A Look Back and a Look Ahead After 20 Years of Assessment and Accountability Work

A Look Back and a Look Ahead After 20 Years of Assessment and Accountability Work

The Center at 20: Leveraging the lessons of the past to improve assessment and accountability practices for the future

It’s been 20 years, and everyone at The Center for Assessment is excited to celebrate this milestone anniversary with a very special Reidy Interactive Lecture Series (RILS).

We invite you to join us in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 27 and 28 for the 20th RILS conference. An integral part of our culture and mission since the founding of the Center in 1998, RILS provides an ongoing means for assessment specialists, educators, policymakers, and researchers to join with each other in thinking, learning about, discussing, and preparing to take action on key issues in assessment and accountability.

In its 20th year, RILS 2018 offers us a unique opportunity to take a look back and a look ahead. Our goal for the conference is to leverage the lessons of the past to forge an ambitious agenda for the future, specifically focused on how assessment and accountability can enhance equitable and excellent learning and life opportunities for all students.

Assessment and Accountability: An Ongoing Conversation

In recent years, assessment and accountability have become charged terms to many. In fact, no small number of educators and stakeholders feel assessment and accountability represent the worst attributes of K-12 education.

As a result, we find ourselves asking critical questions:

  • How did we get to this point?
  • What can be done?
  • How do we make good on the Center’s mission to improve student learning through more meaningful assessment and accountability practices?

We have learned a lot over the past 20 years about designing and implementing high-quality assessment and accountability systems, but we must increase the utility of these systems to help improve outcomes for all students.

The Opportunity of the RILS 2018 Conference

The 2018 RILS program will focus on supporting the Center’s mission to leverage assessment and accountability as part of larger efforts to increase student learning. In particular, we will identify strategies to design and implement systems that promote equity, which are defined as ways to improve outcomes for students who are traditionally underserved.

We will reflect on, but not be constrained by, prior practices. Our hope is to understand the pitfalls, build on the best ideas, and identify new directions to realize the promise of assessment and accountability as key pieces in an overall strategy to improve student achievement.

What to Expect From RILS 2018

For those who are new to RILS, the conference is not limited to traditional presentations. RILS is organized around plenary sessions designed to promote a common, shared conversation among all participants. A major portion of the time devoted to each topic is reserved for sharing among attendees with the goal of working toward practical outcomes from multiple points of view. The process is intended to elicit give-and-take among knowledgeable professionals actively engaged in the outcome of each session.

Opening Session: Taking a Look Back

RILS 2018 will begin by addressing the question, “What have we learned?” Some key points you will hear in the opening address include:

  • A reflection on the past 20 years to identify the seminal developments in the design and use of assessment and accountability systems.
  • A focus on how context and priorities have changed through shifts in policy (e.g. NCLB, to ESEA waivers, to ESSA)
  • Identification of some of the contributions the Center and others have made to respond to those policy developments.
  • A consideration of the impact of technology on assessment design and use, focusing not only on how technology has impacted traditional approaches to assessment, but also on the potential of technology to totally reshape how we will think about and approach assessment in the not-to-distant future.

The purpose of this session is to take stock of where we’ve been as a field over the past 20 years, and how the field is positioned to respond to new challenges.

Subsequent Sessions: Setting Our Sights on the Future

A critical ongoing challenge is making assessment and accountability systems more useful to promote student learning, especially for underserved students. This topic will be the centerpiece of our discussion at RILS 2018. We pose three critical questions, which are addressed in subsequent sessions:

  • What should we prioritize in the design and implementation of assessment systems?
  • What are the key features and characteristics of effective accountability systems?
  • What validation evidence is most important to evaluate and improve practice?

In the coming weeks, we will dedicate a blog post to each of these questions and describe how they will be addressed at RILS 2018. We hope these posts will stimulate thought and reflection as RILS approaches, culminating in lively, engaging and productive discussion when we gather together in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 27th and 28th.

For more information and to register for RILS 2018, please visit the RILS 2018 Conference page.