How can educators separate fact from fiction in heated public discussion about testing? One of the best, and perhaps most important, tools educators have when it comes to assessment is their voice – communicating assessment results with parents.
In fact, a survey of parents, students and educators, sponsored by NWEA and conducted by Grunwald & Associates, found that only about half (53 percent) of parents say they currently receive information on how to interpret and use assessment results. And more than one-third of parents (38 percent, and higher percentages of middle school parents) say they need this information.
Talking about assessment with parents and students is an opportunity to help them understand the role assessment plays in student learning. Here are some points to consider when engaging in these conversations:
- Explain the purposes of assessment – some are used to inform instruction, others to help meet state requirements
- Describe the tests being used in your classroom and how they differ from each other
- Make sure parents know what each assessment is intended to measure
- Explain how you will use the assessment results, and how the school or district will use the information
- Provide guidance on the importance of classroom assessments and the need for students to do their best
on all tests
- Show your students’ learning progress, as indicated by both assessment and classroom observation
- Point out academic strengths and weaknesses, and what steps parents can take to address areas of concern
- Answer any questions about the testing process and how it impacts the teaching process
For many parents, the assessment landscape is much different from when they were students. Without teacher communication, they rely on information provided by the state, the district, the school and, perhaps, even the media. Being proactive about assessment communication, and talking with parents before there is a perceived problem, can play a critical role in the development of a student.