College of Education & Human Development
How do we develop equitable educational assessments in the COVID-era and beyond?

As the end of the 2020-21 school year approaches, the debate about educational assessments is gaining renewed momentum. Some argue that assessments provide valuable information for understanding how the pandemic has affected learning, especially among students from underrepresented backgrounds. Others argue that these tests, especially in today’s context, will not accurately reflect learning among students who need the most support. However, they all recognize that equity lies at the heart of this issue.

University of Delaware assistant professor Kenneth Shores served as an educational policy expert for the National Academy of Education’s report “Educational Assessments in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond,” which synthesizes the thinking of a group of scholars, policy leaders, and educators.

The report begins with the idea that tests have multiple uses: we use them to describe student learning over the course of a year; we use them to determine student eligibility for special education or gifted classes, and we use them to assess academic growth among different student populations. To develop an equitable assessment, we should first consider the purpose of the test and whether it will generate valid results given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To test, or not to test -- that is not the question. Instead, we must first delineate the intended and unintended uses of test scores and ask ourselves whether those uses will be reliable and unbiased given the testing environment we face,” said Shores. “These types of questions should always be asked about tests, but COVID has brought them into sharper relief and, hopefully, has given us an opportunity to rethink how they will be used moving forward.”

The report offers many suggestions for educators, such as creating a balanced assessment system that would provide a richer description of student learning. Among other characteristics, this system would tie assessments to the instructional content that teachers actually deliver and recognize that a single assessment will not capture the full range of student learning. The report also highlights “opportunities to learn,” which focus on the student experiences rather than outcomes.

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About Kenneth Shores

Kenneth A. Shores is an assistant professor specializing in education policy in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. His research focuses on educational inequality and encompasses both descriptive and causal inference. His work addresses racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequality in test scores, school disciplinary policy, classification systems, and school resources. 

Education and Social Policy at UD

Shores’s research complements the work of our education and social policy faculty at UD, which includes Gary T. Henry (education policy, educational evaluation, and school turnaround), Laura Desimone (state, district, and school-level policy in relation to teaching and student achievement), Elizabeth Farley-Ripple (policy analysis and evidence-based decision-making), Lauren Bailes (political efficacy and democratic participation in school policy systems), Florence Ran (higher education policy), Bryan VanGronigen (organizational resilience and change management in schools), and Doug Archbald (educational leadership and policy).

Education and Social Policy Research at UD
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