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The daily grind for testing coordinators is often taxing. Despite that ever-consuming work, there are higher level discussions at play that need your input. One incredibly important discussion is around assessment and accountability innovations. Even before the pandemic, there have been calls for change and improvement of our assessments and the systems that surround them, accountability included. The pandemic fueled those discussions and made them more relevant and more possible than ever. This article is one that should be read in its entirity as it provides a comprehensive look at our current system and stakeholder concerns as wel as recommendations for a genuine re-imagination of assessment and accountability. Here are some highlights:


  • The promise of K-12 assessment and accountability systems is to create public transparency and equip stakeholders with important information to improve the quality of public education.
  • Current systems have not lived up to this promise.

Recommendations for collaboration

  • Reorient the ways in which stakeholders work together – stakeholders must be actively engaged in the process.
  • Reorient collaboration within the system – build structures to continually generate and incorporate solutions that come from those closest to the classroom (students, parents, teachers).
  • Improve and expand innovative approaches to assessment.
  • Explore and address common stakeholder concerns about state summative assessments.
    • Standardized test items do not capture deeper levels of knowledge and skills.
    • Assessment results do not provide a full picture of student mastery or school quality.
    • Curriculum has narrowed toward rigid test preparation.
    • Data is not actionable for instruction and data from the classroom is not valued.
    • Instructional time is lost to test preparation and test administration.
    • Assessments are not culturally or linguistically inclusive.
    • Students experience testing stress.

Recommendations for innovative assessments

  • Bring local stakeholders and technical experts together to identify challenges with current asessment systems.
  • Study best practices in other states.
  • Build innovative assessment systems that reduce the footprint of state summative tests.
  • Build-capacity by creating opportunities for professional learning about formative assessments, assessment design, and assessment literacy for educators.
  • Make room for local assessment that equips educators to drive meaningful, student-centered learning.
  • Infuse the system with technical quality (validity, reliability, comparability, etc.) without relying solely on standardized assessments.
  • Think creatively about the articulation of competency-aligned standards.
  • Develop assessments aligned to real-world skills with greater flexibility in the assessment design process.

Recommendations for reimagining state accountability

  • Explore and addresss stakeholder concerns about school accountability systems.
    • Required indicators rely heavily on standardized assessment data and do not represent a comprehensive picture of school quality
    • The heavy emphasis on student outcomes masks important inputs that play a significant role in student opportunity to learn8
    • Communities do not have the ability to incorporate measures that align to their visions and local values
    • Districts are not held accountable for performance despite the significant role they play in managing school quality
    • Access to data and supports is not timely and often comes too late to help students when challenges emerge
    • School identification strategies can stigmatize communities
  • Develop a statewide vision for student and system success after engaging in extensive and meaningful discussions with communities regarding their priorities for school quality.
  • Emphasize holistic accountability systems by emphasizing on system inputs, overhauling school report cards, and creating dashboards that improve access to data.
  • Redesign the process for school identification and improvement that is transparent and provides funding and technical assistance to schools and districts to launch data teams who analyze school performance data and work with state leaders to develop improvement plans.
  • Launch and fund a district accountability pilot to give local leaders the ability to identify new ways of measuring, reporting and leveraging data to improve school quality.


  • Current assessment systems must evolve to live up to their original promise as a tool for helping educators and leaders improve the quality of classroom instruction.
  • Within the boundaries of current federal law, states can undertake key actions to begin exploring more holistic approaches to assessment and accountability.
  • The systems that are built today will be the foundation upon which the next reauthorization of ESEA is built.
  • We are currently living through a critical time in history and have a distinct window of opportunity to bring about much needed change by embracing innovation that builds the infrastructure for the assessment and accountability systems of the future.


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