#EduFridayFive: The Collaborative for Student Success on Assessment HQ

Earlier this week the Collaborative for Student Success* released Assessment HQ, a new go-to resource for information on state assessments, including data and results from those assessments over time. To learn more about the project, I posed the #EduFridayFive questions to the Collaborative team. Read their answers below:

How would you describe this project in 200 words or less? 

The Collaborative for Student Success launched Assessment HQ to help build greater understanding about the role annual assessments play and how they are being used to advance educational equity and improvement in student achievement across the country. Don’t get us wrong, no one is saying annual assessments are perfect. However, they are an important tool to help educators and policymakers monitor the progress of all students in gaining the knowledge and skills they need over time. They are particularly important for those students who are most vulnerable or who historically have been underserved by education systems. We set out to create one place where individuals can find state-by-state student proficiency data, original commentary, resources, and state/national news all in an easy to navigate format.

What would most people miss about this project if they only read the headline? 

A lot of data is gathered from K-12 assessments, but sometimes it is not easy to access or it may not be clear what the data says. For the first time, student proficiency data for more than half of the states across the country is publicly available online, and in one location, for anyone to view and use. Assessment HQ highlights state-reported student performance results for grades 3-8, in mathematics and English language arts (ELA). The new site also allows users to see trends in student proficiency in individual states and observe the performance of student groups, like African American and Hispanic students. Only by exploring trend data on these students can we ensure they are making real progress.

What compelled you to do this work? 

Outside of the education policy community, it has largely gone unnoticed that the assessment landscape is constantly changing—with states adjusting vendors, new proficiency calculations, and debates on proper accountability. That constant change is often not in the best interest of students or educators. We’re hopeful that this platform will help cut through much of the uncertainty around tests by offering a clean, consolidated look at actual state-reported information. Let’s face it, tests are an easy punching bag. This site can contribute to a more informed dialogue around assessments and work to avoid situations where the politically expedient choice comes before what’s best for our students. 

What would a smart critic say about it, and how would you respond? 

Student proficiency data is one moment in time. It cannot – and should not – be used in isolation when viewing the work being done to help students succeed. Through the original commentary provided by Dale Chu on the Testing 1-2-3 blog, resources from state and national partners, as well as news coverage, we strive to provide the background information and nuance about the factors that contribute to assessment choices and results. We have assembled available state assessment data based on those states that have kept the same test in place for four years. We only needed three years to show a trend, but we set a higher bar for ourselves. With the goal of improving student success for every child, we must make sure that assessments are aligned to high standards, are informative to parents and policymakers, comparable, meaningful, and actionable.

Other than this project, what are you most excited about right now?

The Top Gun sequel…it’s been too long since Maverick did his thing!

Seriously though, the Collaborative has always been focused on its role as a nonpartisan player that is dedicated to ensuring that students are held to high standards and have the resources and supports necessary for their success. Funding and resources are a perennial topic in education and we’re currently very interested in the move states are making to report out per pupil spending at the school level vs. just at the district level. This provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act hasn’t received a ton of coverage, but it’s a significant step forward in understanding how education dollars are being spent. Also, we’re following the development of needs-assessments as states develop Career and Technical Education plans in coordination with local and regional business leaders.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

*Disclosure: The Collaborative is a client of Bellwether’s, although not on this project.