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Washington, D.C. — At a time when students are tested more than ever—and test results are used to make critical judgments about the performance of schools, teachers, and students—our testing methods don't serve our educational system nearly as well as they should. Since the late 1930s, fill-in-the-bubble test score sheets and scanners have remained the dominant methods used in local, state, and national assessments, but these technologies and the approaches underlying them do not align well with what we know about how students learn, nor do they tell us much about how to help students do better.
In a new Education Sector report, Chief Operating Officer Bill Tucker argues that technology has the potential to drastically improve our current assessment systems and practices, leading to significant improvements in teaching and learning in the nation's classrooms. Tucker evaluates a number of new research projects that demonstrate how information technology can both deepen and broaden assessment practices in elementary and secondary education by testing new skills and concepts and doing so more comprehensively. And, importantly, these research projects have produced assessments that reflect what cognitive research tells us about how people learn.
Tucker acknowledges that technology alone cannot transform assessment. To be successful, new approaches to assessment would have to be aligned with standards, curricula, professional development, and instruction. Thus, fundamentally changing our approach to testing in our public education system would not be easy. But, Tucker concludes, the impending reauthorization of NCLB offers an opportunity to begin to chart a different course for the future of educational assessment, one that would maintain accountability goals but prioritize the use of technology-enabled assessment and enhance teaching and learning.
This report is a product of Education Sector's Next Generation of Accountability initiative. Other reports in this series include Measuring Skills for the 21st Century by Elena Silva.
This report was funded by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.
Education Sector is an independent think tank that challenges conventional thinking in education policy. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to achieving measurable impact in education, both by improving existing reform initiatives and by developing new, innovative solutions to our nation's most pressing education problems.