Supporting Educational Reforms

We work to improve assessment and accountability programs through policy, practical, and technical changes.

It is one thing to design an assessment – or an assessment system. But we go beyond the design to offer a wealth of practical and operational experience, guiding you through the challenges of implementing a new or revised assessment system and educational reforms to support intended uses and purposes.

Educational Assessments:
Designing, Implementing, Evaluating

Balanced assessment systems are the subject of ongoing technical and policy conversations, but they are challenging to design and implement effectively. We work with you to first identify the highest priority uses and outline a Theory of Action. We then work with you through a design process to ensure the assessment solution meets your identified needs. This solution may include formative, curriculum-embedded, and/or large-scale summative assessments.

Our work in educational assessment ranges from helping districts and schools design and implement productive classroom formative and performance assessment systems to working with states and other partners on both technical and practical issues associated with large-scale assessments. Our support also includes the ongoing monitoring of assessment system quality; for example, helping states review and equate scores, analyzing the impact of testing or learning disruptions, preparing for peer review audits, and leading technical evaluations.

Assessment Design for Every Student

Center professionals are recognized as national leaders in assessment design for students with significant cognitive disabilities, and English language learners. Our work also supports major educational reforms, helping states and districts comply with federal policies to ensure students experience the fairest, most accessible, and most culturally-relevant assessments possible.

View Assessment Resources

Our assessment design process focuses on:

  • Identifying priority purpose and use
  • Creating a Theory of Action as a framework for design and evaluation
  • Supporting RFP writing to help you identify quality assessment contractors
  • providing assessment specifications and other design documents
  • Addressing the needs of special education and English language learners other traditionally-underperforming student groups
  • Complying with federal and state laws, regulations, and policies
  • Generating policy recommendations, such as statutory changes necessary to support the proposed assessment design
  • Creating frameworks for ongoing continuous improvement and validation
  • Supporting clients in documenting the technical quality of their assessment system

Building Effective Accountability Systems

Your accountability system must be valid and useful in order to support prioritized goals and meet rigorous technical criteria. We work with education leaders and stakeholders to design and implement accountability systems that are responsive to local needs while incorporating research-based and best practices to ensure technical credibility. We actively write and speak about the need to conceptualize new accountability systems to better support school functioning and student learning.

Center professionals work hand-in-hand with you in planning, implementing, and evaluating new accountability systems, and/or targeting tasks related to the implementation and evaluation of components within a new or existing system.

Accountability Design for Greater Student Achievement

The Center was founded on a desire to elevate student learning and performance, and move education forward. Accountability systems, when thoughtfully designed and implemented, should help incentivize productive educational actions while minimizing unintended negative consequences. We engage with state and district leaders in a systematic process, tailored to each state’s and district’s values, to support accountability system design.

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Our accountability planning, evaluation, and implementation activities include:

  • Determining state needs and values
  • Clarifying policy and legislative goals
  • Creating a credible Theory of Action
  • Developing and/or evaluating RFPs
  • Documenting the program’s assumptions, rules, and technical quality
  • Evaluating assessment and accountability systems and data for effectiveness, legal compliance, innovative approaches, adherence to best practices, and technical accuracy
  • Assessing program efficacy in promoting specific educational or legislative goals
National Leaders

Assessment & Accountability:
National Leaders

Center staff are known for inventing many widely-used solutions for supporting improvements in educational assessment and accountability, including:

  • Student Growth Percentiles (SGP)
  • Student Learning Objectives (SLO)
  • Assessment alignment methodologies
  • Text-dependent analysis designs and support
  • Reliability analyses for educational accountability systems

Our staff members are regularly asked to participate in national convenings dealing with the implementation of key federal laws, to present work at national and international professional conferences, and to publish our work in peer-reviewed scientific journals and other outlets.

Our Ongoing Initiatives Include:

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Passed in 2015, ESSA is the most recent reauthorization of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act. ESSA continues many of the assessment provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but allows states to exercise considerably more choice and control over their school accountability systems. We are helping states navigate the challenges of designing fair, valid, and effective accountability systems under ESSA with design solutions and other direct technical support. We are proud to offer our many papers and tools to extend this support to any state.

View ESSA Resources

Innovative Assessment Systems

We are on the front lines helping state and district leaders pursue richer assessments and balanced assessment systems. We provided technical and policy guidance for New Hampshire’s innovative Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) pilot, which served as a model for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment and Accountability Demonstration (IADA) provision. We supported New Hampshire and Louisiana in winning approval as the first two states granted flexibility under the IADA, and continue to serve as a key technical partner in both states. We have ongoing partnerships with several states and school districts to design and implement innovative, balanced assessment systems, whether to meet the IADA requirements or outside of the IADA, and we routinely publish valuable resources to that end.

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Measuring changes in a student’s performance from one year to the next requires evidence that the scores from two or more different assessments have similar meanings. We must be able to compare apples to apples. At the Center, we have more than 20 years of experience working with states and other educational agencies to design and implement effective assessment policies and processes that promote high-quality linking of test scores over time. The shift to the Common Core Standards and consortium-based assessments has sharpened the focus on comparability, specifically in regards to modes of test administration, use of devices, and assessment vendors. We are uniquely able to evaluate comparability claims through psychometric and research work, helping advance the efficacy of innovative assessment systems.

Finally, we recognize that strict adherence to traditional forms of comparability can constrain efforts to innovate assessments and assessment systems. Therefore, Center professionals are working to expand notions of comparability to support innovation, while maintaining technical credibility.

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COVID-19 Response

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruptions to learning across the country and the world. Among the many educational impacts of these disruptions are the setbacks to assessment and accountability practices. As schools look to fully reopen, education leaders continue to grapple with how to make up for lost learning and the equity divide that was widened as students faced different remote and hybrid learning challenges due to their economic and demographic circumstances. From the time schools closed in 2020, to the present, we have responded with resources and insights to support state and district leaders. We continue offering our perspective into all assessment and accountability issues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

View COVID-19 Resources