S. Department of Education announcing that it won’t grant blanket testing waivers this year, a number of states plan on pursuing one nonetheless.

Biden throws a wet blanket on blanket waivers

Dale Chu

February 23, 2021

With more states signaling interest in skipping annual testing in 2021, the Biden administration announced yesterday evening that it would not be issuing blanket waivers on state assessments. In a letter sent to state education chiefs, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) correctly underscored the importance of state tests in “advancing educational equity” along with the “vital importance” of parents, educators, and other key stakeholders having access to student performance data. The decision garnered mixed reactions, with testing skeptics expressing disappointment and testing advocates breathing a sigh of relief.

How waivers could be the hundred-and-first blow against testing

Dale Chu

February 17, 2021

With Miguel Cardona’s confirmation and installation as the nation’s next education secretary imminent, it’s worth reviewing the stakes attached to one of the most immediate and consequential decisions he will have to make: Whether to offer testing waivers to states for a second consecutive year.

What President Biden’s EOs mean for state testing

Dale Chu

January 25, 2021

Joe Biden wasted no time last week in signing a flurry of executive orders (EOs) in the first hours of his presidency. Two actions in particular are worth noting because of the language employed and its potential implications for state testing.

More questions than answers on state testing

Dale Chu

January 11, 2021

As the second semester gets underway, the debate about whether or not the federal government should waive state testing will soon come to a head. Betsy DeVos is gone and, although she said she wouldn’t offer waivers again, decisions about what to do this spring now fall to Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona. The pressure he faces will be significant, with growing calls from various groups to skip the tests. One potential solution is the use of remote assessments, a topic explored last month in Forbes by the Collaborative for Student Success’ Jim Cowen. Given the number of questions about its feasibility, Cowen’s Q&A with national test vendors offers reason for encouragement and helps to fill a vacuum of information.

Preparing for an education recovery

Dale Chu

December 14, 2020

Uncertainty about the status of spring testing notwithstanding, schools and systems across the country are steeling themselves for what could be a long road ahead. Even as the pandemic intensifies, public officials are recognizing the importance of annual assessments to support a post-Covid recovery. States understandably had to forgo testing last spring and the NAEP has now been put on ice. Taken together, annual state tests in 2021 are arguably more important than ever.

Ixnaying the NAEP

Dale Chu

November 25, 2020

In a breaking but not altogether surprising move, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) just announced their plan to delay the biennial NAEP assessment of reading and math. According to James Woodworth, NCES’s commissioner, there are not enough students physically attending school to allow for a valid and reliable administration next year.

A new administration and an uncertain future for annual testing

Dale Chu

November 18, 2020

California just shortened its annual test for next spring. New York has canceled its January round of Regents exams (standardized tests in core high school subjects). And with the virus resurging, the prospect of low student turnout is causing concern in states like Ohio and North Carolina, where one parent reportedly had this to say when she was told she had to send her eighth-grader to school for in-person testing:

“Make me. I’m very high risk, and I’m a single parent and don’t want to leave my child without a mother.”

To test or not to test? That is the question.

Student assessment during COVID-19: A conversation with Laura Jimenez (Part III)

Dale Chu

October 27, 2020

In the final installment of this three-part interview, Laura looks into her crystal ball and provides some predictions on the future of state assessment.

Student assessment during COVID-19: A conversation with Laura Jimenez (Part II)

Dale Chu

October 22, 2020

Laura Jimenez is the Director of Standards and Accountability at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy and research think tank. Last month, Laura authored a report titled Student Assessment During COVID-19, which discussed why schools should assess students next year using annual state tests; the role other assessments might play in supporting high-quality instruction; and what states and systems can do to support measurement and data in the wake of the pandemic. Because of her expertise in state assessment systems, Laura was a guest speaker last summer as part of Assessment HQ’s webinar series. I wanted to spend more time delving into her paper and her outlook on state testing. In part two of this three-part interview, Laura makes the case for state testing and offers some advice on how the federal government can help.

