National Conference on Student Assessment: Key Takeaways

Friday, July 24, 2015 -- Ashlee Tatum-Eckley

Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to attend the National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA) in sunny San Diego. NCSA gave us a unique opportunity to really dig into the assessment landscape and more clearly understand some of the drivers that fuel assessment implementations, the challenges that they bring, and success at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. We came away with a variety of answers, as well as new questions. Some of the top-level themes we walked away with concern:

  • best practices in assessments
  • building quality assessments that drive meaningful student interactions
  • delivering actionable data
  • infusing opportunities for competency-based assessments into the classroom environment
  • constructing the right mix of assessments in both quality and quantity

Understanding best practices regarding the ways to structure assessments, methods to identify valid and reliable assessments, and how to interpret and react to data are essential elements of a high-quality assessment process. Be it formative assessments designed to drive learning forward at the topic or standard level, or summative assessments designed to measure a student’s annual learnings, a solid foundation in these elements is essential. Check out this resource from one of the NCSA symposiums to learn more.

NCSA brought forth a lot of questions and explored many innovative methods in which educators are assessing students in new and engaging ways. Questions that were continuously at the forefront and explored through panel discussions, individual presentations, and plenary sessions included “how much is too much?” and “what is the right blend of assessments?” To answer these questions more fully, it’s important to have a clear understanding around an assessment’s purpose and to have confidence in the data that assessment produces. No matter the purpose, assessments should be meaningful and actionable for educators, students, and parents. In conjunction with the NCSA conference, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a framework for states designed to ensure that students are taking meaningful assessments.

Over the coming weeks, we will examine these concepts, sharing key learnings and exploring new opportunities in the assessment landscape.

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