Meaningful Measures of Student learning - Page 3

In 2010, Tennessee took another important step, adopting the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math.5 The adoption of these standards increased expectations for student learning and called for significant instructional shifts to occur in classrooms. Research has found that these standards provide greater coherence than previous state standards, progressing more logically from one topic to another. This coherence more effectively ensures that students establish mastery in foundational concepts before progressing further in course content.6 These standards also focus on fewer concepts, allowing students to develop greater depth of content knowledge across subject areas.7 Finally, these standards align more closely to the standards of high-achieving countries and are rooted in the knowledge and skillsets students need to succeed in college and career.8 While Tennessee’s current standards set higher expectations for what students should know and be able to do, aligned assessments make those expectations concrete and establish measurable goals for teachers and students. During the transition to these new standards, Tennessee has continued to implement standardized assessments that are not fully aligned with Tennessee’s State Standards, sending mixed signals to teachers and students about what they are expected to teach and learn. Recent research found that in states where academic standards and assessments were less aligned, teachers had weaker instructional responses to standards.9 As this paper will discuss, these mixed signals undermine the goals behind standards-based reform and likely contribute to weaker than expected effects of the standards on teachers’ instruction and student achievement. Research finds that the content and format of assessments affect teachers’ implementation of academic standards.10 Thus, if student progress on Tennessee’s State Standards is not measured with a high-quality, aligned assessment, it is unlikely the standards will help teachers and districts reach their instructional and student achievement goals. This paper presents the potential impact high-quality, aligned assessments could have on education in Tennessee, outlines the history of standards and assessments in Tennessee and across the nation, provides an overview of the quality of assessments implemented since 2001, and establishes evidence-based criteria for high-quality assessments. The paper concludes that in order to ensure students in Tennessee are progressing toward college and career readiness, it is critical to complement Tennessee’s State Standards in English language arts and math with high-quality, aligned assessments.11 The Importance of High-Quality Assessment Standardized assessments play an important role in school improvement practices, providing diverse stakeholders with important information about students’ academic growth and performance during a school year. Data from standardized assessments allow different stakeholders to recognize when students are making progress and when students’ academic needs are not being