Student assessment during COVID-19: A conversation with Laura Jimenez (Part I)

Dale Chu

October 15, 2020

Laura Jimenez is the Director of Standards and Accountability at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy and research think tank. Last month, Laura authored a report titled Student Assessment During COVID-19, which discussed why schools should assess students next year using annual state tests, the role other assessments might play in supporting high-quality instruction, and what states and systems can do to support measurement and data in the wake of the pandemic. Because of her expertise in state assessment systems, Laura was a guest speaker last summer as part of Assessment HQ’s webinar series. I wanted to spend more time delving into her paper and her outlook on state testing. In part one of this three-part interview, Laura talks about what states should be doing now on testing and which states are leading the way. Here’s what she said.

Beyond the Scantron: Tests and Equity in Today’s Schools

Dale Chu

October 07, 2020

The George W. Bush Institute recently produced an informative and highly engaging 13-piece series examining the importance of high-quality assessments and why they continue to be an essential guardrail for educational equity and excellence. The conversations reflect an assortment of expert voices on how assessments are designed, how they are deployed, how they can be improved upon, and the critical role they play in light of today’s extraordinary circumstances.

The fat lady of testing hasn’t sung yet

Dale Chu

September 03, 2020

Moments ago, the U.S. Department of Education appeared to shoot down the testing waiver requests submitted by states like Georgia and Michigan while potentially deterring those currently in the works in other states.

When it comes to testing waivers, some won’t take no for an answer

Dale Chu

August 12, 2020

Last month, a top deputy to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated it would be premature to cancel state testing in 2021, saying, “Our instinct would not be to give those waivers.” His comments came on the heels of considerable buzz in Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina et al. that have already taken steps to scrap testing next spring. The remarks were encouraging, but annual assessments are not in safe harbor yet. To the contrary, the push to cancel state testing for good is just getting started.

Take Five for Testing

Dale Chu

July 15, 2020

There’s been a lot happening in the world of assessment. In case you missed any of it, here’s a quick recap of five stories:

A quick recap of “Measurement Matters”

Dale Chu

June 22, 2020

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of hosting the first of three online events delving into the proper role of assessments in the wake of COVID-19. My guests were Chris Woolard, Senior Executive Director for Performance and Impact at the Ohio Department of Education, and Bill Porter, Partner at Education First. With their depth of experience and considerable expertise, both brought plenty of food for thought when it comes to why states and districts need to focus on assessment and how they might best go about doing so.

Testing in Georgia on my mind (er, the chopping block)

Dale Chu

June 18, 2020

In light of current events, it was bound to happen, but who knew it would happen so soon? Earlier today, Georgia became the first state to signal its intention to seek a federal waiver from 2021 testing requirements. In a joint announcement from Governor Brian Kemp and State Superintendent Richard Woods, the global pandemic is cited as an excuse to put tests on the chopping block because, “Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.” Never mind that the average testing price tag of $34 per student (with Georgia likely spending less than this) is a drop in the bucket in the over $10,000 annual per student spend in the state. The craven move by Kemp and Woods is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

On testing, Tennessee looks further south

Dale Chu

June 12, 2020

Last month, Texas made assessment headlines when they offered optional, end-of-year assessments to districts and families free of charge in response to the cancellation of spring testing and the anticipated drag on student performance caused by the pandemic. Not to be outdone, Tennessee just made a similar announcement, albeit aimed at schools and districts rather than individual students and families, that includes three options: a beginning of year readiness test, an item bank for the creation of customized tests, and a full length mock assessment.

Diagnostic assessments: Between a rock and a hard place

Dale Chu

June 9, 2020

Since the cancellation of spring testing, the push for diagnostic assessments this fall continues to gather steam. But as with all things in education policy, dissent is brewing for a host of reasons, centered primarily on equity concerns and the ongoing sentiment that schools and districts should be shown continued leniency and flexibility in the wake of COVID-19. Frankly, I don’t see how a diagnostic assessment works at cross-purposes with providing grace to teachers and students, but the equity-related protests are certainly worth examining more closely.

