The department is also recommending that states cap the percentage of time students spend taking required state assessments at 2 percent.
Parents should receive a formal notice, the department said, if a school exceeds the cap.
The guidance suggests that tests should cover the full range of each state’s standards, a recommendation that comes on the heels of a study from the Center for American Progress that found the instructional materials states use often aren’t entirely aligned to their standards.
In addition, the department is asking states to ensure a level playing field for students with disabilities and those still learning English.
The guidance emphasizes that while some tests are for accountability purposes, the vast majority of assessments should be tools in a broader strategy to improve teachers and learning.
“No single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator, or a school,” the guidance reads.
Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been consistent in emphasizing this point, despite pushing states to adopt teacher evaluation and compensation systems based in part on student test scores.
“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” Duncan said in a statement.
“But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”
The department underscored that the president’s fiscal 2016 budget requested $403 million for state assessments, which it noted states will be able to use to review their existing test.
By January, the department will provide additional guidance on what federal funds states and districts can tap to audit their current testing regimen. Read more: