Student Testing Resolution

By Edna Harrison,2015-04-07 15:33
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1 The Appropriate Use of Student Assessments Today, testing and accountability, instead of curriculum and instruction, have taken center stage in schools and classrooms across the country. As more accountability provisions are piled on schools, staff, and students, attention has shifted away from what kids should be learning and moved to test scores and their implications. H..

The Appropriate Use of Student Assessments

    Today, testing and accountability, instead of curriculum and instruction, have taken center stage in schools and classrooms across the country. As more accountability provisions are piled on schools, staff, and students, attention has shifted away from what kids should be learning and moved to test scores and their implications. However, what seems to have been forgotten is that students and test scores are a reflection of what is taught in the classroom.

    We know that skilled teachers who assess students using high-quality, relevant, and timely assessment instruments use the results to guide their teaching and ensure that students understand the content that is being taught. However, too many schools, classrooms, and students are being held hostage to testing policies that discourage this practice and instead promote the misuse of tests and test results. In some states and districts, these policies have lead to testing, testing and more testing without providing any useful information to teachers or students.

    The AFT believes it is critical to define and describe appropriate test practices and to advocate on behalf of our members and their students for sound and aligned assessment policies at all levels of the system.

The Current Landscape

    Polls and practice have shown us that too many states and districts are using tests inappropriately by:

    o Requiring teachers to use large-scale, state assessments for diagnostic purposes, even

    though such tests do not provide diagnostic information

    o Requiring teachers to use large-scale test results to guide instruction, even though

    teachers receive these test results too late to be used as a guide for instruction

    o Basing high-stakes decisions, such as the ability to graduate or grade promotion, on a

    single test score, even though assessment experts all agree that such decisions should

    not be based on a single test score

    o Using tests, including large-scale and benchmark assessments, that are not aligned to

    the standards and curriculum that teachers are required to teach

o Requiring teachers to use benchmark or interim testsin some cases as often as every

    six weeksto help predict performance on the state-level assessment, even though such

    predictions are volatile at best and only force teachers to narrow their curriculum and

    focus on test preparation

    o Trying to measure the performance of individual teachers based on student test scores,

    even though the tests are not designed to provide such specific information, many are

    not aligned to the curriculum, and the methodology involved has been questioned by


    education experts across the country

    o Requiring that teachers spend valuable instructional time on test preparation, which

    has resulted in testing becoming the center of attention, instead of teaching and

    learning and has resulted in a narrowed curriculum due to the focus on testing solely in

    reading and math

    o Failing to provide adequate professional development opportunities for teachers to

    understand the appropriate use of tests and to learn to design formative (also known as

    classroom-based) assessments that are necessary to guide instruction

    o Implementing policies for students with disabilities and English language learners are

    unfair and serve only to discourage both students and teachers

Recommendations for a Fairer Testing Program for Our Students

    It is imperative that states and districts use tests and student test results for their intended purposes. To help create a common language and understanding of what is appropriate, we’ve defined the most commonly used terms. Examples for each test type are included in Appendix A.

    1. Norm-referenced tests (NRTs) should be used to compare students, schools, district,

    and states with each other. NRTs give us some insight into how students in California,

    for example, compared to students in New York. These tests do not tell us how well

    any of these students did in relation to a standard. Instead, students are scored based

    on how well they did compared to their peers. These results are typically reported as

    percentiles and are reported as a “bell-shaped” curve where half of students will fall thbelow the 50 percentile and half will fall above.

    2. Criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) should be used to compare individual student

    performance against a specified standard. CRTs give us information about whether

    students met the standards. The results are typically reported as performance levels

    (basic, proficient, advanced). Student scores are based on how well they knew the

    content and could answer the questions, and not on how well their peers performed on

    the same questions. Data from CRTs should be used to inform

    programmatic/instructional decisions.

    3. Formative assessments should be used to guide instruction. These assessments occur

    during teaching and are embedded in instruction. Results are received instantly, which

    allows teachers to adjust their instruction immediately. Most are teacher-developed,

    and all should be implemented based on teacher judgment.

    4. Summative assessments should be used to give a snap shot on whether students

    mastered the standards by a particular point in time. These assessments occur at the

    end of a unit of instruction and tell us whether students “got it. Results are also

    received anywhere from two weeks to two months later. As a result, these tests cannot


    guide instruction in the short term. However, results can provide some information

    regarding programmatic/instructional decisions and guide the future delivery of

    material covered during the unit if, for example, all students failed to comprehend a

    specific set of concepts and thus all failed to perform on certain questions.

    5. Benchmark/interim assessments should not interrupt classroom instruction and

    should reflect the standards/curriculum being taught. Benchmark/interim tests that

    are used as a predictor of future success are typically not aligned to the curriculum

    currently being taught and interrupt classroom instruction rather then complement it.

    Benchmark/interim tests should reflect the content being taught in the classroom and

    should serve to supplement and provide another piece of information to teachers about

    their instruction and where each student is in relation to the content they are learning.

    6. Diagnostic assessments must cover a few concepts in depth. In order for an assessment

    to provide educators with diagnostic information about a student it must include

    enough questions about a topic and must include easy and difficult questions (called

    “outliers”) to make a valid judgment. Most tests, including high-stakes tests,

    benchmark/interim tests cover numerous topics which mean they can only have a few

    questions per topic. In addition, these tests are deigned to eliminate “outliers” which

    could skew the data. As a result, they should not be used to make diagnostic decisions.

