As part of the technical assistance provided by the Region 15 Comprehensive Center at WestEd (R15 CC) to the California State Board of Education (SBE) and California Department of Education (CDE) staff, a request was made to the R15 CC to gather data from three selected testing publishers that had supported the administration of spring 2021 local assessments. This information, in addition to the state-level data provided by CDE, may help to provide a fuller picture of student performance in California from spring 2021.
Across the United States, statewide assessments in English language arts and mathematics are federally mandated each school year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. The intent is to help educators, policymakers, and parents directly gauge how students and their school systems are performing against state standards.
Missing nationwide, however, is any systematic state-level attempt to evaluate students’ ongoing progress in grades K–2, the grades that lay the foundation for all later learning.
This paper focuses on this lag in K–2 assessment systems and how states can act to address it. We first review a range of assessment types and their utility for supporting learning in the early years of schooling. We then discuss research findings on state K–2 assessment policies that provide insights for other policy leaders to consider as they work to build K–2 assessment systems that effectively help districts and schools support academic success for their youngest students.
Researchers have long traced achievement gaps in the elementary years back to readiness gaps at the start of kindergarten. Educators seeking to address these gaps, which are associated with race and ethnicity, home language, disability status, and indicators of economic disadvantage, need systematic ways to identify which children need what kinds of support as they begin school.
To help meet that need, over the past decade, states have developed a kindergarten readiness assessment (KRA) that schools and districts can use to evaluate how well prepared each child is to begin learning the state’s academic standards across multiple domains.
In this paper, we review the status of states’ development of KRAs and how states are using KRA data to profile skills at kindergarten entry, help track longitudinal progress, provide early warnings for needed intervention, and guide policy decisions.
The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed all aspects of teaching and learning over the past two school years; and consequently, administration of summative assessments in spring 2021 looks different than most years. And yet, understanding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on student learning is fundamental for being able to develop responsive supports that address the needs of all students, particularly those most affected by the disruptions to learning in the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years.
To meet this need, educators should resist the temptation to conclude that summative assessment data holds no value this year and should instead bring a different mindset to reviewing and responding to assessment data from the spring of 2021. This mindset shift requires that educators and education leaders revisit the stakes and consequences associated with different assessments, consider multiple measures including Opportunity to Learn (OTL) data and information provided by students, families, and teachers to ensure a fuller picture of the performance of our schools and districts.
Our hope is that educators will be able to use this period as an opportunity to re-evaluate their assessment practices and make important shifts toward strengthening assessment data-use practices, making lasting improvements to decision-making, equity, teaching, and — ultimately —student learning and success.
WestEd’s content and assessment experts are available to conduct standards-to-standards alignment studies, which provide: findings to meet rigorous evidence requirements, such as federal peer review guidelines; and key feedback that contributes to quality content standards. This service is available for a range of grade levels and content areas.
WestEd’s content and assessment experts are available to conduct curriculum-to-standards alignment studies, which provide: findings on the alignment between local curricula and state content standards, and key feedback that contributes to quality standards-based curricula. This service is available for a range of grade levels and content areas.