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Assessment & Evaluation

Testing, evaluation, assessment — they're all such a big part of today's educational climate. Articles in this section cover issues such as how to help your child do well on tests and what you should consider if you're thinking about having your child tested.


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A Description of Foundation Skills Interventions for Struggling Middle-Grade Readers in Four Urban Northeast and Islands Region School Districts

Zorfass, J., & Urbano, C. (2008). A description of foundation skills interventions for struggling middle-grade readers in four urban Northeast and Islands Region school districts (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2008-No. 042). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs.

This study, conducted during the 2006-07 academic year, describes how four mid-size urban school districts in the Northeast and Islands Region—Worcester, Massachusetts; Nashua, New Hampshire; Yonkers, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island, conducted foundation skills assessments and provided foundation skills programs to struggling middle-grade readers.

The study identifies six factors that, according to the district representatives interviewed, can promote or hinder program implementation:

  1. Building on the federal Reading First initiative by expanding selected aspects of the program to upper elementary and middle grades,
  2. Using Response-to-Intervention and three-tier reading models,
  3. Fostering collaboration among relevant departments and programs,
  4. Recruiting highly qualified teachers in relevant areas,
  5. Solving problems of time and scheduling, and
  6. Ensuring that programs are carried out as designed.

Measuring Skills for the 21st Century

Silva, E. (2008). Measuring Skills for the 21st Century. Education Sector. Washington, D.C.

Beyond a foundation in basic literacy and math skills, today's students must also master 21st century skills, like analytical thinking and creative problem-solving, to succeed in the workforce. What types of assessments best measure these not-easily-quantified skills?

Now What? Imperatives & Options for "Common Core" Implementation & Governanace

Finn, C.E. & Petrilli, M.J. Now what? imperatives & options for Common Core" implementation & governance. (2010). Washington: D.C.: Fordham Foundation.

This Fordham Institute publication — co-authored by President Chester E. Finn Jr. and VP Michael J. Petrilli — examines what comes next in the journey to common education standards and tests and recommends a step-by-step approach to coordinate implementation of the Common Core.

Predictive Validity of Selected Benchmark Assessments

Brown, R.S. & E. Coughlin. (2007). The predictive validity of selected benchmark assessments used in the Mid-Atlantic Region (Issues & Answers Report, REL-2007-No. 017). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs

End of year state assessments have become so important that no district wants to be surprised by poor results, therefore many district heads seek benchmarking assessments. But are the results of the benchmark exams reliable predictors of year-end results? This report summarizes an independent analysis of five benchmarking tools used in the mid-Atlantic states in preparing for state assessments.

Reading for Understanding: Toward an R&D Program in Reading Comprehension

Snow, C.E. (2002). Reading for understanding: toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica: RAND.

This RAND Corporation report, undertaken at the request of the Education Department, suggests a national research agenda addressing the most pressing issues in literacy over the next 10 years. High on the list of priorities is research into instruction, teacher preparation, and assessment.

State High School Exit Exams: Trends in Test Programs, Alternate Pathways, and Pass Rates

Zhang, Y. (2009). State high school exit exams: trends in test programs, alternate pathways, and pass rates. Washington, DC: Center for Education Policy.

This report highlights a growing trend among states to establish alternate pathways to graduation for students who are struggling to pass exit exams. The report also analyzes exit exam pass rates and finds that 11 of the 16 states showed an average annual growth in the proportion of students passing the test in reading and 13 states showed average annual growth in mathematics. Although many states narrowed the gaps in initial pass rates between the various student subgroups over the years, the gaps remain large in both subjects.

The Nation's Report Card: Writing 2007

U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.

This report presents the results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessment, which was administered to a sampling of 8th and 12th graders in U.S. public and private schools. Average writing scores were higher in 2007 than in previous assessments in 2002 and 1998.

For 8th graders:

  • The average writing score was 3 points higher than in 2002 and 6 points higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased from 85 percent in 2002 to 88 percent and was also higher than in 1998
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level was higher than in 1998 but showed no significant change since 2002.

For 12th graders:

  • The average writing score was 5 points higher than in 2002 and 3 points higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased from 74 percent in 2002 to 82 percent and was also higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level was higher than in 1998 but showed no significant change since 2002.

The Proficiency Illusion

Cronin,J., Dahlin, M., Adkins, D., Kingsbury, G.G. (2007). The Proficiency Illusion. Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires all students to be "proficient" in reading and mathematics by 2014, but each state determines its own measure and definition of "proficiency." This Thomas B. Fordham Foundation report examines the relative rigor of states’ tests and whether tests have been getting harder or easier to pass. The report found that "proficiency" varies wildly from state to state, and that only a handful of states peg proficiency expectations consistently across subjects and grades. In fact, the majority set the bar low in elementary school and much higher in middle school, which sets up thousands of middle and high school students for failure.


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