Assessment Opinion

Measuring Competencies that Count: Using High-Quality Systems of Assessment

By Contributing Blogger — April 25, 2018 2 min read
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This post is by Lexi Barrett, senior director of national education policy at JFF.

The top job skills employers are seeking by 2020 mirror the competencies for deeper learning, such as problem solving and critical thinking. There is a pressing need to help all learners master these competencies today, so they are ready for tomorrow’s jobs and can find opportunities that match their strengths and interests.

But to help prepare learners for the future, state and district leaders need access to the type of robust information that can determine their preparedness. When state and district leaders receive these data in real time, they can immediately tailor and personalize instruction for learners--those who need additional support and those ready for new challenges. In the deeper learning field, we all know that no single test, or type of test, can serve this purpose. Given the impressive body of evidence and research, and my experience, I can unequivocally state that leaders need a comprehensive system of assessments that offers timely, useful data without overwhelming our teachers and learners.

Unfortunately, experts don’t always agree on the one right set of measures that will make this happen, which can result in stagnation at the expense of our teachers, policy makers, families, learners and, more broadly, economic advancement for all. States and districts need to accelerate the adoption of a high-quality system of assessments that will measure the competencies that count for future employers--and parents, educators, intermediaries, employers, and policymakers need to help support that acceleration.

That said, I can share some good news. In just a few months since its debut, Ten Principles for Building a High-Quality System of Assessments, a new field-backed report, is gaining interest from individuals and organizations. Ten Principles, which launched in February 2018, provides leaders with a comprehensive roadmap to improve current assessments, capacity, and alignment of systems, by focusing on a learner’s academic proficiency, career skills, and civic aptitude. Nineteen organizations and individuals are supporting the principles, which are aimed at advancing equity in college, career and civic readiness for all learners. JFF is already hearing from another round of additional signatories for summer 2018.

While this is good news, my concern is ... how can we accelerate adoption of these principles to meet the urgent demands of employers?

It takes time to convince education leaders to shift from the overreliance on multiple-choice tests to using more robust systems of assessment. There are technical challenges involved. Then there’s the capacity of educators to facilitate these assessments and manage the data they generate. But, given the demands of future employers, it is no longer an option to provide learners with instruction and assessment that just covers rote learning in a limited band of content area. The year 2020 is just around the corner--there’s no time to waste.

We need to give district administrators and teachers the time, support, and the right roadmap to navigate through a few bumps on the road to successfully measuring and validating competencies that count. Why not start with Ten Principles?

You can download the Ten Principles or become a new signatory here.

The opinions expressed in Learning Deeply are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.