Tests now being designed for the common standards are likely to gauge deeper levels of learning and have a major impact on classroom instruction, according to a study of the common assessments released last week.
The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing, or CRESST, at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed the work done so far by the two consortia of states designing the tests. The center concludes that the assessments hold much promise for improving teacher practice and student learning but cautions that key financial, technical, and political challenges lie ahead.
Co-authors Joan Herman and Robert Linn relied on Norman Webb’s “depth of knowledge” classification system to explore the extent to which the common assessments will gauge students’ “deeper learning.” That system assigns four levels to learning, from Level 1, which features basic comprehension and recall of facts and terms, to Level 4, which involves extended analysis, investigation, or synthesis. Their study was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which also provides support for Education Week‘s coverage of deeper learning.
It concludes that the work so far of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is “moving testing practice forward substantially in representing deeper learning, but the nature of available data make it difficult to determine precisely the extent of the change.”
The remaining challenges cited by the study include:
• Maintaining performance tasks in the face of cost and time concerns from states.
• Making automated scoring possible for constructed-response items and performance tasks to keep costs down.
• Ensuring the comparability of with-accommodations and without-accommodations versions of the tests.
A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2013 edition of Education Week as Common-Core Tests Dig Deep to Assess Learning, Study Says