RESCHEDULED: Assessment HQ Presents: COVID-19, Learning Loss, and the Role of Assessments

Dale Chu

June 8, 2020

Last week, the Collaborative for Student Success joined the Blackout Tuesday movement out of respect and solidarity with the Black community and to help focus online and media attention on efforts protesting systemic racism. In light of these events, we postponed the Assessment HQ Presents: Measurement Matters online event originally scheduled for June 2, 2020, which shifted the timeline for our three-part webinar series.

Assessment HQ Presents: COVID-19, Learning Loss, and the Role of Assessments

Dale Chu

May 27, 2020

Starting Tuesday, June 2nd, Assessment HQ, a project of the Collaborative for Student Success, will present a series of three weekly webinars that delve into the COVID slide and testing related topics, such as the effectiveness of available diagnostic tools and how the recent cancellation of spring testing will complicate assessment data and accountability systems.

A testing template in Texas

Dale Chu

May 20, 2020

Last week, the Texas Education Agency advanced the conversation on fall testing by making optional end-of-year assessments (EOY) available to parents and educators free of charge. Covering most of the same grades and subject areas as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), these EOY assessments are being provided as a resource to help gauge the extent of the COVID slide. Their use is strictly voluntary, and the data will not be used for accountability purposes.

Can we land the COVID-19 assessment plane?

Dale Chu

May 14, 2020

The Center for Assessment just published a curious piece suggesting that the current conversation regarding how to measure the covid slide come this fall is a fool’s errand. The author opens by creating a straw man in the form of a composite question from school and district officials.

A consensus on diagnostic testing

Dale Chu

May 6, 2020

The Collaborative for Student Success recently released the results from a national survey of over 5,500 education professionals, which gauged their perspectives on what schools must do this fall to help students “catch up” from the unprecedented disruption in learning engendered by school closures due to the coronavirus. Notably, the poll showed that diagnostic testing will be more valuable than ever. From administrators and teachers to parents and policymakers, everyone will want to know the extent of the learning loss when students return to school this fall. A high-quality diagnostic assessment can help to pinpoint weak areas and provide actionable data about how to get students back on track.

Why not a race to the top for diagnostic testing?

Dale Chu

April 30, 2020

With spring testing canceled, the need for some form of high-quality diagnostic testing this fall seems to be gaining steam. For the moment, states and districts are still largely focused on basic needs and technology, but I expect the conversation around diagnostics to pick up as we near the end of the school year. As our thoughts turn to reopening schools, a key question in my mind is how to ensure states and districts administer diagnostic testing in a way that quickly and accurately gauges the level of learning loss across all student groups while offering principals and teachers actionable data that will enable them to respond appropriately. Or as Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley puts it, the goal would be twofold: (1) to help educators determine what and where students need to catch up and (2) to help researchers determine which remote learning approaches were the most successful.

New science assessments in Massachusetts

Dale Chu

April 28, 2020

Just because spring testing is on hold doesn’t mean innovation in assessment has come to a halt. Last week, Massachusetts got the green light from the U.S. Department of Education to develop new science assessments for grades 5 and 8 under ESSA as part of the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority or IADA (I’ve frequently written about IADA, including here, here, and here). IADA allows states to pilot new and innovative assessments on a small scale and to develop strategies for statewide implementation over time.

The sound and fury of testing reduction

Dale Chu

April 22, 2020

The convergence of the suspension of spring testing with a bipartisan backlash to standardized tests has raised questions as to what the future holds for annual state assessments. Into the breach stepped FutureEd earlier this week with a timely analysis titled, “The Big Test: The Future of State Standardized Assessments.” The report, written by Lynn Olson and Craig Jerald, traces the roots of today’s lively debate on testing, best demonstrated by the wave of legislative activity in states over the last five years, and sounds an alarm that the critical information provided by summative assessments could be in jeopardy.

