A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Improving America's School: A Newsletter on Issues in School Reform - Spring 1996

Assessment Requirements Under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The major changes in Title I shift the focus on Title I assessment from a national testing requirement to determine individual student achievement to a focus on analyzing how schools and districts are helping students achieve and meet high standards for all children. This shift requires changes in how states assess students and programs and raises several implementation issues that districts and schools must consider.

Past Practice in Assessment

Although assessment of students and programs has always been a key component of Title I, little federal guidance on measuring student achievement was available before 1974, when Congress--concerned about the lack of information on the quality and effect of programs funded by Title I--mandated a uniform evaluation and reporting system.

Based on pre- and post-testing, the system evaluated the impact of programs by comparing student performance to a national comparison group. Although the system did not prescribe a specific type of test, the common practice was to use a commercially developed, norm-referenced test, a type of test already widely used in schools and districts across the country.

At the district and school levels, norm-referenced test scores became a primary tool for implementing program requirements such as determining the need for service, selecting students, and evaluating programs. At the state level, norm-referenced test scores were used to: (1) monitor district practice in student selection; (2) identify programs in need of improvement; and (3) report program impact to the federal government.

Through these efforts, educators learned that "what is tested is what is taught." Driven by the low-level track of the students and the low-level skills measured by the test items, many educators focused instruction on a limited set of low-level skills.

The New Focus of Assessment

Title I of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act calls for major changes in student and program assessment. For the first time in the program's history, statewide assessment systems will link Title I activities to student proficiency on state standards. Under the new amendments, state education agencies have six years to develop or adopt a system of technically sound assessment methods that:

While states have flexibility in determining the content and format of assessments, they will assess performance in at least reading/language arts and mathematics, make results public, and use the assessment results to identify programs and schools that are extremely successful or need improvement. District and school staff will use statewide assessment results in conjunction with other information to select Title I students and evaluate Title I programs. Districts can select their own methods of assessment for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.

[Creating Better Student Assessments] [Table of Contents] [What Are Promising Ways to Assess Student Learning?]