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Every Student Succeeds Act

How Can Standardized Testing Work Better for Schools and Students?

By Alyson Klein — January 29, 2016 1 min read

High-stakes standardized tests are about as popular as indoor recess these days. And states will get the chance to de-emphasize tests—in favor of other factors, like school climate—when they develop new accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act. (Just how little could tests count for when it comes to rating schools? We won’t know for a while.)

So how are tests functioning now in accountability, and how could they be functioning better? The Center for American Progress—a left-leaning think tank whose ranks include a lot of former Obama administration aides and could-be Hillary Clinton administration officials—spent weeks surveying parents and educators. It found that:


  • Parents see the value of tests in general, but not so much for their own children. Plus schools don’t always explain what happens with the results.
  • State tests don’t always align with curriculum.
  • Results take way too long to come back and aren’t always used to improve teaching and learning.

CAP has some recommendations for helping the schools, districts, states, and even the feds make better use of standardized tests, including:


  • Get rid of redundant tests. (This has been an Obama administration theme over the past couple of years, even though the administration spent its first five years or so arguably making high-stakes tests even more high stakes, by attaching them to evaluations.)
  • Do a better job of explaining to parents why tests matter and how the results are used.
  • Make test day as a “pleasant as possible” for kids, and cut back test-prep time.

Additionally, the department should help states apply for the “innovative assessment pilot” in ESSA, which will allow states to try out new approaches to testing, as New Hampshire is doing right now.

You can read the full report here.