The Rising Age of School Assessment

Every year experts and researchers are always finding different ways to check how students are learning and how well they are learning from their teachers. Throughout the school year, different states across the country have mandatory tests to evaluate how every student is learning and if they are learning to their fullest potential. To help school leaders to see the academic and social aspect of the school, there may be either school surveys or district wide surveys to see what needs improvement. There are moments when educators and researches will try to find a new path to remove defects or to adopt a better way of reforming education. This is one way school assessment affects what and how students are learning. There is no change in playing the blame game for accountability in schools. School assessment is to modify or update current standards and guidelines to fit the needs of traditional, classroom settings.

During the 1930’s, the College Entrance Examination Board created the SAT test. The SAT was the first, single test for college admission; later came other tests, such as PSAT/NMSQT, the College Level, Examination Program, and the Advance Placement Program. The ACT test is governed under ACT, Inc. During the 1950’s and 60’s, district wide test were given to follow up on accountability in schools. Not only did the government create national programs such as the ones mentioned, but they started testing on a narrow scale from states giving tests to local school districts. As a starting point during the 1900’s all types of assessment were being created. These assessments strived to improve success for students and motivating teachers to work harder. Around this time period, statewide testing program began to take action and now they are nearly forty programs across the country.

The time to enforce international assessments began in the 1980’s and 1990’s since the scores on the mathematics and science sections of testing would pave for political power or risking a downfall of social and economic status (Stiggins). Though this is years back from now, the No Child Left Behind Act only focuses on math and reading skills in order for a student to be ready for the “real world.” There is something similar with NCLB Act and the international assessment in past years. They all focus on one main idea and not offer a well-rounded education.

Reflecting back during the 19th century, students were tested to see if they mastered everything that was taught to them. As it is today, they would not move into the next grade if they failed a test. The failure of the students was not blamed on the teacher, but on the students themselves. Teachers were interviewed by board members and a member from the church on order to make sure none of the students showed any immoral conventional views or beliefs of their religion (Ravitch). An educational psychologist, Edward L. Thorndike, from Columbia College, performed numerous test using scientific methods to measure student academic performance; however he did not believe that were going to be used for school accountability. Therefore he concluded that education should be strictly for school and their administration.

The writer Diane Ravitch states that “testing was regularly used in the schools, there was no belief within the profession that tests should be used to hold anyone accountable.” The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) was formed in 1970 to serve the purpose of providing schools, educators, and just about anyone student achievement and test data for American students. Since this information was released, school officials are still today trying to find ways to help students raise test scores and improve achievement. As Stiggins states in his essay, “this reevaluation must center not on how we assess student achievement but on how we use assessment in pursuit of student success.”

On a national scale, there are different assessments that can affect students and schools as well as colleges. To dive on into the local state level, in Tennessee there are several different state wide assessments given to students on different levels. A well known test that is given during the spring of each year for students in grades 3-8, the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test. This standardized test uses an “easier” format of multiple choice type questions given from subjects taught to students in their classes. Since 2002, students in the ninth grade must pass the sub-test of the competency test in order to graduate with a regular diploma.

A new test called the Gateway Test is required for students to pass the Mathematics, Science, and Social portion in order to graduate. Currently, the governor is toughing up on student standards and the Gateway Test is supposed to be no longer use in the state. There is also a Writing Assessment given to measure the capabilities of students writing different essays to writing prompts. In High School, the familiar End of Course Examination was proclaimed on October 28, 1988 (TCA 49-1-608 and TCA 49-6-6001(a)(1). There are ten of these examinations given. In the future, the State Board plans on having more tests for just about every subject to measure student achievement and measure how well schools are doing each year.

School assessment and accountability goes hand in hand with reforming the American education system. Every test that is given each year measures the knowledge of a student. There is no limit on giving a test to someone whether they are applying to enter college or take advance placement test for a course. Along the same lines, tests go to the extreme level of being a requirement in order to graduate high school. There is always history to how every test began and what their purposes are within the school system.

- Stiggins, Richard J. “Assessment, Student Confidence, and School Success.” Kappan Professional Journal. November 1999: pgs. 191-198. Vol. 88.

- Ravitch, Diane. “A Brief History of Testing and Accountability.” Hoover Digest. Hoover Institution.

- Merit Software. Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.