From Congress to statehouses to local campuses, it is not uncommon to hear a rallying cry against too much testing. In fact, the issue of annual, independent testing is becoming an important issue this year as policymakers continue to debate the federal role in education.
The Bush Institute offers this “Every Student Matters” document as a way to explain why policymakers of all stripes should retain yearly, objective exams. As this piece says, annual assessment data is critical to inform parents, teachers, and the public about how all students are performing.
Every Student Matters
The success of every student reading and doing math on grade level is vital to the future success of our nation. Annual assessment data is critical to inform parents, teachers, and the public about how students perform.
Therefore, we support retaining annual, statewide, comparable student assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school. These critically important accountability tools provide necessary transparency and objective information for parents and policymakers.
The transparency that resulted from annual assessments with data broken down by categories such as race, income, and gender resulted in unprecedented gains in student achievement, especially for poor and minority students, on the Nation’s Report Card.
Parents, Educators, and the Public Need Clear Information: We believe parents need annual, objective information to make decisions and choices about education for their children. Clear and reliable data from annual, comparable statewide tests tells parents whether their children are meeting state standards. If annual achievement data is not available, a parent will not have a way to compare how their child is performing each year compared to other children in the state. Parents also need better information on the different types of testing, who requires the tests, and the purpose of the tests. In addition to the once-a-year tests in reading and math that federal law requires, states and districts have too often added burdensome benchmark tests that fuel the call for reductions in testing. Parents deserve to know the facts about these frequent benchmark tests that are not required by federal law.
Annual Testing Provides Objective Information on Student Progress: We believe in knowing how every student is doing in every grade, whether low or high income, behind or advanced, students with disabilities, English language learners, white, African-American, Hispanic students or any other minority. Annual, disaggregated information helps to spotlight and close the persistent achievement gap. Prior to the requirement for annual assessments that was instituted in 2002, few states had annual assessments in place. We must care enough about our students to find out how they are doing and confront the issues that performance data reveals.
Annual, Statewide Assessments Allow Comparability: A valid, reliable, and independent state test allows taxpayers, parents and educators to make comparisons of student performance between schools and districts. Without annual assessments, it is not possible to effectively measure student growth from year to year or ensure robust choice and charter programs that allow parents to know how schools are doing every year.
Responsible Taxpayer Policy: We believe in accountability for results for taxpayer dollars. The federal government’s role should be discrete and judicious, allowing state and local policymakers to make day to day classroom decisions about the education students are receiving. However, in exchange for the nearly $15 billion in federal education funding that states and districts receive (and the over $1.3 billion that Texas alone receives) to improve education for poor and minority students, it is right and reasonable to expect states to test annually in order to know how every school and every student is performing every year.