Owning the next steps on testing

Dale Chu

April 16, 2020

For all the talk about federal testing waivers and the anticipated COVID-19 learning loss, there’s been far less discussion on what happens next to help students hit the ground running in the fall. As if the stakes weren’t already high enough, NWEA released a study last week that raised the panic level even further. The new research suggests that when students are able to return to school this fall, they are likely to retain about 70 percent of this year’s gains in reading and less than 50 percent in math. As Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, puts it, this is nothing less than “catastrophic.”

Assessments by the numbers

Dale Chu

April 9, 2020

With all of the coronavirus related news vis-à-vis testing, I’ve neglected to mention the exciting updates we’ve made to Assessment HQ’s Explore State Data tool.

The testing terminator

Dale Chu

April 1, 2020

All 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education have sought or received an initial waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to suspend spring testing. Given the extensive disruption in learning, pressing the pause button now makes sense. It’s hard to overstate the implications of foregoing spring testing altogether, but some are apparently not content to stop there.

What will the cancellation of spring testing mean?

Dale Chu

March 24, 2020

Over the last week, we’ve been monitoring state movement on spring testing with our COVID-19 end-of-year assessment tracker. Given the trend, it’s become clear that by the end of the week all states are going to have a testing waiver and will not be testing this spring. With that in mind, we’re going to start looking ahead at the ramifications of this nationwide cancellation of testing, and in future posts explore possibilities for how states might make some lemonade from this.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 23rd (Evening)

Dale Chu

Here’s the latest: Since this morning, several states have announced waiver approval from the U.S. Department of Education and a few have updated their plans to suspend or cancel assessments.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 23rd

Dale Chu

I hope you’re buckled up for more action on state testing this week. Since our last update on Friday, six states—Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wyoming—have taken steps to cancel testing or obtain a waiver. Two states, Hawaii and Wyoming, have publically announced that their waiver was already approved.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 20th (Evening)

Dale Chu

As expected, new developments on state testing are happening fast and furiously. Since this morning, Alabama, D.C., Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Dakota have expressed their intent to pursue a waiver. In addition, North Dakota has canceled spring testing, and Rhode Island is postponing. Please stay tuned.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 20th

Dale Chu

Since yesterday’s post, three more states have made moves.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 19th (Evening)

Dale Chu

Since our update this morning, three more states have made moves on testing: Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Utah. The tracker below reflects these changes.

COVID-19 Tracker Update: March 19th

Dale Chu

March 19, 2020

As promised, this is the first in a series of updates to the COVID-19 end-of-year assessment status tracker we launched yesterday. With conversations happening between a number of national organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the U.S. Department of Education, we’re expecting states to update their positions rather quickly. We’ll be monitoring all of this for Assessment HQ readers and plan to provide additional updates as soon as possible.

State testing at a crossroads

Dale Chu

March 18, 2020

With the remainder of the school year up in the air because of the coronavirus, a growing number of states have announced or are contemplating the cancelation of testing this spring. Nationwide, nearly 40 million students have been impacted by the closures, representing 74,000 schools. To help keep track of where states are on testing, we’ve created a handy chart (see below) here at Assessment HQ to track whether they are delaying, canceling, or moving ahead as scheduled.

Don’t test, don’t tell

Dale Chu

March 16, 2020

As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to accelerate, the most telling response to the closing of schools across over 30 states (and counting) is that the overriding concern appears to be students’ access to meals. It goes without saying that feeding children is a must, but food should be table stakes in an industrialized nation such as ours. As Dr. Howard Fuller poignantly asked, “How is that in the richest country in the world we have millions of children who have to be in school not to learn but to eat? How is that ok?” A close second, and apropos to Dr. Fuller’s incisive observation, is the eagerness among some to use the public health pandemic as an opportunity to cancel standardized testing.

Testing is important? You don’t say…

Dale Chu

March 11, 2020

With the novel coronavirus dominating the headlines, disrupting schools, and upending lives, my friend Michael Petrilli recently made a droll observation calling attention to the irony in how testing is viewed in education versus in medicine now that we’re in the midst of a public health crisis. As it stands, one of the many stumbling blocks in the effort to beat back the new pathogen is both the shortage of testing kits and the inaccuracy of test results.

