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On the Road to Assessing Deeper Learning: The Status of Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessment Consortia

Abstract

"Two consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are currently developing comprehensive, technology-based assessment systems to measure students' attainment of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The consequences of the consortia assessments, slated for full operation in the 2014/15 school year, will be significant. The assessments themselves and their results will send powerful signals to schools about the meaning of the CCSS and what students know and are able to do. If history is a guide, educators will align curriculum and teaching to what is tested, and what is not assessed largely will be ignored. Those interested in promoting students' deeper learning and development of 21st century skills thus have a large stake in trying to assure that consortium assessments represent these goals.

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) is monitoring the extent to which the two consortia's assessment development efforts are likely to produce tests that measure and support goals for deeper learning. This report summarizes CRESST findings thus far, describing the evidence- centered design framework guiding assessment development for both Smarter Balanced and PARCC as well as each consortia's plans for system development and validation. This report also provides an initial evaluation of the status of deeper learning represented in both consortia's plans.

Study results indicate that PARCC and Smarter Balanced summative assessments are likely to represent important goals for deeper learning, particularly those related to mastering and being able to apply core academic content and cognitive strategies related to complex thinking, communication, and problem solving. At the same time, the report points to the technical, fiscal, and political challenges that the consortia face in bringing their plans to fruition."

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