How the standardized testing waiver could impact student success rates

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The District of Columbia will not be giving students standardized tests this year, because the Department of Education granted a waiver for the District. While this may seem like a relief for students who have already had a tough year, the D.C. Auditor explained it is one less piece of data that the District has.

The auditor used an anecdotal story as an example. Just last month, Councilmember Lewis asked the State Superintendent how many ninth graders in the District are on track to graduate right now, and the Superintendent replied, “I don’t know.”

The reason he did not know is because of a lack of standardized testing, but as Kathy Patterson, the auditor, explained, “If we had these other kinds of data collections, that question could have been answered in that hearing.”

Other kinds of data she mentions include attendance tracking, behavioral issues, test scores and course work. These are all things that the D.C. Auditor’s most recent report showed were lacking District-wide.

Patterson said, “The waiver means there will be one more piece of data that D.C. does not have, and the problem for us though is that while other states will be able to fall back on other data they collect, we are pretty deficient in the data we collect.”

Without standardized testing to show where our students are at, the District must start tracking more data and better using the data already available.

Erin Roth from the D.C. Auditor’s Office Director of Education Research explained, “Test scores, attendance, and behavior over time to make a prediction about how well students are going to do in high school. Their probability of success.”

Patterson added, “It would help us to identify students who are struggling. 18 percent of our ninth graders are held back. If we had more information earlier on from how students are doing, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade on, we might be able to identify these children who are struggling.”

The Auditor’s Office hopes that a longitudinal data system will be put into place moving forward, which could improve graduation rates and student success.

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