States Take Different Assessment Paths To Insure Student Success

Online Summative Assessments Provided By Seven Testing Companies

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Title 1, Part A

(a)(1) Each State, in consultation with its [local educational agencies] LEAs, must implement a system of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments that includes, at a minimum, academic assessments in mathematics, reading/language arts, and science.
§200.5(a) A State must administer the assessments annually in each of grades 3 through 8; and at least once in grades 9 through 12. [
link to full text]

When the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law it authorized the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program in the amount of $1.65 billion. Although the final amount is in jeopardy, for states to be eligible, they must comply with ESSA Title 1, Part A as summarized above and clarified in a Fact Sheet. That is, each state must implement annual student assessments.

Where do these standards and assessments come from? The ESSA bill makes clear that they will not come from the federal government. Per SEC. 8526A, “No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall … mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school's specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction … including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards.” However, there is nothing preventing states from using the assessments they had developed with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), originally funded by the Race to the Top Assessment program and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).

The most recent task has been implementing the standards into on-line tests. The political challenges associated with the Common Core State Standards has fragmented this project, leaving states to choose from seven companies to provide their state-wide testing. The task of implementing the assessments online requires coding a range of questions that include multiple choice, graphical manipulation, and free-form writing; all on a wide variety of student devices. The testing servers must be capable of handling thousands of students simultaneously. Ideally the tests are scored instantly, to provide administrators with realtime data alerting them to any potential cheating or overloaded servers or networks. Not all the companies that set out to deliver online testing were equipped to handle the task – leading to several debacles, notably in Tennessee, Alaska, and Kansas.

Current Snapshot of State Assessment Dance Cards

At this writing, these are the firms providing online assessment platforms to the states: American Institute of Research (AIR), Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), Questar, Pearson, Measured Progress, Educational Testing Services (ETS), and Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at University of Kansas. AIR and Pearson are the two largest testing providers.

Below is the summary of which vendors have been chosen by each state. In most cases, the states have provided a way to try out sample test questions to get a feel for the online tests and make sure the technology is functioning properly. The links under the “Practice Exams” heading takes you to the actual server, if available, and lets you log in as a guest. For up-to-date information about your state assessments, click the link under “State Testing Info Pages”.

This blog was written by Bob Nilsson with research help from Lisa Yeaton.

This blog was originally authored by Robert Nilsson, Director of Vertical Solutions Marketing.

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