High stakes testing is a ubiquitous aspect of American education. At the macro-level their results have significant influence on education policy and funding, and at the micro-level they shape a student’s academic future. Unfortunately, while the assessments provide meaningful insights to administrators they fail to provide the same formative feedback to the students and instructors who need it the most.
The feedback students and instructors receive from high stake tests is minimal in comparison to the amount of class time dedicated to preparing for them. Students often receive their feedback as broad band scores or achievement levels—needs improvement, fair, good, excellent—which offer minimal insights for students to improve and instructors to adjust their teaching.
There are a number of practical reasons given for the lack of access to standardized test results, the largest being protecting the integrity of the test. A number of others are more administrative, such as the time it takes to evaluate all assessments in a grade-level, school-board, or state and the impracticality of returning them in a timely manner with individual feedback.
Improved technology may provide a solution by building a stronger link connecting evaluators, instructors, and students to discuss and share feedback. For example, a number of private high-stake assessments already use digital or cloud-based platforms to expedite their workflows and formative feedback. Wider adoption of this practice within school boards will allow instructors to adjust their focus and students to improve upon their specific weakness before entering their next academic chapter.
Through the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) individual states have the opportunity to make high stakes testing more meaningful for everyone. Increasing the accessibility of their data may see them influence curricula and pedagogy with a more meaningful bottom-up approach.
About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.