A New Paradigm for Assessing “Readiness for College”

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A new paradigm for college and career readiness has been reported by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the National Center for Innovation in Education by the University of Kentucky. Among other gems in this report are ways in which assessment could be better aligned with accountability resulting in greater learning for more children.

As schools across the country prepare for new standards under the Common Core, states are moving toward creating more aligned systems of assessment and accountability. This report recommends an accountability approach that focuses on meaningful learning, enabled by professionally skilled and committed educators, and supported by adequate and appropriate resources, so that all students regardless of background are prepared for both college and career when they graduate from high school. Drawing on practices already established in other states and on the views of policymakers and school experts, this report proposes principles for effective accountability systems and imagines what a new accountability system could look like in an imagined “51st state” in the United States. While considerable discussion and debate will be needed before a new approach can take shape, this report’s objective is to get the conversation started so the nation can meet its aspirations for preparing college- and career-ready students. (Darling-Hammond, L., Wilhoit, G., & Pittenger, L. (2014). Accountability for college and career readiness: Developing a new paradigm. Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Abstract.)

It is no coincidence that better alignment of assessments so that testing does more than sort and rank students would help prepare students for college readiness. But most important in this report is the push for higher-quality assessments that dig deeper on student learning and reveal what meaning students are making of their experience. It is at this deeper level that many pathways become closed, students falter, and teachers are unable to correct.