10-Points in the Development of a Quality Assessment Program
I support the use of content standards as one component of an accountability system for the students and schools of the State of Washington. I further believe that state required accountability tests, based on these standards, must be practical and useful to parents and educators. These tests are not appropriate, however, as gatekeepers for graduation or promotion from grade-to-grade.
To ensure that assessment programs are valid, reliable and produce practical information that may be used in the development of high quality academic, career, vocational and alternate programs, it is necessary to work with parents, educators, the State Board of Education and interested stakeholders, to implement a new LEARNING ESSENTIALS ASSESSMENT PROGRAM (LEAP) for the State of Washington.
To assist in this effort, the following criteria serve as the framework:
1. Review current standards to produce high-quality core standards that focus on academic, career, vocational and alternate learning experiences.
2. Re-write these high priority standards in easily understood plain-talk language.
3. Base the new assessments on the core standards. These new assessments will meet high technical standards, minimize interruption of instructional time, be reported in user-friendly reports, have quick turn-around time and be low cost.
4. These well-designed assessments will be appropriate for a broad range of student needs with accommodation and alternative methods of assessment available for students who need them.
5. Ensure that the assessment program also considers grades, teacher evaluations, student involvement and deportment. Good assessment must be broad-based if it is to truly describe learning.
6. Develop and provide to teachers and schools optional well-designed assessments to assist in the classroom assessment of student progress, growth and attainment of standards not addressed by the state tests.
7. Ensure that appropriate assessment tools are developed and attention directed to those areas of the curriculum that are not normally assessed by state tests.
8. Develop and provide adequate funding to allow for the professional development of teachers and other school personnel on the use of instructionally supportive assessments to optimize student learning.
REPORTING AND TRANSPARENCY
9. Design a system to collect evidence to support ongoing improvement of the state assessment program and to report the evidence to the State Board of Education and the Legislature on a biennial basis with straight talk and easily understood information.
10. The resulting assessment program must be open, accessible and transparent, address the real needs of children, and be responsive to the involvement of our parents, teachers, educational institutions, and the public.
* This paper was initially prepared for the Rich Semler campaign for Washington State Superintendent of Instruction by the author with input from others involved in the campaign effort. Special recognition should be given to Dan Madsen for his critical analysis and for several important components. The framework is based on Building Tests To Support Instruction and Accountability: A Guide for Policymakers, prepared by The Commission on Instructionally Supportive Assessment in 2001.