Opinion Research

National Studies

Since 2012, NWEA, in collaboration with Gallup and other research organizations, has conducted national and state surveys of students, parents, teachers, and school and district leaders to understand what they think about assessment.

2016 Assessment Survey

2016 Make Assessment Work for All Students: Multiple Measures Matter

Our 2016 survey provides a comprehensive look at perceptions of K-12 assessment among the full range of education stakeholders, including superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students.

When this survey revealed that most American students and parents don’t think students are over-tested, Gallup rated this one of its top education findings of 2016.

Make Assessment Work for All Students 2016

2016 Assessment Survey

Key Findings

Education stakeholders value assessments broadly, but views vary by assessment type and purpose.

  • ¾ of students and more than ½ of parents believe that students spend the right amount of time or too little time taking assessments.
  • More than 7 in 10 teachers, principals, and superintendents say students spend too much time taking assessments
  • Principals find many assessment types useful, underscoring the importance of supporting multiple types of assessments.
  • Parents consider multiple types of assessments, including interim and formative assessments, helpful to their children’s learning; however, they are skeptical that state accountability tests improve the quality of teaching.
  • Large majorities of teachers report that assessment data are used for a variety of instructional and administrative purposes in their schools.

Parents need more information about assessments.

  • While most parents understand that state accountability tests are used to evaluate school and district performance, many mistakenly believe that these types of tests are used to monitor student achievement and to inform instruction.
  • More than 6 in 10 parents say their child’s teachers rarely or never discuss their child’s assessment results with them.

Administrators are still getting to know ESSA, but superintendents are optimistic about its impact.

  • The majority of principals and nearly half of superintendents are not yet familiar with ESSA.
  • More than 2/3 of superintendents say they have developed an assessment plan for their district. And of these, the majority say the number of assessments will not change under ESSA. Of the rest, more say the number of assessments will decrease rather than increase.
  • Superintendents are significantly more likely than principals to believe ESSA will have a positive impact  on their schools (53% vs. 32%). The majority of principals (62%) say the impact will be neutral.

Gaps in understanding of the purpose of assessments remain.

  • Most teachers, principals, and superintendents do not believe that state and federal policymakers understand the purpose of different types of assessment, highlighting the need for dialogue around ESSA implementation.
  • Teachers are largely doubtful that parents understand formative or interim assessment — the diagnostic tools and practices teachers frequently use to gauge student understanding and to adapt the instruction process.

Teachers need additional training to maximize the power of assessment data to inform instructional practices.

  • Teachers mostly feel prepared to deal with all aspects of assessment tests and data, but they are more confident about administering these tests than interpreting them or communicating with parents about the results.
  • Data coaches are available in a relatively small proportion of schools and districts, but among principals who have access to data coaches, 71% say they have improved student learning.
  • More than 7 in 10 teachers say they collaborate on assessment results at least monthly with other teachers, including 45% who do this daily or weekly. But a sizable minority (28%) engages in this critical activity only quarterly or less often.

Related Resources

In 2012, NWEA, with Grunwald Associates LLC, carried out the first formal survey of students and educators on assessments. The study showed that parents, teachers, and district administrators hold similar views on their top priorities for education, on what assessments should measure, on how well different assessments meet their needs, on how assessment results could be better used, and on who should make instructional decisions.

In 2014, in our second national study, NWEA, with Grunwald Associates LLC expanded on this research to include students, too often overlooked in discussion of assessment.