    7. Adaptive testing should be used to identify the appropriate level that students are

    performing at for a particular subject or concept. Adaptive testing is done by computer

    and asks students more difficult or less difficult questions based on their answers to

    previous questions. Sometimes called “off-grade” testing, this approach allows teachers

    to better focus instruction on each child’s strengths and weaknesses by helping to

    identify the specific concept or process where their learning has broken down.

8. Value-added assessments should only be used to estimate student’s educational growth

    overtime. Value-added can assist schools and classroom teachers in making data

    informed decisions regarding the effectiveness of instructional strategies and programs

    for individuals and groups of students. Value-added is an estimation tool and therefore,

    should not be used to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, or other

    school staff. Effective, value-added assessments must be of high quality and must be

    closely aligned with classroom instruction. In addition, states or districts must create

    data systems that include unique student identifiers to track individual students from

    year to year. Finally, officials must be able to compare test results from year to year on a

    single scale.

    Providing a common language around assessments is a small, albeit important, step in creating a valid and useful assessment system. States and districts must also ensure that: o The state standards are clear, specific, focused on specific content, and provided for

    each grade at the K-8 level and for each course at the high school level


    o The state tests are aligned to the standards and curriculum teachers are expected to

    deliver in their classrooms. A 2006 study from AFT found that only 11 states

    administered tests that reflected the content and skills required in their state standards.

    This means most states have significant work to do to ensure that what teachers are

    expected to teach in the classroom is aligned with what students are expected to

    demonstrate mastery of on the state test

    o Quality curriculum and classroom resources are provided for teachers to use to teach to

    the standards in all subject areas. This will allow teachers to expose students to content

    at is now being squeezed out in many districts while also ensuring that students are th

    prepared for the state test in the subject areas that they already test

    o Assessment literacy professional development opportunities are offered to all school

    staff to help them understand the appropriate use of tests and test results. Topics that

    need to be covered include: appropriate uses of testing, developing quality classroom

    assessments, assessing special populations, incorporating formative assessment

    techniques in instruction, analyzing student performance data

    o High quality and sustained professional development be provided for teachers to assist

    them in implementing a range of strategies to meet all students’ needs, especially

    students with special needs and ensure their success on the assessments

    If we want students to have a deeper understanding of important topics, then we need to ensure that they have opportunities in the classroom to delve deeper into various concepts and skills. This is not possible in the current testing environment that uses test results for purposes that they weren’t designed and requires teachers to spend endless hours on test preparation. Now more than ever the need for content-rich common standards, curriculum, and assessments that reflect these standards and curriculum has become essential.


Appendix A

    Assessment Type Examples

    Norm-Referenced Test Stanford 10

    Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)


    Criterion-Referenced Test Standards-based tests

    state level tests

    Advanced Placement exams

    National Assessment for Education Progress


    Formative Assessment one-on-one and group questioning

    observation checklists

    short quizzes

    Summative Assessment State tests

    end-of-course exams

    Advanced Placement exams Benchmark / Interim Assessment District benchmark tests



    Diagnostic Assessment DIBLES


    DRA (Direct Reading Assessment). Adaptive Assessment Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)

    Children’s Progress Value-Added Assessment TVAAS

    Project SOAR




    o Need to include or maybe write the document to address: The Principles of

    Assessments and how they help promote instruction



    Current Landscape: I suggest that this section provide some concrete examples of polls, article and research that support their statements. Although the issues raised are good examples of the inappropriate uses of tests, perhaps it would include the negative impact testing is having on children, teachers and communities

    Recommendations for a Fairer Testing Program for Our Students: The definitions of various types of tests and the appropriate or inappropriate use of a particular type of test are lumped together. Perhaps it would be clearer if there was a definition and a recommended use for that type of test. Maybe they could also use definitions that are found in the Standards for Education and Psychological Testing of the AERA or some other professional source. Since they provided a policy brief on interim assessments perhaps they could even use the definitions used in that document. I liked the definition in that brief on formative assessment. Number #8 page three Value-added…needs to be

    rewritten. There are value-added models and assessments used in these models. They need to define the assessment and the model.

    On page 4 the bullets are a good start for the what else is needed but it need to be expanded to include the appropriate assessment of all students and the need to know the clear purpose of each and every assessment; how do these assessments help improve student success?


    UFT article is good and provides a beginning rational for formative assessments.

    Margaret Heritage article is excellent. Her paragraph on the student involvement is unique and should be included in any discussion on formative assessment. The knowledge teachers need section is also excellent and provides good information on what professional development maybe needed. The skills teachers need section has a good paragraph on creating the conditions for good formative assessment. Both of these concepts are missing from the third paper The Role of Interim Assessments in a Comprehensive Assessment System. This paper is very well done and I agree with most of the points that are made. My major concern is on page 5, middle of page where it states “…but for evaluating the effectiveness of program, strategy, or teacher.”

    It would be helpful if the AFT would send the materials in word documents so that I could put comments in where necessary. Please let me know if you have questions. Mary Ann.


Mary Ann Awad


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