Why Assessments

Students, parents, teachers, and community members all have a right to know if the education system is meeting their individual and collective needs. Annual assessments are an important tool in knowing if that is the case.

States have established college and career-ready standards that set out the skills and knowledge in each grade that all students will need upon high school graduation to be prepared for success in work and college. We envision a future where more young people—regardless of their zip code or economic status—receive the education they need for a strong future and to contribute to a strong America.


Every state education system chooses its own annual summative assessment in grades 3 to 8 and again in high school to measure progress toward all students mastering the state’s standards. Across the country, there are a variety of assessments being used, which include (but are not limited to) the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), ACT Aspire, and others. More information on the assessments each state is using in grades 3 to 8 can be found here.

Annual assessments are just one component of a state’s assessment system and have their own unique role. These assessments, or tests, play a critical role in helping educators and policymakers at the state, district, and school levels know how well schools are serving every student.

Defining Assessments

Formative: Used on an ongoing basis to inform teaching practice.

Interim: Taken throughout the school year to understand progress toward student mastery of learning goals.

Summative: Taken at the end of the course/school year and used to evaluate student mastery of learning goals and educational system performance.

Educators, parents, and policymakers together can use these data to compare student performance across students, schools, districts, and states to ensure all students are receiving high-quality education and to target resources and improvement efforts accordingly.

To further educational equity and improve student outcomes across the country, assessments must be accurate measures of student learning, consistent across years, and should allow for relevant comparisons across state lines.