If school leaders understand sound assessment practice, then they can make sound curriculum and instructional decisions. If a teacher understands sound assessment practice, then they are able to meet the diverse needs of all students. If an assessment system motivates all students to achieve success, then school improvement will occur. The importance of assessment literacy simply cannot be overstated and there is real opportunity at hand for schools thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The National Task Force on Assessment Education, together with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a document – The ESSA Opportunity for Assessment Literacy – which provides some insight and guidance on how to leverage ESSA. The document helps states and districts discover provisions and flexibility in ESSA that can be used to promote assessment literacy and develop rich assessment systems. It outlines specific policies, practices, and language that improve individual student learning, ensure greater education equity, and maximize instructional time.
When completing state ESSA applications, here is some advice. Language that explicitly encourages districts to use available funds to support assessment literacy development for teachers, students, parents and stakeholders in instructional and school improvement efforts can increase the quality of teaching and learning. Below is sample language states might consider during their ESSA planning.
Assessment Literacy development can help the State and its LEAs meet the goals of ESSA by maximizing instructional time, engaging students in their learning and building stronger partnerships with stakeholders. Ensuring that educators engaged in conducting and using assessment audits are assessment literate will result in district assessment systems (policies and practices) that are comprehensive, quality and balanced. Assessment systems meeting these characteristics support student learning and effective professional practice of the educators who comprise the system.
For these reasons the State encourages districts to consider including assessment audits and assessment literacy development into instructional and school improvement efforts.
As a member of national and state ESSA Implementation Teams, I recently heard Senator Lamar Alexander and his aides tell us: “One of our biggest worries is that states and local education entities will not use ESSA to change how they do things now that we have given them local control. If they continue to look to the U.S. Dept. of Education to tell them what to do, then we might as well not have passed the law at all.”
I come back to this because some of the states turning in their plans have made few, if any, changes to their NCLB Waiver plans and are simply turning those in to comply with the ESSA plan requirement. Now is the time to make changes and take advantage of ESSA for improving assessment literacy efforts.