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Engage Families in Assessment Practices

Family engagement is critical for creating equitable assessment experiences. Families understand their student’s strengths best. So, families are a valuable source of information to determine appropriate assessments and assessment accommodations. Read on to learn more about how district leaders and educators can include families in assessment efforts.

Include Families in Accommodation Decisions

Educators include families as partners in decision-making for assessment accommodations.

Actions to include families in accommodation decisions:

  • Provide families with information and training on available supports for statewide and classroom universal tools and accommodations for all learners, particularly those students with disabilities.
  • Engage families in decision-making to identify and align instructional and assessment accommodations.

Include Families in Large-Scale Assessment Administration

District leaders include families as partners in managing large-scale assessments.

Actions to include families in accommodation decisions:

  • Equitably include families of students with accessibility needs in large-scale assessment selection, implementation planning, and alternative options.
  • Share how large-scale assessment data is used with families to establish a culture of continuous improvement in education.

Include Families in Data-Based Decisions

District leaders and educators include families as partners in data-informed decision-making.

Actions for educators to include families in instructional and transition decisions:

  • Provide families with assessment data in an understandable format.
  • Combine information from families about student learning, extracurricular activities, and behavior at home and in the community with student work and educator observations to make well-informed instructional and transition decisions.

Actions for district leaders to include families in programmatic and systemic decisions:

  • Provide families with assessment data in an understandable format.
  • Engage families in the data analysis processes that drive programmatic decisions.
  • Engage families in the data analysis processes that drive systemic decisions.

Check out all of the CITES Family Engagement practices.


Harsha's Story

Harsha is an assistive technology specialist in an urban school district in a South Atlantic state. At the end of each school year, she works with teachers to ensure that accommodations are in place for students on end-of-year state assessments.

Nikola is a middle school student with low vision caused by a degenerative eye condition. Since Nikola has low vision, her 504 plan accommodates large print materials, a screen magnifier, and audiobooks.   

On last year’s state assessments, Harsha ensured that there was a screen magnifier on the testing device and that Nikola was provided with breaks as needed for eye fatigue. Due to frequent breaks, Nikola took 2 hours longer than other students to complete the assessment. 

When exams were over, Harsha sent an email to the families of students that she serves asking for feedback. The response from Nikola’s father, who has the same eye condition as Nikola and is blind, caught her attention. 

“Nikola received adequate accommodations and completed the assessments independently. However, I am concerned about the time it took for Nikola to take the assessments. She was so tired after the day of testing that she missed her dance class that night. If Nikola had a braille version of the assessment, she could complete it without eye fatigue or breaks.” 

Harsha reflected on this feedback. She realized that including family members earlier in the assessment process might lead to improved test experiences. Harsha decided to make the following changes:

  1. In IEP and 504 planning meetings, she asks family members and students, “What accommodations would you like to have the best possible assessment experience?”
  2. She invited Nikola’s father and other family members of students that she serves to the state assessment accessibility workshop to help inform systemic improvements.


Clancy, M., & Gardner, J. (2017). Using digital portfolios to develop non-traditional domains in special education settings. International Journal of EPortfolio, 7(1), 93–100.

Larson, E. D., Thurlow, M. L., Lazarus, S. S., & Liu, K. K. (2019). Paradigm shifts in states’ assessment accessibility policies: Addressing challenges in implementation. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 30(4), 244–252.

McWilliams, L. & Patton, C. (2015). How to share data with families. Education Leadership., 73(3). 46-49.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2019). The promise of large-scale learning assessments: Acknowledging limits to unlock opportunities. UNESCO.

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