Will testing irregularities knock the wind out of Chicago’s sails?

Dale Chu

March 11, 2020

In 2017, an analysis by Stanford researchers appeared to show students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) learning faster than almost every other school system in the country. The data was so compelling, it defied conventional wisdom about the relationship between wealth and educational attainment. Not surprisingly, CPS officials have taken great pride in their progress and the tailwind afforded by the positive news and subsequent attention.

Another testing straw man bites the dust

Dale Chu

March 5, 2020

The tried-and-true playbook used by anti-testing advocates is a raggedy, dog-eared one. From test anxiety to student stress, the straw men trotted out in service of eliminating standardized tests are heavy on anecdotes, but light on evidence. Perhaps the most popular example is the oft-repeated yet oft-unchecked claim that the modern testing regime has contributed to an exodus of teachers from the profession.

Burying the lede on analyzing assessment data

Dale Chu

February 25, 2020

A provocatively titled Education Week opinion piece—“Does Studying Student Data Really Raise Test Scores?”—generated some buzz this month thanks to Betteridge’s law of headlines. For those who are unfamiliar, the tongue in cheek law states, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no“. As such, in-all likelihood, many readers didn’t make it past the headline before allowing the piece to confirm long held biases against the utility of standardized testing.

A test of resolve: A conversation with NewMexicoKidsCAN’s Amanda Aragon

Dale Chu

February 24, 2020

Amanda Aragon is the Executive Director of NewMexicoKidsCAN, a New Mexico-based policy and advocacy organization. Last summer, they released a report called A Test of Resolve: Reinforcing High Expectations & Student Progress in New Mexico, which analyzed the impressive gains New Mexico students have made since the state implemented a more rigorous assessment in 2014. Since the release of that report, however, New Mexico has experienced a high degree of turbulence with regard to their state testing system. Because of our shared interest in the link between high quality assessment systems and student success, Amanda has appeared in previous posts here at Testing 1-2-3. And given how much has happened in the Land of Enchantment, I wanted to spend some more time delving into her thoughts and experiences on the issue. I recently talked with Amanda about all of this, and here’s what she said.

Formative assessments results are no slam-dunk

Dale Chu

February 18, 2020

By all accounts, Saturday’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest was a dizzying display of gravity-defying athleticism. Even for the uninitiated, it was hard not to appreciate the performances brought to bear by the aerial artists who competed. Because the scoring for an event like this requires some degree of subjectivity, controversy can often ensue, which was the case in Chicago as fingers afterwards were quickly pointed at the judges’ table.

Putting the testing cart before the standards horse

Dale Chu

February 3, 2020

In what was hopefully the last major skirmish involving the Common Core State Standards (what year are we in?), Florida just announced recommendations for revisions to their state standards following a yearlong review initiated at the governor’s direction. The new standards are now public, but the playbook followed by the Sunshine State was painfully predictable.

On testing, Andrew Yang’s math doesn’t add up

Dale Chu

January 30, 2020

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has worn many hats. The one that simply reads “MATH” gets the most attention, but his role and what he learned as the former CEO of a test prep company merits further scrutiny from education advocates now that he’s earned a spot on New Hampshire’s debate stage.

Major improvements in middle school math

Dale Chu

January 28, 2020

One of the most complete and accurate sources for state proficiency trend data is right here at Assessment HQ. Our Explore State Data tool allows readers to explore data trends in 32 states where four years of comparable data is available. (Additional data will be added soon.) Using the tool, we can observe the good news regarding the hard work of students and teachers in eighth grade math in Colorado, Mississippi, Nevada, and North Carolina.

What the NPP (Yeah, you know me!) might mean for states

Dale Chu

January 17, 2020

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education published a notice of proposed priorities (NPP) for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. In and of itself, the announcement of grantmaking priorities is unexceptional. The Department typically does this each time it administers a grant competition under the program. However, previous priorities have generally been linked to statutory uses of funds. This is the first time the Department has used priorities to link the CGSA with innovative assessments vis-à-vis the Innovative Assessment Development Authority (IADA).

