Dec 262015

Performance Testing

Outlook: Schools push for sensible testing

Performance Testing: School districts prioritize formative and performance-based assessments

Resistance and frustration over standardized assessments and learning standards may have reached critical mass.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents to a DA survey expect of opt-out movement against testing to grow in 2016.

In October 2015, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education released a testing action plan, acknowledging that, “In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students.”

The action plan recommends capping the amount of class time devoted to standardized testing at no more than 2 percent and promotes high-quality and innovative assessment practices. So what will assessments and learning standards look like in 2016 and beyond? It’s not so easy to predict.

“If you look at the polls around assessment, it’s not that people object to having some form of assessment, they object to too many and tests that aren’t aligned and don’t give useful feedback,” says Vicki Phillips, director of education, college ready with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The question now is, how do we get smarter about assessment? How do we make standards and assessments more useful, more meaningful to teachers and kids?”

Decrease in testing time

Students in grades 3 through 11 spend more than 20 hours per school year on testing, according to a study by the Council of Great City Schools. Concerned educators and legislators have been cutting back the time devoted to standardized assessments.

“In the last two years, half a dozen states, including California, Georgia and Arizona, have eliminated a graduation test and many, many states have cut back on testing,” says Robert Schaeffer, public education director at the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

PARCC will reduce the testing time for students by 90 minutes and decrease the number of test units by two or three in 2016, so students in grades 3 through 11 will take no more than seven units, divided between ELA and math.

Smarter Balanced has not announced any decreases in testing time or units, but Executive Director Tony Alpert says the consortium is “coming up with efficiencies that will make the system work better for the people who need to use it.” Smarter Balanced is improving its collection of possible test items and communication between schools, states and test coordinators, he adds.

Continue learning standards

The Common Core continues to be politically volatile—and the results from the first round of assessments were less than impressive. Still, most experts predict educators will spend the next year digging in and working to incorporate the standards—perhaps under other, state-specific names, such as Wisconsin’s “Badger State Standards.”

States, districts, schools and teachers now have the first standardized information that explains where gaps may exist in implementing Common Core standards, Alpert says. This will lead teachers to rethink how they are teaching their students, he adds.

Administrators can support teachers’ efforts by setting regular time aside for professional learning, collaboration and development. “Our uphill battle now is, how do we significantly increase the quality of implementation?” says Deborah Delisle, executive director of ASCD.

So far, not enough time has been given to teachers to work collaboratively and to think about what high-quality instruction looks like—what does it look like on an English paper from a seventh-grader? Delisle asks.

Emphasize formative assessment

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