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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Assessment in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Primer

Rebecca R. Skinner
Specialist in Education Policy

In recent years, federal education legislation has placed an increased emphasis on assessment in schools. Perhaps most notably, Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), requires states to test all students annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in the areas of reading and mathematics. These assessments are used as key indicators in an accountability system that determines whether schools are making progress with respect to student achievement. To receive Title I funding, states must also participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a standards-based national test given at grades 4 and 8. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to use assessments to identify students with disabilities and track their progress according to individualized learning goals. In addition to assessments required by federal law, elementary and secondary school students generally participate in many other assessments, which range from small-scale classroom assessments to high-stakes exit exams.

This report provides a framework for understanding various types of assessments that are administered in elementary and secondary schools. It broadly discusses various purposes of educational assessment and describes comprehensive assessment systems. Common assessment measures currently used in education are described, including state assessments, NAEP, and state exit exams. The report also provides a description and analysis of technical considerations in assessments, including validity, reliability, and fairness, and discusses how to use these technical considerations to draw appropriate conclusions based on assessment results. Finally, this report provides a brief analysis of the use of assessments in accountability systems, including implications for curriculum, students, and testing.

Date of Report: October 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R40514
Price: $29.95

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