Accountability, Governance, Indicators, Transparency

March 2022 Assessment Update: Using Data to Support Students

March 2022 Assessment Update: Using Data to Support Students

Statewide assessments are critical tools for measuring student growth, identifying gaps, and targeting resources where most needed. Since the cancellation of 2020 assessments, DQC has followed the national conversation on testing to better understand how parents, educators, and leaders are using assessment data to understand student needs and drive COVID-19 recovery efforts. Here is where things stand as of March 2022.

After two years off, accountability is back for 2021–22. Federal officials have confirmed that states must assign accountability ratings, publish report cards, and identify schools for support and improvement this year. In light of the ongoing challenges faced by families and schools, however, the Department of Education will allow states to make temporary changes to their Every Student Succeeds Act consolidated state plans for the 2021–22 school year only. States can use this flexibility to: 

  • Modify measures to account for missing or affected data. 
  • Incorporate new data that reflect student experiences, such as opportunity to learn (OTL) indicators. 
  • Change how they share accountability data with schools and the public. 
  • Delay timelines for meeting interim and long-term improvement goals. 

Only a few states so far have shared details of their 2022 accountability plans. From those, we have identified a few early trends:  

  • States are evaluating schools only based on current student performance, rather than considering prior year data. California and Kentucky have indicated they will use only data from the current school year for 2022 accountability, and leaders in Pennsylvania have expressed concern about the suitability of 2021 assessment data for drawing comparisons or evaluating student progress. However, at least one state—Colorado—will consider student progress from 2021 to 2022 in this year’s accountability ratings.     
  • States will consider participation in statewide assessments, as well as performance. Alabama will factor participation into its academic achievement indicator, while Colorado will include test participation on school-level performance reports. These changes are in direct response to the uneven participation in 2021 statewide assessments.   
  • States are taking steps to make this year’s accountability less punitive. Colorado will assign school ratings but delay the accountability clock until 2023. Leaders in Missouri have said schools’ accountability ratings can only go up this year, not down. Indiana will eschew ratings altogether, instead launching a public dashboard with key performance data. These actions demonstrate that leaders see this year’s accountability as a way to understand what schools need and provide supports, and not to punish teachers and leaders who are trying their best.  

On the testing side of things, states will administer statewide assessments as usual this year. Federal officials and state leaders have underscored the value of comparable performance data for evaluating student progress in the wake of the pandemic and supporting equitable recovery efforts. Yet teachers and advocates remain concerned that testing will cut into valuable instructional time and should still take a backseat to learning this year.   

Multiple states are reimagining this year’s tests to be less time consuming and better aligned to teacher and student needs. Florida is transitioning to from year-end summative assessments to year-round “progress monitoring,” under which students will take multiple shorter tests throughout the school year. This approach is also known as “through-year assessment,” which supporters argue produces timelier, more actionable data and minimizes disruption to learning. Florida joins at least ten other states that have adopted or are considering adopting some type of through-year assessment system (AL, GA, KS, LA, ME, MT, NE, NC, TX, VA). Other states, including California, Indiana, and New Mexico, have taken steps to reduce testing time, streamline content, and incorporate more culturally relevant language.   

Statewide assessments serve multiple purposes—just one of which is accountability. Leaders rely on the comparable data they produce to allocate resources, make informed decisions, and share information with families and the public. Statewide assessments are also the foundation of growth data, which remains the most comprehensive and equitable measure of school quality and student performance. Leaders at the local, state, and federal level must continue to evaluate current practices to ensure their assessments are producing valid and useful data, while also aligning to the needs of students, teachers, and families.