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ESSA, Student Assessment, and Small Data

By: MaryBeth Crissman Date: June 7, 2016

ESSA and Student Assessment

The implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has the potential to change the face of education dramatically. Many of the restrictions and requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have been eased or eliminated. The transition from NCLB to ESSA will bring about significant changes to student assessment as well as how schools use that assessment data.

What Stays the Same

Students will still be tested in reading and math each year in grades 3 thru 8 and once in high school.

States are still required to administer assessments to at least 95% of students.

States and districts receiving Title I-A funds are still required to annually administer National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in grades 4 and 8 in reading and math.

What Changes

ESSA prohibits the Secretary of Education from specifying any aspect of assessments.

ESSA gives states the freedom to develop their own laws governing “opt-outs.” Consequences for schools that miss this threshold are no longer determined at a federal level but instead by states and districts.

ESSA allows states to administer a single annual summative assessment or multiple statewide interim assessments throughout the year that result in one summative score.

Multiple Interim Assessments

One of the biggest changes that ESSA brings is the ability for schools to combine interim testing results into a summative score for federal accountability. States will be required to prove the validity of the chosen assessments, but educators will be allowed to use more authentic assessments that reflect the growth and progress of students throughout the year. The stand-alone, multiple choice test that carries immense weight and is taken in one setting may soon be a thing of the past.

With this change from mandatory year-end testing to the possibility of interim summative testing, schools are faced with the challenge of how to assess their students’ progress in a more meaningful way.  Schools need to consider reliability and validity when developing or adopting new interim assessments. Four key points of consideration are:

  1. Length of the test
  2. Consistency in administration
  3. High quality questions stems with probable distractors (answer choices)
  4. Alignment of the assessment to the task

Multiple interim assessments also let schools drill down to small data points instead of solely focusing on Big Data. While Big Data focuses on large amounts of data – generally district- or state-wide – that can only be analyzed by software systems, small data focuses on the smaller pieces of information that reveal trends within schools and classrooms. These smaller pieces can highlight opportunities for enrichment as well as intervention. As schools shift from a single formal summative assessment at the end of each year, the opportunity to employ better data management – data management that will examine both Big and small data – arises.