JFF and Virginia Department of Education Summit Highlights Innovation in Student Assessments

Published sep. 27, 2016

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – (September 26, 2016) More than 400 educators, school system leaders, and policymakers from across Virginia joined Jobs for the Future and the Virginia Department of Education for a day-long summit today focused on innovation in assessments. The event highlighted district-led efforts to help schools and educators assess student learning in new and meaningful ways.

"Virginia is a model for the nation in how thoughtfully it is supporting districts to develop K-12 assessments that are worthy of our children's time and that better measure a range of learning," said Rebecca E. Wolfe, Senior Director at Jobs for the Future. "What we heard today is that the Virginia districts leading this work are diverse. They range from urban to rural and big to small. That's a sign that many communities across the country can and should take up this important work and strong state support will help them get there."

Jobs for the Future supports efforts like the one in Virginia and in other states that are putting students at the center of education systems in ways that prepare them for college and careers and encourage deeper learning, such as the ability to solve complex problems and to collaborate and communicate effectively. Using assessments that ask students to, for example, write extensively, or have a strong research component, or incorporate project-based work, is critical to an overall vision of personalized, student-centered education.

Many states and districts are now closely examining their assessment strategies. Parents, students, and teachers are calling for new and better ways of measuring what children know and can do. In addition, the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages states and districts to develop innovative ways of measuring student learning.

"Standardized tests are great for some things, but they are only one tool to measure student learning, and that's not enough. We have a lot of skills we want to measure, and therefore we need to develop more tools. I'm so glad Virginia teachers are leading this reform work, which will help ensure it succeeds," Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said.

Ray Pecheone, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Assessment, Equity and Learning, told attendees, "We need to translate common sense into common practice, and what Virginia is doing is common sense."