The Next Generation Assessments: How Will They Change Assessment Practices?
Collaborative teams of teachers across the country are engaged in a process to deeply understand the new standards. They are unwrapping, prioritizing, and determining the depth of knowledge demanded by the standards and creating scales. As teachers make sense of these standards, they are analyzing the instructional shifts necessary to ensure their students will be successful. While teams continue to build shared knowledge around what students need to know and be able to do, it may be helpful to begin with the end in mind by examining how a standard will be measured in an actual test item.
Recently, the two assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, released prototype assessment tasks. They represent a shift from the more traditional standardized forms of assessment. The most obvious changes include:
- Items that directly assess the instructional shifts required by the English language arts standards (increased informational text, growth in text complexity, focus on academic vocabulary, text-based answers, writing from sources, literacy in all content areas)
- Items that directly assess the instructional shifts required by the mathematics standards (narrow focus on the concepts in the standards, establishing coherence by connecting learning grade level to grade level and course by course, fluency in calculations, deep understanding of concepts that stress thinking and reasoning, use of mathematics in a real-world context, balance of practicing and understanding)
- Technology-enhanced items (simulations, game-like environments, drawing/constructing diagrams or models)
- Interdependent items (to receive credit, both items must be answered correctly)
- Simulation of the research process by analyzing multiple texts to answer questions
- Multiple-choice assessment items with more than one answer
- Extended response items that require an explanation of the reasoning/thinking utilized to obtain the answer
- Nontraditional scoring guides
A careful examination of the requirements of these items will enhance individual and team understanding of the standards and the impact on instruction and assessment. It will increase curriculum alignment and focus the work of teams on the most critical and essential learning outcomes.
As teams explore the requirements in these items, reflect on these questions:
- What will be the greatest challenge for students as they strive to respond correctly?
- How do the student tasks in the items compare to traditional state test items of the past? How do the items compare to the teacher- and team-developed assessments currently being utilized?
- How will the format and design of the questions impact instructional strategies and assessment practices in the classroom?
- How does the interconnectedness of test questions impact instruction and assessment in the classroom?
- How do the tasks simulate the research process? What implications does this have for future research projects?
- Which of the instructional shifts will be most essential for student success on test items?
- How will preparation for the type of performance tasks shown differ from the preparation for traditional state assessments?
- How might teacher- and team-developed formative assessments change in order to prepare students for these items?
To date, seven states have chosen not to participate in either consortia. Therefore, some educators may have the belief that this information does not apply to their work. The changes reflected in this next generation of assessments are intended to provide all students access to high-quality assessments using the principles of universal design. In that sense, these practices/principles apply to all assessments. As the final assessments are developed and rolled out, their influence will have far-reaching impact.