Assessment Education Perspectives

Capturing What Parents Think About Assessment

Capturing What Parents Think

Our partners over at NWEA have sponsored three national studies focused on what various education stakeholders think about assessment. The surveys included students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents. Today, as many kids are back in school and participating in fall testing, we’d like to share some parent views of assessment.

In 2012, when NWEA first surveyed parents, 68 percent “completely” or “somewhat” agreed that formative and interim assessments provide data about individual student growth and achievement. (*For quick definitions of different assessment types that were provided to parents surveyed, see below.) Sixty-six percent agreed that formative and interim assessments help teachers better focus on the content that students need to learn, and 60 percent agreed that these assessments provide teachers with the information needed to pace instruction for each student. Generally speaking, 84% of parents found formative assessments “extremely” or “very” useful, and 67% said that about interim assessments, while only 44% found summative assessments that useful. The data gathered in the 2012 survey suggested that parents prefer a more embedded formative assessment classroom strategy using timely and informative results.

Fast forward to 2016 and the most recent survey conducted by Gallup, Make Assessment Work for All Students, and now, 76 percent of parents surveyed value interim assessments, and 74 percent value formative assessments. Generally, parents considered multiple assessment types helpful to their child’s learning. Majorities of parents said that classroom tests and quizzes were helpful to themselves (65%), their children (76%) and their children’s teachers (83%). However, only 46% of parents considered state accountability tests to be useful to the audience for whom they are designed – school administrators. The findings highlight the need for more communication and understanding targeted at parents around the purposes of different assessment types.

While the perceived value of certain types of assessment is growing among parents, there is still a need for better communication of assessment results. Our latest survey showed that more than six in 10 parents say that their child’s teachers rarely (39%) or never (22%) discuss assessment results with them. Interestingly, parents whose children attend large schools and suburban schools are more likely than those with children at small- or medium-sized schools or urban schools to say that teachers never discuss results with them.

While there is a need to better communicate assessment results with parents, surprisingly, parents in both surveys feel that students spend an appropriate amount of time on assessment. Controversy over state accountability tests is likely an important influence on the widespread perception that U.S. students are tested too much. Common criticisms of accountability assessments are that they take time that could be better used to meet the specific needs and interests of students and that they detract from teachers’ ability to differentiate instruction. Yet, more than half of parents (52%) say students spend the right amount of time or too little time taking assessments in the latest NWEA survey.

For more assessment perceptions from parents – along with teachers, students, and school administrators – check out the full survey – Make Assessment Work for All Students: Multiple Measures Matter, and explore our site here at for resources on assessment types and purposes.

*By formative assessment, we mean classroom observations, class quizzes and tests, and other practices used by teachers and students during instruction to provide in-the-moment feedback so teachers can adjust accordingly. Interim assessments were defined for parents as assessments administered at different intervals throughout the year to evaluate student knowledge relative to specific goals. Summative assessments were defined as assessments such as state- or district-wide standardized tests that measure grade-level proficiency, and end-of-year subject or course exams.