- In an effort to improve student assessments, the U.S. Department of Education has updated guidance for a federal program that encourages innovative and high-quality assessment design practices, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced in a letter sent Monday to state education leaders, state assessment directors and state Title I directors.
- Specifically, the Education Department is eliminating the cap on the number of states that can participate in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority, which is a program that allows states to pilot new assessment approaches. The letter also clarifies that student assessment results may differ between existing state assessments and assessments developed under the IADA.
- The guidance, the department said, is intended to "provide every State with running room to pilot" assessment innovation. The Education Department said it hopes testing changes will inform instruction, interventions, professional development and resource planning, in addition to bolstering grade-level mastery three years after the pandemic began impacting learning.
"Strong assessment practices allow us to maximize the quality of and returns on instructional time," Cardona said. He added parents deserve better information about their children's academic progress and students deserve instruction better tailored to their needs. Educators also need assessment data that informs interventions and curricular modifications.
The Education Department said it is open to hearing approaches from all states.
In March, the Education Department sought input from states, school districts, experts and others about the IADA, which is authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act. In his Monday letter, Cardona called the federal-state partnerships "crucial to lifting best practices and guiding our policy direction."
Since 2016, the Education Department has approved five states — Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and North Carolina — to participate in the IADA. Some approaches taken so far under this program include through-year and curriculum-embedded assessments, technology-enhanced science performance tasks and competency-based assessments. Through-year assessments are multiple assessments throughout the school year.
In August, the Education Department also permitted Montana to administer through-year assessments starting in the 2024-25 school year, replacing statewide, federally mandated annual assessments. The state plans to offer the redesigned assessment in reading/language arts and math for grades 3-8 and allow participating field test schools to also waive some accountability requirements.
Several organizations have called for reforms to the typical once-a-year state assessments required for federal accountability purposes.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities, in a February report, called for assessment approaches that allow for more student accessibility and test-taking measures that are less time-consuming and more useful to students and educators. That report highlighted the IADA and the Competitive Grants for State Assessments as programs helping to improve assessment systems.