Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools: An Inventory and Preliminary Analysis
With the support of their member districts, the Council of Great City Schools developed and administered a survey of assessment practices to 66 of their member districts in the Spring of 2014. The survey addressed all required assessments, including state summative assessments, mandatory formative assessments, end-of-course assessments, and student learning objectives (SLOs) or other measures for otherwise non-tested grades and subjects. This reports provides a preliminary overview of the findings from the study, which focused on answering the following questions.
What assessments do urban school districts administer?
What are the assessments used for?
How much time is devoted to taking these assessments?
Who requires these assessments?
What do parents think of testing?
Initial findings suggested that the average student in these districts took about eight standardized assessments annually, with the average testing time increasing in the upper grade levels and eighth graders spending the most time testing. Some concerns were raised about the redundancy in some of the assessments that were being administered as well as the impact of long delays in receiving assessments results at the school level on making meaningful instructional decisions.
This set of initial observations about the assessment systems in 66 of the nation’s largest urban school districts provides an excellent summary of the inventory of the kinds and numbers of assessments our students are taking, how often they are testing, how the results are being used, and how the assessments are perceived by parents. This timely compendium of district-level assessment practices provides specificity to the national conversation about student assessments, particularly the growing concerns about overtesting. This is a key document for any stakeholder in the assessment system interested in examining the condition of mandatory testing in schools: policymakers; state, district, and school leaders; classroom teachers; and students and families. While focused on the large, urban school districts, the results of the survey provide some clarity around the debates currently being conducted regarding the amount of testing occurring in classrooms and its usefulness in making decisions for students, teachers, and schools. As SEA and LEA leaders determine their next steps for evaluating their current assessment systems and moving towards the development of coherent, cohesive, and efficient systems at all levels, studies such as this will serve as the backdrop for framing the critical question of whether the value received from the assessment (e.g., guidance for instructional decision-making, identification of student needs, accountability) outweighs the burden (e.g., administration time, staffing, financial costs) associated with its implementation.