ESSA in 5 minutes: Part I—Assessment

By Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs

As a civil rights law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 includes requirements for state assessment and accountability to ensure every student has access to a good education and is held to high standards.

Key to understanding ESSA is understanding that accountability and assessment go hand-in-hand. In Part I of our ESSA in 5 minutes series, we’re going to talk about ESSA and assessment. In Part II of our series, we’ll connect assessments to the accountability indicators.

Academic assessments

Like No Child Left Behind, ESSA requires states to hold schools and districts accountable for student proficiency in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school. States must also assess science at least once in grades 3–5, 6–9, and 10–12.

In ESSA, states have more options in the type of assessment(s) for accountability including: single summative assessment, interim assessments throughout the year (that must result in a single summative score at the end of the year), and applying for the innovative assessment demonstration authority to try new assessment approaches (open to 7 states). Also new in ESSA, states can allow districts to administer a nationally-recognized high school assessment in place of the state-selected assessment for the 10–12 grade span, pending submission and approval by the state.

Renaissance’s position

Renaissance’s position is that even though Renaissance Star assessments are valid and reliable enough for state assessment purposes, Renaissance will focus on ensuring Star supports teaching and learning. Through our ongoing investment and innovation, Star assessments will continue to be rigorous enough to predict your state assessment, and informative enough to guide your instructional decisions and planning.

Star assessments are rigorous enough to predict your state assessment, and informative enough to guide your instructional decisions and planning.

Over the next several months, states will be developing their new assessment and accountability systems based on the ESSA requirements. No matter how your state’s system is designed, you can count on Star to be a rigorous, predictive, and accurate source of data.

Even with the changes in ESSA, Star assessments remain critical to help you:
• Inform daily teaching with learning progressions and instructional resources
• Monitor progress system-wide
• Predict state test performance
• Track growth to inform teaching and accountability

Want to stay up-to-date on ESSA and other education trends? Subscribe to Renaissance’s blog!

And stay tuned for Part II of our ESSA in 5 minutes series!

Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs
Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs
Laurie Borkon holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with training as a reading specialist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to Renaissance, she was a staff researcher at UW-Madison and spent several years working at the middle school level.

42 Comments

  1. Dvawn Maza says:

    What is the governing criteria for a test to be eligible for ESSA and who determines its eligibility? What is some of the determining criteria? Does ESSA have to review the test before a state is able to use it?

  2. Rita Platt says:

    In my 20 years of teaching, I have NEVER been a fan of long, drawn out standardized tests. I have always liked STAR because it is quick, easy to administer, and students can take it frequently so they can SEE their own growth…THAT is the heart and soul of motivation. I also know that STAR correlates well with every single high-stakes test I have ever had to administer from MAP to Smarter Balance to ITBS, etc. The point? I wish that we could use STAR for ESSA.

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hi, Rita! Thank you for posting. We agree it is very important for students to see their own growth!

    • Carolina castillo says:

      I hate what the long tests do to our students. I love that STAR gives them feedback and room to grow.

  3. Micah Chatterton says:

    I have found that ELLs will often score lower on the STAR test than their functional comprehension level on Reading Practice quizzes. Is this discrepancy also show up in other ESSA assessments of ELLs? Does Renaissance have any or plan to offer any resources aimed at improving ELL instruction/implementation, especially as it relates to performance on the STAR?

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Thank you for sharing this. We also recognize the importance of providing multiple measures for English Learners to help educators see the full picture of students. Our newest suite of assessments—Star Early Literacy Spanish, Star Reading Spanish, and Star Math Spanish will report student’s scores in Star English and Star Spanish side-by-side to provide a richer profile of English Learners. On a different note, ESSA now requires that state-level, high-stakes English Proficiency Accountability results must be included in the state’s overall accountability and the state report card, which raises the prominence of increasing English proficiency.

  4. Jennifer Bunn says:

    It wasn’t clear to me whether STAR assessments would address the requirements of ESSA. Does it if a school/district were to want to use it in that way? It would be nice not to do additional assessments.

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hello, Jennifer—and thank you for your questions! Star assessments are rigorous enough for state assessment purposes. However, Renaissance continues to invest in the core purpose of Star, which is to inform teaching and learning at the school and district level. We’ll be exploring this more in a future blog.

