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State Consortia Draft Frameworks for New Assessments

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BOULDER, COLO.--In a step toward collaborating on building assessments, officials from a number of states reported here this month that they have drafted guidelines for new assessments in two subject areas.

Meeting under the auspices of the Council of Chief State School Officers, curriculum and assessment specialists from dozens of states have worked since last October to pool their resources in developing new measures of student achievement.

During that period, members noted, a consortium on workplace readiness has developed a draft framework for assessments in that area, and a group on the arts has drawn up a document that reflects a consensus of state curriculum frameworks in the visual and performing arts.

The frameworks are the "best guess'' about what national standards in those subjects may look like, explained Ramsay W. Selden, the director of the state education-assessment center for the C.C.S.S.O. Over the next few years, he noted, the frameworks probably will be revised as organizations come up with national definitions of what students should know and be able to do.

"We are not trying to set national standards with this project,'' he said.

Nevertheless, the frameworks could help guide the standards-setting efforts by demonstrating the consensus that currently exists, said Joan Peterson, a visual- and performing-arts consultant to California's superintendent of public instruction.

"The work the consortium has begun could provide a good baseline for standards-setting,'' Ms. Peterson said in an interview.

No One Thing

The members of the multistate consortia presented their reports on their activities here at an annual assessment conference sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. In addition to the groups on workplace readiness and the arts, consortia have also met to consider assessment in reading, writing, social studies, and mathematics.

Officials from several groups acknowledged that collaboration has proved difficult.

"You're taking egos--people think their work is the best in the world--and bringing them together,'' said Edward Riedy, the director of assessment and accountability for the Kentucky education department.

Stanley N. Rabinowitz, an associate program director for the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, said the workplace-readiness group began its work by searching for common elements among various national definitions of the subject.

For that reason, he said, the group did not simply adopt the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Labor's Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. While the framework is consistent with those recommendations, it also incorporates elements from state and district frameworks and from those of private organizations, so that states will be able to adapt it to local needs, Mr. Rabinowitz said.

"It is unreasonable to expect all 50 states to do any [one] thing together,'' he added.

Mr. Rabinowitz also noted that assessment tasks based on the framework could be integrated into assessments in other subject areas, such as writing and social studies.

"We do not want to create an industry called 'workplace readiness,' '' he said.

'Collective Thinking'

In the arts, meanwhile, the 10 states in that consortium found that "there really is an agreement on the major categories around which an assessment can be based,'' according to Ms. Peterson.

While the state frameworks emphasize different topics, she said, they all propose that students demonstrate knowledge and skills in creative expression, perception, history and culture, analysis and criticism, and aesthetics.

Using the common framework as a guide, Ms. Peterson said, the consortium will "do collective thinking on how assessment in the arts can serve the arts and the wider community.''

"When funding is tight,'' she said, "we ought to [form a] partnership.''

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