This topic explores assessment, which is the process of collecting and analyzing information through tests to show policymakers how well the nations education system is doing.
Assessment is the process of gathering information for the purpose of making
decisions about individuals, groups, or systems. Classroom-level assessments
provide information about how well individual students are learning. District
and state assessments make it possible to evaluate and compare learning in
groups of students, and also provide evidence of the effectiveness of
educational programs and local school systems. Tests administered at the
national level, of samples of students from across the country, help
policymakers gauge the condition of the nationís educational system.
Assessments have taken on new importance with the passage of both federal
and state laws that call for increased accountability for student achievement.
The push for reform at the federal level started with the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed in 1994. This law required, among other things, that each state develop
challenging academic content standards and design assessments that would
periodically measure student performance against those standards. States
implemented those requirements, and in some cases added to them to improve
education in their states. Recent revisions to Title I further extended the
federal role in education by requiring annual testing of students in grades 3-8
in reading and math.
Because these accountability requirements are intended to apply to all
children, they can present unique challenges to educational systems working to
ensure that students with disabilities are included. These challenges include
questions about the impact of "high stakes" graduation exams, and what
accommodations are appropriate for students with disabilities to enable their
participation in state and district assessments. While including students with
disabilities in assessment and accountability systems can create challenges for
states, districts, and teachers, their participation helps to ensure that
schools and educators hold all students to high standards and take
responsibility for their academic progress.