The Trends Shaping the Future of K-12 Assessment in 2024

Assessments play an essential role in ensuring a responsive, data-informed approach to curriculum development and school culture initiatives. As an educator, the data you collect – alongside the insights you gain from daily interactions and experiences with students — can help you gauge how effectively students are learning the material, inform curricular planning, and personalize instruction.

The continued relevance of large-scale measurement has been especially apparent in the aftermath of COVID-19, as widespread assessments have offered essential data on pandemic-related learning loss. Assessment data offer information that can help students regain lost ground as you target specific challenges.

K-12 Assessment Trends to Watch in 2024

Evolving approaches to assessment development and administration can help support educational equity and ensure you are getting a holistic and accurate measure of student growth. As we approach 2024, these assessment trends are helping to shape the future of K-12 education.

1.  Leveraging Multiple Types of Assessment and Integrated Data

A single data point can rarely provide a full picture of a student’s educational progress, the quality of their instruction, and the factors that may be fostering or impeding student growth. Depending on your school’s mission, goals, and needs, it may be helpful to leverage multiple assessment data points over the school year to understand students’ progress. With modern technology, it’s easier than ever to interpret data quickly to identify trends and changes over time.

Educators are recognizing that gathering data from different types of assessments helps build a holistic picture of each child’s strengths and areas for improvement. That’s a key reason why ERB launched its Whole Child Solution, which allows educators to bundle ERB’s assessments of learning achievement – namely the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) summative assessment and Milestones interim assessment – with our SelfWise social and emotional skills inventory and our Check-In Survey on student belonging and engagement at school.

As part of the launch of the Whole Child Solution, educators can access Rose Compass data visualizations (as shown below) to get a holistic snapshot of each student based on their results across multiple assessments. These reports are available via 360 Access, ERB’s data reporting platform to help member school educators identify important trends in assessment data and contextualize students’ learning using nationwide norm groups.

Also accessible through the platform is ERB’s new Head of School Report, a resource designed for school leadership needing an interpretive summary of their ERB student data to guide strategic planning and evaluation from a whole child perspective. The report is highly visual and customizable, exploring school, grade, and other group outcomes with results tracked over multiple years. The tool makes it easy to identify trends in student results from the ISEE admission test, CTP assessment of learning achievement, and the Check-In Survey.

2. Focus on Student Well-Being

It has become clear in the last few years that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in declining student mental health. In response, the U.S. Surgeon General has urged schools to take action, citing the importance of students’ connections with their peers and teachers. ERB research shows that a strong sense of belonging within the school community is the foundation of students’ emotional well-being and academic engagement.

“Educators want to help their students learn and be happier,” says Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer at ERB. “I don’t think any school would say that their only job is to teach. It’s also to help individuals feel included at school and contribute to the school learning environment through their engagement. Students can’t do that if their well-being is in decline.” 

ERB’s Check-In Survey, developed in collaboration with Character Lab, offers educators a 10-minute, evidence-based survey tool to assess students’ self-reported feelings surrounding their academic engagement, emotional well-being, and fairness and belonging at school. Educators can administer the tool throughout the school year to measure changes over time at an individual and group level. In turn, they can quickly spot areas of concern and take action as needed.

“I don’t think any school would say that their only job is to teach. It’s also to help individuals feel included at school and contribute to the school learning environment through their engagement.”

Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer, ERB

3. Prioritization of Access and Availability

Historically, standardized assessments have been relatively rigid in format and delivery. But as technology advances and educators become more aware of students’ differing needs, innovative approaches to test administration have become a growing assessment trend. 

During COVID-19, ERB pivoted to offer at-home administration of the ISEE admission test for independent schools. While administration within schools, offices, and test centers has since resumed, the at-home, remotely administered option remains available for students who prefer it. This flexibility allows students to choose the setting in which they feel most comfortable and can perform at their best.

Different approaches to administering assessments will likely become more widespread as new applications of artificial intelligence allow assessment designers to develop and combine a wider array of questions quickly, reducing the need for all students to complete their exams at a specified date and time.

4. Growing Emphasis on DEIJ Principles

For decades, educators and researchers have expressed concern about the fairness of standardized assessments to minority students. And assessment designers have long sought to create equitable assessments with varying levels of success. This is especially true in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, with newfound approaches to test development and administration that put diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging front and center. 

For instance, students’ limited access to testing during the pandemic led to concerns, informed by trends in higher education, about fairness and equity in independent and private school admission testing.

Key Insight

In a 2023 ERB survey of more than 350 independent school admission professionals, 78% said it is important for admission assessments to be grounded in DEIJ principles. 

Ultimately, assessments should be used not as a gatekeeper but rather as a gateway to learning and growth. That’s why ERB launched NextGen Admission, an initiative where we apply an equity lens to every aspect of how we design and administer the ISEE and how scores are used. The various efforts that comprise NextGen Admission fall into four categories: eliminating bias, driving equity, ensuring validity, and leveraging impactful data that promote fairness.

We’ve also partnered with Test Innovators to create data-driven, free resources to help students prepare for the ISEE admission exam. All ISEE test registrants have access to our free option, which includes a practice test and personalized feedback, plus three paid upgrade options. Fee waiver registrants get free access to all the available resources. In the 2022-23 school year, ERB waived over $1 million in testing fees through our fee waiver program. 

Building an Effective and Well-Rounded Assessment Strategy

Assessments can serve as a key data point for school leaders, educators, and students alike — but to make the most of the opportunity to measure and improve outcomes, school leadership should be thoughtful in their approach. Schools can benefit from a robust assessment strategy that includes multiple types of assessments, including measurements of students’ belonging, academic engagement, and social-emotional skills — all factors that can foster or impede student growth.

Educators and school leaders can also create an effective feedback loop that improves the quality of education for all students by taking the key step of effectively interpreting the assessment data — taking action when the data suggest change is needed and following up regularly to measure whether their interventions are working. 

Further, schools can take steps to ensure that students have the support they need to perform their best, even if that means offering alternative test settings or other accommodations. 

Also consider the professional development your school’s educators and administrators may need to understand results and use them to increase the quality of instruction and the climate and culture of the school community. 

Learn more about how ERB leverages data from multiple assessments to help educators track student growth and identify trends with the Whole Child Solution and Head of School Report tool.

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