A shot in the arm for innovative assessments

Dale Chu

January 10, 2020

Perhaps concerned by the dearth of takers on the flexibility afforded under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to pilot innovative assessments, the U.S. Department of Education just released a proposed rule related to the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. With this step, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is ostensibly taking aim at increasing the number of states involved in developing the next generation of assessments.

Don’t make testing into a scapegoat

Dale Chu

January 6, 2020

Last month, a Harvard professor—an acclaimed policy expert on assessment and testing—wrote an op-ed piece for NBC News laying the blame for poor student academic performance squarely on the doorstep of standardized tests. Since the advent of test-based accountability, dozens of studies across multiple decades have shown how tests can positively affect student outcomes—but that hasn’t prevented the testing debate from being locked in a perpetual cul-de-sac.

Is Biden backpedaling on testing?

Dale Chu

December 20, 2019

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the 2020 presidential field—on either side of the aisle—willing to offer a full-throated endorsement of annual assessments, but former Vice President Biden’s wobbly-kneed response to an incredibly loaded question at last week’s Public Education Forum was noteworthy nonetheless.

Two tensions in testing

Dale Chu

December 16, 2019

Last week, the Collaborative for Student Success and Education Week held a special event to mark the four-year anniversary of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Participants took stock of the law’s impact thus far, and of the many conversations that took place, it became clear that for better or for worse, ESSA will be the nation’s education law of the land for the foreseeable future.

ESSA turns 4!

Dale Chu

December 3, 2019

Four years ago this month, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law. To mark the anniversary, the Collaborative for Student Success is hosting an event on December 10th at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. The afternoon event will include remarks from some of ESSA’s congressional authors, and feature a series of focused discussions related to the implementation of the law four years after its passage.

The dishonesty of the assessment debate

Dale Chu

November 20, 2019

New Mexican students in grades 3 through 8 will be taking a new state assessment this upcoming spring. The “New Mexico Measure of Student Success and Achievement” — which also goes by the shorter though no more elucidating acronym “NM-MSSA” —replaces the PARCC test after it was scrapped with much fanfare.

Does the bell toll for annual assessments?

Dale Chu

November 14, 2019

The Aurora Institute, formerly known as iNACOL, recently released five state policy recommendations for governors aimed at the future of education, training, and the future of work. What caught my eye was that one of these recommendations focused on pushing the envelope of state assessment systems. Specifically, the Aurora Institute calls out the four states currently participating in the ESSA assessment pilot (a.k.a. IADA, or the Innovation Assessment Demonstration Authority) and highlights a new law in my home state of Colorado that encourages districts to pilot “student-centered,” “next-generation” accountability models. To wit, The 74 just published an opinion piece diving into how these efforts are progressing.

Around the horn with NAEP

Dale Chu

November 5, 2019

Last week’s release of the 2019 NAEP report—the results of which were mostly grim—generated plenty of handwringing and a flurry of responses from pundits and policymakers of all stripes. In no particular order, here are some of them:

The future(?) of state assessment (Part II): A conversation with NWEA’s Abby Javurek

Dale Chu

October 24, 2019

Abby Javurek is the Senior Director of Large Scale Assessment Solutions at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an education services organization probably best known for their computerized adaptive “MAP” tests. They recently announced the development of an adaptive, “through-year” assessment, a new solution that NWEA says eliminates the need for states to administer an end-of-year summative test. They are currently partnering with Nebraska and a consortium of districts in Georgia as early adopters. (Readers might recall that the effort in Georgia is part of ESSA’s demonstration pilot). I recently talked with Abby about their announcement and what it might mean for the future of state assessment. In part two of this interview, Abby discusses how teachers view NWEA’s new effort, what it might mean for equity, and the next steps to look out for.

