ERN Assessments Bootcamps – Key Findings


November 29, 2021

From July to September, ERN hosted a series of webinars that we dubbed “assessment bootcamps” that focused primarily on statewide, summative assessments and their role within the broader context of state and local assessment systems.

  • This first session was designed to provide advocates and policymakers with a shared language and knowledge base about different types of assessments and the purposes they are—and are not—designed for and how these various assessments can work together to create coherent, balanced assessment systems.
  • The second session was devoted to discussing potential changes, improvements, and innovations in state testing systems, including the creation of anti-racist assessments.
  • The third session was dedicated to making the case for statewide assessments as a tool for providing information on the performance of state, district, and school-level education systems, for identifying and addressing achievement and opportunity gaps, and for channeling resources and support to schools in need of improvement.

Several key themes emerged from these discussions:

  • It’s important to distinguish between different types of assessments and to be clear as to the purposes each is designed to serve.
  • Summative, statewide assessments have a unique and irreplaceable role, particularly with regard to being an global indicator of system quality and providing achievement data that is aligned with state standards and that can be compared across districts and different groups of students.
  • There is near consensus that our current assessment system has inherent biases when it comes to race but there is a divergence of opinions on the extent of the problem and what should be done to resolve it.
  • Confusion about the role that assessments play in accountability systems may be driving much of the opposition to statewide summative assessments. 
  • Within each of these areas, there are a variety of different innovations in assessment systems that are being piloted throughout the country. These vary from relatively minor adjustments to more dramatic overhauls, each with their own advantages, disadvantages, and tradeoffs.

Read more for specific findings and session highlights.