States are slow to use ESSA testing flexibility
- Though the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers a greater degree of flexibility in testing than in the past, only two states and Puerto Rico have applied for the new “Innovative Assessment” pilot, only three are planning to drop nationally recognized high school exams for the SAT or ACT so far, and no states are opting to use interim assessments, Education Week reports.
- ESSA did not change the requirement for yearly math and English language arts exams for students in grades 3-8, but it does encourage states to eliminate unnecessary tests and encourages states to embrace the ACT or SAT for high school achievement testing purposes.
- Policy experts believe that more states will adopt testing changes as time goes on and more questions are answered, but that they are currently overwhelmed with leadership changes and fulfilling other aspects of the ESSA law.
Testing is a big consideration for states because it affects so many aspects of the educational landscape. Not only do tests impact student outcomes, but in many cases, teacher outcomes as well. Tests must also meet state policy standards and accommodation laws and must be comparable to past data or require a complete reset. In fact, the need for assessments drives a multi-billion-dollar industry.
One example of the debate over testing is the option to use ACT or SAT tests as end of high school assessments. The option seems to make sense as it also serves as an entrance test for many colleges and offers a way to compare scores across states. However, though the ESSA seems to encourage this option, only one state so far as passed the approval process. States still are required to conduct alignment studies to identify how well these tests cover their own individual state academic standards, and they must make sure students who need accommodations have these available to them as they test.
Most school districts still lack choice on assessments, but superintendents who would like to see changes may have to do more to advocate for them. It's likely that as states continue to examine the pros and cons of testing options, more changes may come.