University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Parent Perceptions about Assessment

In The View from the OEP on November 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Gallup_ParentToday Gallup and NWEA released an interesting report about how parents and teachers think about assessments.  In this blog we are going to focus on parent perceptions about the amount of time spent assessing students, how frequently the results of assessments are communicated to them, and their feelings about the usefulness of assessments. The report is based on a survey of Texas parents, and provides some ‘food for thought’ about how Arkansas parents might be feeling about assessment.

Time Spent on Assessment Activities

The responses of Texas parents presented in the figure below reflect a nearly even split between those that think the time devoted to assessment is ‘just right’ and those that consider ‘too much’ time is being spent on assessment activities.

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Parent perceptions were split regarding teacher activities around assessment. The amount of time teachers spent preparing for and administering assessments was ‘just right’ for 42% of parents and ‘too much’ for 43%.   Only 13% of parents felt teachers spent ‘too little’ time preparing for and administering assessments.

Parents were somewhat more comfortable with the amount of time students spent taking assessments, with 50% reporting it was ‘just the right amount’, while 40% of parents felt that it was ‘too much’.  Only 10% of parents felt that students spent ‘too little’ time completing assessments.

The report highlights an interesting difference related to parents’ socioeconomic status. Parents from low- and middle-SES households are less likely than high-SES parents to say that teachers and students spend ‘too much’ time on assessment activities.

Communication about  Assessments

The responses of Texas parents reflect an understanding of when assessments are being administered, but a lack of understanding about why.  As presented in the figure below, nearly 3 out of 4 parents (73%) responded that the school did a good job of informing them when assessments will be conducted, but fewer than half felt that schools did a good job of explaining the purpose of classroom/ district assessments or the annual state assessment.

GoodJob

Additionally, more than half of the parents surveyed reported that teachers ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ discussed their student’s assessment results with them (58%), and rarely give them feedback about how they can improve their student’s academic performance (56%).

Value of Assessment Activities

Given the reported lack of communication about student assessment results, it is not surprising that few parents believe that state assessments improve teaching or learning.  Nearly half (48%) of the parents surveyed reported that their child’s teacher was ‘effectively’ or ‘very effectively’ using state assessment results to meet their student’s learning needs.  Overall, only 32% of parents surveyed reported that the use of state accountability tests were improving students learning and only 31% reported improving the quality of teaching.

As can be seen in the figure below, interesting perception differences are again related to parents’ socioeconomic status. Parents from low- and middle-SES households are more likely than high-SES parents to say that their child’s teachers are effectively or every effectively using the assessment results to meet their student’s learning needs (64% to 41%, respectively).  Parents from low- and middle-SES households are also more likely than high-SES parents to say that the use of state assessments improves student learning (44% to 13%) and the quality of teaching (41% to 11%).

Value

A high percentage of parents surveyed support using assessment data to evaluate school performance (79%). Parents from low- and middle-SES households are more likely than high-SES parents to support evaluating school performance using assessment data (89% to 65% respectively).

How might Arkansas’ parents perceptions differ? 

Students in Arkansas spend much less time completing assessments than students in Texas.  Arkansas’ required annual assessments take about four hours for students to complete, while Texas students spend up to five days taking the state assessments.  Perhaps Arkansas parents would be more likely to think assessment activities were taking up the right amount of time, given the short duration of the annual assessment.

Arkansas parents may be just as unsure about the purpose of assessments as their Texas counterpoints, and Arkansas teachers may be just as unlikely to effectively communicate the results to parents. Nationally, about 1 in 3 teachers reports receiving training in communicating assessment results to parents, and less that half (41%) feel ‘very prepared’ to do so.

What would your parents say? 

Do your parents understand the purpose of assessments?  Do teachers explain how they are effectively using assessments to support student learning in their classrooms?  Are parents just mailed/handed the paper copy of their student’s ACT Aspire results or does the staff help them to understand what the information means for their student and provide suggestions about how they can help their child succeed?

Here at OEP  we found it particularly interesting that low- and middle-SES households reported more positive perceptions regarding assessment. We think this may be due to a greater use of assessment data in communications with these parents. Perhaps teachers communicate more effectively with them about how assessments reflect developing skills, while more affluent parents may being told that their (perhaps higher-performing) students are ‘fine’.

Upcoming opportunity? 

We expect Arkansas school ratings will be released before the end of the year, and we suggest making a plan for clearly communicating with your stakeholders surrounding the ratings.  Use the insights from the Texas parent survey to reflect on your communication, and be sure to address the purpose of state assessments, how the results are being used to support student learning, and the strengths/growth areas for your district/school.

 

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