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Steps in the Right Direction for Post-ESSA Assessments

BOULDER, CO (June 5, 2018) – Federally mandated standardized testing (i.e., in core subject areas and certain grade levels), as an element of educational accountability, began in 2002 with the No Child Left Behind Act. With that step, large-scale assessments came to serve as one of the foundations of accountability-based systems and policies not only for districts, schools and students, but for teachers as well.

Yet, as a result of identified weaknesses of such practices, especially at the student and teacher levels, Congress passed the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The new law reduced federal oversight and gave states more control over their state assessment and accountability systems.

To examine the results of this element of ESSA, the National Education Policy Center released a brief today that offers a thematic analysis of state-level assessments in ESSA plans from every state and the District of Columbia. It also includes results of a detailed survey, completed by department of education personnel from 34 states and the District of Columbia, which explores additional information pertinent to state teacher evaluation systems.

Kevin Close, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, and Clarin Collins of Arizona State University authored the brief, titled State-Level Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Some Steps in the Right Direction

Analyses of the ESSA plans and the survey responses indicate that, in general, states continue to use the same large-scale student assessments that were in place before ESSA. Further, states continue to give those test results a role in evaluating teacher effectiveness. However, greater local control has led to some signs of change, which the report’s authors describe as encouraging. These include the following:

  • Efforts to redefine student growth as something other than growth in just test scores;
  • Movement toward more varied multiple measurement tools, including student learning objectives and student surveys (although the efficacy of these instruments for accountability purposes still warrants research);
  • Emphasis by fewer states on value-added assessments in teacher evaluations; and
  • A move away from high-stakes consequences and toward formative rather than summative assessments.

Find State-Level Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Some Steps in the Right Direction, by Kevin Close, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, and Clarin Collins, at:

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice ( 

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: