Testing Action Plan
On October 24, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released their Testing Action Plan, calling on states to ensure that the assessments students are being administered are rigorous, fair, non-redundant, and tied to improved teaching and learning. The guidelines included in this Action Plan reflect the results of research and stakeholder input on the use and impact of assessments on students and schools, and they are intended to support states and districts in evaluations of their assessment systems.
This spotlight provides an overview of the Testing Action Plan announcement, as well as resources to guide states and districts in the evaluation of their assessment systems. Below these are links to state initiatives that have focused on evaluating and revising student testing.
Overview and Guidance
Testing Action Plan
This Fact Sheet from the U.S. Department of Education outlines principles for fewer and smarter assessments. It encourages state and local education agencies to maintain the presence of good assessments in the instructional process, while providing assistance and guidance in strengthening and improving state and district assessment systems.
CSAI has created a handout that provides an overview of the Testing Action Plan and the support that the U.S. Department of Education will provide to states to meet Testing Action Plan principles.
CSAI has also created a resource that presents questions and data sources that might be used as states and districts analyze and modify assessment systems to align with Testing Action Plan principles.
Updated Guidance for Testing Action Plan
On December 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released further guidance for the implementation of Testing Action Plan principles. Included in this updated guidance is additional information on funds from specified ESEA programs can be used to support state and district efforts to improve assessments, conduct assessment inventories, and develop systems to support use of assessment results in improving teaching and learning. This updated guidance includes examples of how federal funding can be used to implement efforts aligned with Testing Action Plan principles, along with additional resources to support states and districts.
State and District Initiatives to Review Testing Systems
States and districts across the country have identified the issue of over-testing as a key concern. Recent examples of how state and local leadership have addressed this concern are highlighted here.
In June 2014, the governor signed Assembly Bill 484 into law, replacing California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program with a new program, the California Assessment of Performance and Progress (CAASPP). In addition, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) was charged with providing recommendations for expanding the CAASPP. As part of this process, the California Department of Education (CDE) engaged in activities during the 2014–15 school year to solicit stakeholder feedback and reflect on the current assessment and accountability context.
In fall 2015, the CDE contracted with WestEd to study all existing documentation associated with this initiative, and complete the following tasks: develop a California assessment system framework; facilitate advisory panel meetings; and develop culminating recommendations. WestEd produced a report that articulated a vision for a comprehensive, coherent assessment system in California.
In 2014, Colorado collaborated with the West Comprehensive Center to conduct a study on its state assessment system. The purpose of the study was to discern and examine issues and concerns associated with implementation of the new state assessment system, and provide feedback to Colorado that informs policy, practice, and future directions.
In 2015, Delaware completed a comprehensive assessment inventory with the goal of decreasing testing burden and increasing instruction time. The project was funded by grants that allowed all districts and schools to conduct in-depth inventories, creating opportunities for local-level recommendations and action plans. This page includes subject-specific tables for each content area reviewed and resources for conducting an assessment inventory.
District of Columbia
In preparation for the 2015–16 school year, the District of Columbia Public Schools assembled a task force to review the district’s assessments. After the review, the task force recommended that the district: ensure the quality of required assessments; improve school supports for analyzing assessment results; and improve communication to families.
Following a comprehensive review of all standardized assessments used in Florida’s school districts, the Florida Department of Education released a report recommending substantial reductions in required assessments. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in particular, responded by eliminating 24 benchmark assessments and 300 end-of-course tests.
CSAI and the West Comprehensive Center (WCC) worked with the Nevada Department of Education to conduct an assessment inventory. CSAI created a survey to collect feedback from district test directors on the purpose and value of state- and district-required assessments. To further explore perceptions of district and state assessments’ purpose and value, WCC conducted focus groups with testing/assessment office staff, principals, teachers, students, union representatives, and community members.
Full reports of CSAI and WCC studies are listed below, along with summaries and expanded summaries.
- Assessment Survey Full Report
- Assessment Survey Expanded Summary
- Assessment Survey Summary
- Assessment Focus Groups Full Report
- Assessment Focus Groups Expanded Summary
- Assessment Focus Groups Summary
In 2014, the New York State Education Department launched 31 competitive grants to support evaluation of local testing systems. The funding has allowed districts to identify high-quality assessments that support instructional goals, form action plans that will eliminate testing redundancy, and establish professional development programs to aid teachers in identifying high-quality assessments and improving assessment practices.
In 2014, North Carolina’s Research Intern Program released a report describing the number of assessments and time spent taking assessments for K–12 students, the purpose of those assessments, and recommendations on reducing testing burden. In the wake of the report, the State Board of Education convened a task force focused on reducing testing time and burden.
In 2014, the Rhode Island Department of Education and the state’s School Superintendents’ Association began a review of state and local assessments. The examination included focus groups and community meetings, as well as a working group of four districts for the purposes of streamlining assessment systems.