The future(?) of state assessment (Part I): A conversation with NWEA’s Abby Javurek

Dale Chu

October 22, 2019

Abby Javurek is the Senior Director of Large Scale Assessment Solutions at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an education services organization probably best known for their computerized adaptive “MAP” tests. They recently announced the development of an adaptive, “through-year” assessment, a new solution that NWEA says eliminates the need for states to administer an end-of-year summative test. They are currently partnering with Nebraska and a consortium of districts in Georgia as early adopters. (Readers might recall that the effort in Georgia is part of ESSA’s demonstration pilot). I recently talked with Abby about their announcement and what it might mean for the future of state assessment. In part one of this two-part interview, Abby discusses through-year assessment and how it compares with previous efforts to improve testing systems. Here’s what she said.

Annual assessments, adult success, and amnesia

Dale Chu

October 10, 2019

Education Week just ran a piece by CALDER’s Dan Goldhaber and Umut Özek on the research linking standardized tests and success in later life. The upshot is that there’s vast research literature connecting test scores and later life outcomes, such as educational attainment, health, and earnings, but these links—as compelling as they tend to be—are more correlational than causal. The outstanding question is the degree to which student test scores can predict adult prosperity.

The testing two-step

Dale Chu

October 3, 2019

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of today’s state testing systems. Held under the auspices of the PIE Network, the panel—thoughtfully moderated by Future Ed’s Tom Toch—paired two state-level reform advocates, New Mexico Kids CAN’s Amanda Aragon and Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s Dana Rickman, with two authors of recently published analyses, Bellwether Education Partners’ Bonnie O’Keefe and Future Ed’s Lynn Olson (Olson was recently interviewed here at Testing 1-2-3).

Assessment shouldn’t be a bad word: A conversation with Amanda McAdams

Dale Chu

September 25, 2019

Amanda McAdams, a former practicing attorney and 2011 Arizona Teacher of the Year, is currently the Director of Elementary Education and K-12 Literacy for Lincoln County School District #2 in Star Valley, Wyoming. She is a big believer in the power of assessments and authored a blog post titled “State Assessment Data is a Tool to Help Educators Raise Student Achievement.” I asked Amanda whether she would be willing to share some additional insights here at Testing 1-2-3, and she kindly agreed. To frame our conversation, I used a recent article from Philadelphia magazine that presented standardized testing in a rather unflattering light. I wanted to get an opposing view, and Amanda both provided that and offered some perspective on what might be needed to bridge the gap. Here’s what she said.

Rather than blaming the test, let’s lift up Maryland’s students

Dale Chu

September 23, 2019

A recent contention in the Baltimore Sun that Maryland’s standardized test is to blame for declining math scores doesn’t explain why math proficiency scores among Maryland students on both the NAEP and the ACT college readiness test are also falling.

The new testing landscape: A conversation with FutureEd’s Lynn Olson

Dale Chu

September 16, 2019

Lynn Olson is an award-winning writer and editor, and a senior fellow at FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. They recently released a new report called The New Testing Landscape: State Assessments Under ESSA, which includes a scan of state testing systems across the country, a close look at half a dozen state systems, and interviews with testing experts including state assessment directors and commercial test publishers. I recently talked with Lynn about her new report and what it tells us about the current state of affairs on testing. Here’s what she said.

Balanced assessment: Pipe dream or in the pipeline?

Dale Chu

September 9, 2019

In June, Forbes published an intriguing interview with two educators—Theresa Morris and Christa Krohn—on the evolution of education reform as it pertains to testing in the state of Ohio. Although the piece opens with some questionable assertions about the root causes of today’s K-12 shortcomings, the interview itself contains a few observations worth considering, as well as one eye-raising claim about the progress made on assessment in the Buckeye State.

The assessment roller coaster is far from amusing

Dale Chu

September 5, 2019

Yesterday, Indiana publicly released the results from its new state test and, as predicted, the numbers were sobering. Fewer than half of students passed. Notably, the results continued to show wide disparities across race and demographics: 43.3% of white students passed both the English Language Arts and mathematics exams compared to 24.2% of Latino students and 14.8% of black students.

The lessons of assessment politics are often “ILEARNed” the hard way

Dale Chu

September 3, 2019

Tomorrow, the results from Indiana’s new state test—called “ILEARN”—will be released to the public at the Indiana State Board of Education’s monthly meeting. Wednesday’s release has been preceded by considerable hubbub because the scores are disappointingly low according to parents and school officials who already received their results last month.

