Advocates’ Guide to Demanding Racially and Culturally Inclusive State Assessments
Statewide annual assessments are an essential tool for policymakers, parents, educators, and the public to understand how school systems are serving students, particularly Black and Latino students, who have long faced inequitable opportunities in school. By updating these assessments, students of color can more fully demonstrate what they know and can do, giving parents, policymakers, and educators a more accurate picture of how schools are serving all students. Right now, many assessment companies intentionally eliminate questions that involve cultural topics or themes, but by doing so, these items inherently default to the dominant culture of Whiteness.
In this report, EdTrust argues for annual federally required assessments to be more inclusive, explaining why these changes are necessary, how they can provide more accurate data, and how policymakers can exert consumer pressure on vendors to create more inclusive assessments.
The report lays out five elements of racially and culturally inclusive large-scale state assessments, including:
- Authentically reflect students’ own cultures and identities
- Authentically represent cultures and identities of others
- Intentionally include important contextual and cultural information
- Reflect student interests and intersecting elements of identity
- Honesty about students’ realities, both opportunities and challenges
This report is a follow-up to an August 2023 EdTrust report, “Future of Assessments: Centering Equity and the Lived Experiences of Students, Families and Educators,” which was informed by feedback from focus groups to four equity pillars of federal assessment policy, including one focused on encouraging relevant, inclusive assessments.
In addition to the report, EdTrust has created a set of tools to support advocates’ work connecting with state and community partners: messaging guidance — both for political environments that are friendly and hostile to DEI and racial and culturally inclusive work, as well as customized letters to state education agency leaders in all 50 states urging them to partner with vendors to enact the recommendations in our report.