The Ever-Changing Landscape of State Assessments


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This year, more states left national assessment consortia and instead, opted to create their own, state-specific exams — a trend we’ve seen since 2014, when we started tracking the summative assessments used in each state. We updated our 50-State Comparison this month with 2017-18 information, and only 16 states now administer Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments in third- through eighth-grade math and English language arts.

This is down from 21 states last school year (and 45 states in 2010). The five states no longer administering Smarter Balanced or PARCC all chose to create their own statewide exam. Colorado partnered with Pearson to create Colorado Measures of Academic Success; Rhode Island partnered with Measured Progress to create the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System; and North Dakota, West Virginia and New Hampshire all partnered with the American Institutes for Research to create state-specific exams.

Other trends we noticed in this year’s update include:

States are using the ACT or SAT as a high school assessment. In 2017-18, nine states made the switch to administering the ACT or SAT in high school — bringing the total to 15 states that use a college entrance exam to satisfy federal high school assessment requirements. Colorado and Rhode Island, plus the District of Columbia, all shifted from administering PARCC in high school; and West Virginia switched from administering Smarter Balanced. Other states switched from the ACT Aspire, PSAT or a state-specific exam. Using the SAT or ACT may help reduce over-testing in high school and encourage students to start thinking about postsecondary options. A few states (Alabama, Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin) also give students the option to take ACT WorkKeys in high school.

More states are making the U.S. citizenship test a graduation requirement. This is the biggest change in social studies assessments, which are not required under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Each state varies on what constitutes a passing score on this exam, but in the last year, three new states either administered the citizenship exam (Tennessee) or set plans to in 2018-19 (Alabama and Arkansas). A couple states passed legislation in 2017 requiring the exam, but state education agencies have not yet announced the timeline for rolling out the exam. In total, six states required the citizenship exam in high school this year.

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