Federal Requirements for State Assessments

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states must continue annual statewide tests in reading/language arts and mathematics to all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school, as well as in science at least once in each of grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. State assessments must align with the full breadth and depth of state academic content standards and measure student achievement based on challenging college- and career-ready state academic achievement standards or based on alternate academic achievement standards. The ESSA reauthorization affirms the importance of statewide assessment as a way to provide annual measures of student progress, while shifting away from standardized testing and allowing for flexibility in states’ approaches to assessment.

Provisions as outlined in Title I, parts A and B, of ESSA aim to clarify new flexibilities for states and districts to ensure that state assessments continue to be fair, relevant, and high-quality, provide more useful and timely feedback to educators, parents, and students, and serve as models for adoption by other states. These new flexibilities offer states the option to use a variety of new assessment models, including performance tasks and simulations, competency-based assessments, computer-adaptive assessments, and multiple assessments (e.g., curriculum-embedded, interim, or through-course tests) administered throughout the year. ESSA encourages innovative approaches to assessment that reduce duplicative testing and ensure that assessment results provide transparent, consistent information about student achievement.

The requirements for assessment models under ESSA include: 1) producing an annual summative determination of grade-level achievement aligned to state standards, 2) measuring a student’s academic proficiency based on challenging state academic standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled, 3) allowing for disaggregated assessment data (by gender, racial and ethnic group, disability status, etc.) and individual score reports, and 4) providing understandable information to parents, including those with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

ESSA specifies that statewide assessments must adhere to high expectations for students’ college- and career-readiness, and must measure higher-order thinking skills, including reasoning, analysis, problem solving, and communication. To ensure that assessments are rigorous, fair, and of high quality, states must submit evidence to the Department of Education that their assessment system meets statutory and regulatory requirements. In addition, states must make publicly available the evidence that assessments meet nationally recognized testing standards and quality requirements.

For more information about ESSA, please visit: https://www.ed.gov/esea

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