Every year, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hosts the National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA). This year’s conference, held June 24–26 in Orlando, focused on the theme Measure What Matters and Create Accountability for Equity, with the explicit goal of “giving states a forum to share the best practices, strategies, research studies, resources, and innovative methods when measuring student learning and holding districts and schools accountable for educational progress.”
CSAI was well represented at the conference, providing research, tools, and funding to support eight separate conference presentations. These presentations are summarized below, with links to additional details on each, including, as appropriate, any slides used.
A Rigorous Approach to Auditing Statewide Assessment Systems: Lessons Learned from Two States
CSAI co-presented with staff from two states that have recently audited their statewide assessments in an effort to create more balanced systems.
Presenters: Chris Brandt and Matt Gaertner (WestEd), Peter Zutz (Nevada), and Dan Farley (Oregon)
Summary: In response to the Testing Action Plan (released in 2015), states have improved their test development processes, introduced technological enhancements, and implemented more efficient test methods to improve assessment quality and efficiency. States have also recently begun conducting inventories of their assessment systems to examine the alignment between assessments and content standards, identify inefficiencies resulting from assessments with overlapping purposes, and measure the usefulness of results reported to school stakeholders. This NCSA session described a comprehensive and rigorous approach for conducting assessment inventories; presented key findings and lessons learned from the two states that conducted audits; and described how these states addressed cultural, procedural, and political challenges related to implementing audit recommendations and, ultimately, to improving their assessment systems.
Using Assessment Data: Learning from Tennessee’s Grade 2 Assessments
Presenters: Joanne Jensen (WestEd) and Sandy S. Qualls (Tennessee)
Summary: Tennessee has developed a standards-based summative assessment at grade 2; approximately 60 percent of their districts volunteer to administer the assessment. These assessments include items not typically found on statewide summative tests, including reading fluency and listening sentences and paragraphs. These measures help provide evidence of some pre-cursor skills necessary for later achievement. This roundtable focused on how the English language arts and mathematics assessments were designed to provide information to teachers and instructional leaders at the school, district, and state levels through sharing of the test blueprints and item types. Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) staff shared sample reports at the student, class, school, and district levels and explained how they are used to support instructional change. In addition, TDOE staff explained how they use their practice test and released test items to signal their expectations for student achievement.
Multiple Pathways to Assessment Innovation: Diverse Approaches from Three States
Matt Gaertner from WestEd served as a discussant and staff from three states presented their assessment model.
Presenters: Matt Jones (Georgia), Peter Zuts (Nevada), and Chanda Johnson (Louisiana)
Moderator: Abby Javurek (NWEA)
Summary: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provided new opportunities for the creation of innovative assessment systems that fulfill accountability requirements while contributing to the learning and teaching process. ESSA authorization provided states with new flexibility regarding assessments, prompting discussions about how states might implement innovative assessment practices. In this session, participants learned how the Nevada Department of Education is investing in assessment to help more kids read proficiently by grade three, how and why the Louisiana Department of Education is combining English and social studies assessments, and what the Georgia Department of Education is doing to encourage district-led innovation in support of less testing and more instructionally useful data during the year.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Large-Scale Assessment Alignment Expectations, Challenges, and Solutions
CSAI co-presented with science assessment staff from several departments of education at the forefront of NGSS-aligned assessment development.
Presenters: Kevin King (WestEd), TJ Smolek (Michigan), April McCrae (Delaware), and Sara Cooper (Nebraska)
Summary: The assessment development of three-dimensional science standards represents rapidly evolving opportunities. Revisiting similar topics year after year allows for ongoing lessons and growth in understanding. In this symposium, several states at the forefront of NGSS-aligned assessment development shared their current thinking and strategies. States shared lessons learned as development efforts continue to move forward and states still explore new understandings of evolving and emerging NGSS assessment topics. Participants were involved in the thinking and sense-making as alignment principles were explored.
State representatives also shared updates regarding development of NGSS-aligned assessments, focusing on key design and alignment decisions and rationales. The panel, along with attendees, explored the following questions: Can student understanding and ability in certain aspects of the NGSS be measured with fidelity? What are measurement limitations of certain dimensions/aspects of the NGSS?
Next Generation Science Standards Alignment Studies: Leveraging Alignment Protocols to Evaluate Three-Dimensional Science Assessments
Kevin King from WestEd served as a discussant and several state and research partner representatives shared their perspectives on the unique challenges related to NGSS alignment studies in this session.
Summary: Over one-third of U.S. students live in states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (NSTA, 2018). Most of these states have begun assessment development work, and many are either completing or designing alignment studies to evaluate early efforts at development. The multidimensional nature of the NGSS has advanced the development of novel item types, including item clusters intended to present complex scientific phenomena in a manner that reflects how science is carried out in the real world.
The predominant themes that Mr. King observed were that the nature of these new standards require a re-evaluation of expectations of all those involved in these alignment studies (e.g., panelists, study leaders). There needs to be a responsiveness of study designs, anticipating the outcomes as related to the varied levels of expertise in the standards and the assessment nature of the standards. The field needs to find a balance of leveraging solutions at the right level of need, without overly complicating proposed solutions.
Using Data to Inform Standard-Setting Recommendations
CSAI co-presented with staff from three states that are using data to support their standard-setting processes.
Presenters: Matt Gaertner (WestEd), Jennifer Judkins (Maryland), Jan Sibley (Louisiana), and Roger Ervin (Kentucky) | Moderator: Eric Moyer (Pearson) | Discussant: Mary Pitoniak (ETS)
Summary: Standard-setting methods have focused on utilizing content information to determine recommendations for performance level cut scores on assessments. In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on using data to inform educational changes. This emphasis has encouraged the inclusion of external criterion data as part of standard-setting processes. This session explored the integration of external data as part of standard-setting for three assessment programs: the Kentucky Science Assessments (KSA), the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) 2025, and the Maryland Integrated Science Assessments (MISA). Each presentation provided an overview of the assessment, the standard-setting process, the preparations, and the challenges and benefits of incorporating external data.
Critical Content Supporting Statewide Formative Assessment Practice
Presenter: Sandy Chang (CSAI)
Summary: Formative assessment is enacted by teachers and students, but successful implementation of formative assessment practices depends on stakeholders at every level of the education system. This presentation described the resources and strategies CSAI developed to support states in establishing common expectations, supportive conditions, and effective capacity-building strategies for scaling up formative assessment. A major part of this work involved a series of webinars with associated implementation support materials. Each webinar targeted one of four levels of practice—state, district, school, and teacher roles—that all worked together to establish common understandings and promote coordinated implementation action. Each webinar addressed definitional clarity, formative assessment within a balanced assessment system, elements of the formative assessment process, and possible implementation strategies customized to the roles at each level.
Summary: The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) is working toward a consistent statewide understanding of formative assessment and its role in instructional processes. ADE promotes professional learning communities (PLCs) as vehicles for ongoing cycles of inquiry around common formative assessments. This multidimensional approach to formative assessment practices increases impact on student achievement. Working as a state-level PLC, the South Central Comprehensive Center, the Central Comprehensive Center, the Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation, and seven member states have generated new resources of ongoing support, including a webinar series, Setting the Stage for Formative Assessment. This presentation discussed how ADE has leveraged this collaboration to help Arkansas establish a common understanding of formative assessment, and much more.