After two-plus years of work, the Gordon Commission recently released a public policy statement designed to “stimulate a productive national conversation about assessment and its relationship to teaching and learning.” The Gordon Commission believes that now is a “remarkable opportunity to re-conceptualize the purposes of educational assessments.”
The Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education (the Gordon Commission) is comprised of “a group of outstanding educational leaders who will produce a vision for assessment that is fair and beneficial to improving U.S. education and which will advance technology to improve educational measurement and student achievement. The members of the Gordon Commission are distinguished scholars in the fields of education sciences, psychometrics and public policy, and thoughtful leaders in the arena of public affairs.”
The Gordon Commission believes that now is the time for change because of the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics and English language arts; development of the Next Generation Science Standards, and work focused on developing assessments aligned to the CCSS by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
“These developments have heightened awareness among educators and state and federal policymakers of the critical relationships among more rigorous standards, curriculum, instruction, and appropriate assessment, and have created an opportunity to address issues of long standing,” the statement notes.
The statement also stresses that assessments are not useful for the sake of assessments: they must be tied to the needs of 21st century students, students who will certainly need to be proficient in using digital technology, and include both assessment of learning and assessment for learning.
Finally, recognizing the role that policymakers will play in the future of assessment, the public policy statement includes three recommendations directed at policymakers:
- States should create a council on educational assessments, modeled on the Education Commission of the States, to monitor how well assessments are working and recommend improvements. The council would evaluate the effects of PARCC and SBAC on teaching and learning, conduct research on changes in assessments, and inform states as they make purchasing decisions. The council would also mount a public information campaign to explain the need for better assessment, examine issues of equity, and study policies to ensure the privacy of assessment data.
- President Obama and the U.S. Congress should encourage states to experiment with different methods of assessment and accountability and use the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create incentives for new forms of assessment, such as performance tasks.
- Federal agencies and the philanthropic community should launch a ten-year effort to strengthen the capacity of assessments to measure the full range of competencies students need to develop. Additionally, the government and private funders should expand the number of scholars dedicated to developing expertise in assessment.
More information on the Gordon Commission and its work is available at http://www.gordoncommission.org/.
For the complete public policy statement, see: http://www.gordoncommission.org/rsc/pdfs/gordon_commission_public_policy_report.pdf