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Instructure Survey Finds Discomfort With Assessments but Need for Data

An annual survey by the ed-tech software company Instructure concluded that assessments to evaluate learning are here to stay, but educators want real-time data and tools that can integrate assessments into content.

A row of desks with students seated at them taking tests.
Educators find more value in assessments today than they did after the first year of the pandemic, but the fewer clicks they make to create and grade an assignment, the better. Technology that frees up more time for instruction while also providing live data delivery will play a key role in the future of student assessments.

Those were among the main ideas in the 2023 State of Assessment in K-12 Education report this month by ed-tech software company Instructure, in partnership with Hanover Research. It’s based on a survey of 1,000 educators, including teachers, administrators and school assessment specialists, across the United States.

“Based on the findings, educators need efficient and effective tools to create and deliver assessments that measure student growth beyond achievement,” Karl Rectanus, Instructure senior vice president of K-12 strategy, said in a public statement. “The report shows the need for learning platforms that can seamlessly and safely integrate assessment into content to optimize effective teaching and learning.”

The first page of the report notes that pandemic-related school closures between 2020 and 2021 forced the cancellation of summative assessments in every state. Educators then explored alternative methods to evaluate learning. Teachers and administrators determined that, conceptually, assessments are here to stay, but they indicated that the processes can be improved with the help of better tools.

The report also identified five key trends:

  • Many teachers are still uncomfortable with the assessment process.
  • Administrators and teachers value assessments, but for different reasons. While teachers might value the purpose of assessments, the process in its current form cuts into valuable instruction time. Superintendents, meanwhile, prioritize professional development and data accessibility.
  • Quality, validity and reliability are still the most important attributes of assessments. Schools rely on standardized materials from districts and state education departments.
  • Choosing the right technology tools is crucial, but not an easy task given the abundance of options, costs and differing goals of educators and administrators. Tools that value both instructional focus and real-time data delivery via dashboards are ideal.
  • Formative, interim and summative assessments all have a place in K-12 schools. “Despite lingering imperfections and anxiety, educators aren’t ready to completely let go ...,” the report said.
Less than two-thirds of survey respondents said they were comfortable with the state assessment standard that applies to the course they teach. Eighty-one percent said their school or district is “assessment focused.” And while 62 percent of teachers said that the current assessment model negatively impacts instructional time, only 37 percent of administrators felt the same way.

“These findings highlight the need to address teachers’ concerns regarding instructional time and provide them with effective tools and support for assessment practices,” the report said.

While 84 percent of educators said assessments measure what students know, 50 percent said assessments should be used to measure student growth as well as achievement.

Regarding technology, educators noted the three most sought-after capabilities for assessments are tracking student mastery of learning standards (46 percent), aligning content to standards (46 percent), and having efficient real-time data delivery (42 percent).

“The right technology offers a solution by alleviating these administrative tasks and reducing the risk of burnout among teachers. Administrators seek accessible data presentations in the form of dashboards, giving them a comprehensive overview of student performance,” the report said. “On the other hand, teachers require quick access to data that enables them to track student progress and meet students where they are in their instruction.”

The future of assessments, the report concluded, is “student-centered and data driven.” Seventy-three percent of the educators surveyed said they are willing to invest time and money to improve assessments. That’s an increase of 18 percent from the 2021 survey that asked the same question.

“We need to use the assessment data to determine the whys of students not making progress,” the report quoted from one unnamed respondent, “and figure out how to fix that.”