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Best Practices for State Assessment Systems, Part I: Summary of a Workshop
the positive consequences?” Clearly, she stressed, it does not make sense to rely on an annual assessment to provide all the right data for every user—or to measure the breadth and depth of the standards.
Looking at the system as a whole will entail not only consideration of intended and unintended consequences, but also a clear focus on the capacity of each element of the system to function as intended. But Goertz pointed out that a more innovative assessment system—one that measures the most important instructional goals—cannot by itself bring about the changes that are desired. Support for the types of curriculum and instruction that research is indicating will foster learning, as well as such critical elements as teacher quality, is also needed.
Staff Capacity to Interpret and Act Many at the workshop spoke about the importance of developing a “culture of data use.” Even as much more data has become available, insufficient attention has been paid to developing teachers’ and administrators’ capacity to interpret it accurately and use it to support their decision making. Ideally, a user-friendly information management system will focus teachers’ attention on the content of assessment results so they can easily make correct inferences (e.g., diagnose student errors) and connect the evidence to specific instructional approaches and strategies. Teachers would have both the time to reteach content and skills students have not mastered and the knowledge of effective strategies to target the gaps.
System Capacity Looking more broadly at the capacity issue, Marion noted that there has been a “three- or four-fold increase in the number of tests that are given” without any corresponding increase in assessment personnel. Yet performance or other kinds of innovative assessments require more person-hours at most stages of the process than do multiple-choice assessments. These issues were discussed in the next session of the workshop, described in Chapter 2.
Reporting of Results Although there have been improvements in reporting, it has generally received the least attention of any aspect of the assessment system. NCLB has specific reporting requirements, and many jurisdictions have better data systems and better technology as a result. Nevertheless, even the best reports are still constrained by the quality of the data and the capacity of the users to turn these data into information, decisions, and actions.