Today’s Senate hearing on assessments and accountability reaffirms why annual statewide testing used to prompt meaningful action is essential for continuing the academic progress we’ve seen for students and schools over the last decade.

When students take a statewide assessment each year, educators and parents get a clear report on how those children are doing — information that’s comparable with their peers in school, within the district, and across the state. Without uniform annual statewide assessments, educators and parents lose that regular, objective lens.

Moreover, without annual assessments, we can’t calculate individual student growth over time, which is an important and fair measure of school effectiveness.

Today’s hearing also made it clear that annual statewide assessments must count — that is, they must be used to prompt meaningful action and not just for their own sake. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg stressed that Denver’s progress in improving student achievement has depended on the ability to act when schools are not improving educational outcomes for students.

To borrow the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s analogy, a doctor can’t diagnose a problem and address it if he isn’t aware of the symptoms. Parents, educators, and policymakers all need regular, objective information about how all students are performing. And our schools and systems must be accountable for the results.