  5. Kada says:

    I agree with Mrs. Platt when it comes to long test. I had to see the stress that is put on both the teacher and the students. I have even seen students pulling out their hair and crying to go to lunch!-

  6. Heather B says:

    Because ESSA has a science testing mandate does Renaissance plan to implement a Science based program in addition to the reading , math, and early learning products?

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Heather, this is a good question, and you are correct that ESSA requires science to be tested at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. We are always watching policies and trends in informing our decisions.

  7. Melissa Robles says:

    STAR is a very helpful resource and should be used for ESSA.

  8. Denisse Ochoa says:

    Thank you for providing this valuable information.

  9. Patti Guthrie says:

    STAR is such a quick, inexpensive, and beneficial assessment to administer. I am thrilled with the possibilities it provides for teachers. However, the greatest concern we face is informing teachers about the power of STAR so that they buy in and get their students to buy in. What is the best way to get teachers on board?

  10. Christina says:

    I wish we could use STAR for ESSA. We administer several times a year as well as progress monitor. What worries me is that this state assessment will be put together quickly and be riddled with errors. Does anyone oversea these tests before they are taken?

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Christina, thank you for sharing your thoughts. In a future edition of the “ESSA in 5 Minutes” series, we’ll be exploring summative and interim testing in more depth.

  11. Stacey Painter says:

    STAR does a wonderful job telling me what my students levels are and where I need to help them to do well on any state assessment that is thrown at us.

  12. Fatima Peters says:

    I do not personally administer State assessments and I often see and hear the stress from my fellow colleagues when it is time to prepare the students for those tests. I do however administer the Star Reading and Star diagnostic test and it is my job to meet with each teacher and go over the data and results I collected from their students. We then arrange a small group guided reading period where I can progress monitor the students using Stars Data and work on the State Standards the students may be lacking. Just by using the data we obtain from Star we have been able to utilize that data properly and have seen tremendous growth not only during our State Standardized testing but throughout the school year from grade to grade! If only we could use the data from Star to replace the ESSA, life would be so much more simpler for everyone!

  13. Andrea says:

    I would love to see STAR used for ESSA! It is very user friendly, isn’t too time consuming, quick access to results, and could be administered a few times per year instead of one test at the end of the year.

  14. Francine Canarios says:

    I am not a fan of high stakes state testing. First, the students don’t see the connection between the end of the year test and daily learning. Second, it might just be a bad day for one of our kids and they only get one chance. My college tests were easier than these state tests. I only had to test on one class at a time and had a very good, to the point, study guides. Students need to see success. We need to make these assessments a regular part of the classroom. When we are able to do that then the data we receive will be beneficial to the students learning, and isn’t student learning the ultimate goal. Do we want a society of good test takers, or life long learners eager for the next challenge?

  15. Linda Martinez says:

    Star should be used. The children get to monitor their growth through out the year not just once a year through standardized tests.

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hello, Linda! We agree that student’s monitoring their growth is critical. We’ll be discussing how the summative and interim assessment data can complement each other in a future blog. Thank you for the comment!

  16. Sarah Swanzy says:

    How will states have consistent ESSA requirements?

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hi, Sarah—great question. ESSA provides federal requirements for accountability and testing. Then, within the allowable parameters of the federal requirements, states have the flexibility to design their accountability and testing systems.

  17. Amy Marquez says:

    I’m interested to see what changes end up as a result of ESSA. I’d love to see less testing constantly to prepare for the end of year assessment.

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hello, Amy! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and the thoughts of many others.

  18. Renee Graham says:

    Thanks for this very informative article.

  19. JoAnn Mayfield says:

    In No Child Left Behind, all students were to reach the advanced or proficient levels. What are the benchmarks for ESSA and what about students with IEPs?

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Hello, JoAnn. The new ESSA accountability requirements do not require all students to reach proficiency or higher by a certain year, as was the case with NCLB. With ESSA, states have the flexibility to design their accountability system, based on the federal ESSA requirements. States are currently in the process of designing and/or refining their accountability systems. Thank you for reading, and let me know if you have any follow-up questions!

  20. Sheila Gerrish says:

    I appreciate having access to any information about ESSA. Thank you for providing “highlights” for us!

    • Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs says:

      Thank you for reading, Shelia! Be sure to stay tuned—we’ll certainly be rolling out additional blogs on this topic!