Student assessments face challenges of quality, cost, and appropriate use, writes scholar Linda Darling-Hammond. Written for school board members, this article is brief and to the point about ensuring and implementing the use of high-quality assessments (a topic covered in numerous publications by Darling-Hammond and other assessment experts—see Related Resources below for a few). High-quality student assessments “measure and promote complex learning skills and instruction for deeper learning” (p. 22), and, importantly, they are used as tools of improvement, being placed in new accountability paradigms that use “assessment data to guide instruction and inform school decision-making” (p. 23), instead of punishing students, teachers, and schools for low scores.
The main points of this article still ring true despite the current assessment landscape, where many states have dropped out of the two main assessment consortia (Smarter Balanced and PARCC) and are looking for end-of-year summative assessments. This article will help district and state educators think about criteria to include for summative assessments that are valid, reliable, fair, and accessible to all learners.