The “adversity score” is no more

Dale Chu

August 28, 2019

Well that didn’t take long. Three months ago, the College Board announced with great fanfare its intent to assign an “adversity score” to gauge students’ social and economic hardships. Yesterday, the College Board changed its mind. In announcing the about face, College Board CEO David Coleman stated, “It was very important that we get away from the distraction that there was some single number we were trying to use to summarize a student’s adversity with. And so we abandoned that. It was confusing and it was not a good idea. And we really heard that.” I previously shared some of my thoughts on the matter here at Testing 1-2-3.

End of course exams should be a matter of course

Dale Chu

August 27, 2019

A new study released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looks at End of Course Exams (EOCs) and their relationship with high school graduation rates and college entrance exam scores. Not to be confused with high school exit exams—tests students must pass to receive their high school diploma—EOCs are rarely high stakes. More importantly, EOCs are generally positively correlated with high school graduation rates.

Musical chairs and the politics of state assessments

Dale Chu

August 26, 2019

Over the summer, Tennessee signed a contract with their third company in five years to administer the state’s testing system. As demonstrated by the “Assessments by State” map on our homepage, the lack of consistency is hardly unique to the Volunteer State (though they’ve had a particularly bumpy ride). Not to be outdone, Kentucky and New Mexico, among others, are reportedly looking to redesign their tests, too. But the churn involved when it comes to states and their testing vendors carries significant repercussions, not the least of which is how to get a clear sense of a state’s academic trajectory.

States are closing the honesty gap, but will it last?

Dale Chu

August 21, 2019

Some honest-to-goodness good news today: The latest National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study shows that states have raised the cut scores for proficiency on state tests. Both Education Week and U.S. News and World Report have strong write-ups on the study. What this news means is that the honesty gap—the discrepancy between how proficiency is defined on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and a state’s definition—continues to close. In addition, the gap between states with the highest performance standard and the lowest performance standard are narrowing as well.

Back to school season is a busy one for state testing

Dale Chu

August 19, 2019

With many students returning to school this month, high-quality annual assessments and the significant role they play are as pressing as ever. Annual tests help us all (1) take stock of how well states are doing; (2) gauge state progress toward workforce readiness; and (3) ground education policies and practices in real results. And under the auspices of the latest iteration of the federal education statute, four states have signed on for a unique demonstration pilot to explore new and alternative models for assessing student performance.

Game-based assessments: hollow promise or promising frontier?

Dale Chu

June 12, 2019

When it comes to the future of assessments, gaming is often enthusiastically cited as a potential solution. After all, if standardized tests are boring and gaming is fun, the race to replace the former with the latter is entirely comprehensible. The aura of innovation and excitement surrounding video games in particular makes this an alluring approach, as does the burgeoning market for augmented and virtual solutions to today’s most pressing dilemmas—including assessments that are less static and more individualized.

The SAT “adversity score” brouhaha misses the mark on what matters most

Dale Chu

June 5, 2019

To kick things off here at Testing 1-2-3, let’s take a look at one of the biggest assessment stories of the day. In the wake of the college admissions scandal, the College Board’s announcement last month of a new “adversity score” to measure a student’s school and environmental context was a lit match dropped in a fireworks factory. The response among the chattering class was swift and equally strong. But lost among the hot takes is why the College Board and others felt the need for such a mechanism in the first place, and what this says about the role assessments must continue to play as an important driver of equity.

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3

Dale Chu

May 7, 2019

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3 my new blog on state practices around annual assessments here at Assessment HQ!

 

Sure, the education policy world is chock full of commentary, but there aren’t any outlets I can think of that focus exclusively on the state of assessments across the country. Why assessments and why now? Even though the anti-testing fervor has somewhat subsided in the last few years, there are ever-increasing indications that we must remain vigilant to ensure that assessments are aligned to high standards, informative, comparable, meaningful, and actionable.