Meaningful Measures of Student learning - Page 8

TNReady is scheduled to be implemented for the first time in the 2015-16 school year.38 Recent research on assessments has identified several key characteristics to guide states’ selection and implementation of college and career ready assessments. In general, research converges on the fact that assessments should inform continuous improvement in instruction and student learning and should provide useful feedback to students, parents, teachers, school and district leaders, the public, and policymakers. To achieve these goals, states must implement new assessments that measure the critical skills students need to succeed in college and career. As Tennessee implements the TNReady Assesssment, it is essential for the selected assessment to align with the following evidence-based criteria: Assessments are aligned to standards. Assessments ensure technical quality. Assessments produce results comparable to those in other states. Assessments provide accessibility for all students. Assessments provide instructionally useful data. Assessments follow best practices in test administration. This section will provide a brief overview of these criteria, defining each and outlining what evidence should be used to ensure alignment. Assessments are aligned to Tennessee’s standards in English language arts and mathematics. Alignment can be defined as “the degree to which expectations [i.e. standards] and assessments are in agreement and serve in conjunction with one another to guide the system toward students learning what they are expected to know and do.”39 It is essential for academic standards and standardized assessments to align in order for them to drive improvements in instruction and learning. The Center for American Progress recently released a report that compared NCLB-era standards to the Common Core State Standards in terms of their cognitive demand emphasis. The report found that previous standards in both mathematics and English language arts were more focused on procedural and rote content than the Common Core State Standards. For instance in eighth-grade math, approximately 68 percent of the content in a typical state’s previous standards was focused on procedures or memorization. In contrast, just 48 percent of the Common Core State Standards at that grade were focused on these skills. Similarly, in eighth-grade English language arts, 38 percent of previous state standards focused on lower-level skills, while only 16 percent of the Common Core State Standards focused on lower-level skills.40 Because Tennessee’s new standards require students to engage with higher-level thinking and to develop greater depth of content knowledge, it is essential for new assessments to assess the range of cognitive demand present in the standards. This should include a test of basic skills but should also assess skills at higher levels of cognitive demand, such as students’ ability to research topics, analyze and synthesize information, and solve complex problems. Tennessee’s State Standards in English language arts require students to cite evidence from texts, to comprehend and analyze informational or non-fiction texts, and to work with texts with adequate text complexity. All of these skills and competencies must be represented on standardized assessments in order to accurately measure student mastery of academic standards. These skills and competencies cannot be assessed exclusively through multiple