Educational Testing Service

March 22, 2010 14:32 ET

Developing Next Generation K-12 Assessment Systems Focus of National Conference

Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top Funding Keys to Development

PRINCETON, NJ--(Marketwire - March 22, 2010) -  More than 250 state and large urban district leaders, national education opinion leaders and leading measurement experts attended the National Conference on Next Generation Assessment Systems held March 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C.

In anticipation of the release of the first draft of the Common Core State Standards, conference attendees were presented with four powerful design models of next generation K-12 assessment systems and a presentation on lessons learned from the best international systems. The content for this conference was organized by the new Center for K-12 Assessment & Performance Management (K-12 Center) at the Educational Testing Service.

"The assessment conference provoked a rich discussion of the opportunities and challenges of next generation assessment systems," Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education says. "The conference papers identified core decisions and tradeoffs that states and districts will have to tackle. Thanks to the K-12 Center for making a timely contribution to a topic that has particular relevance in light of the U.S. Department of Education common assessment competition that is unfolding."

"With common standards looking more like a reality, we wanted to be provocative and to stimulate deep thinking on the upcoming Race to the Top assessment opportunities," says Pascal (Pat) D. Forgione Jr. Ph.D., Distinguished Presidential Scholar and Executive Director of the K-12 Center. "What policy questions do states want a new assessment system to answer? What design features should be a priority for the states? Federal funding has created a unique opportunity for the nation and our states to advance the quality of our assessments and to improve the data systems to better serve our teachers, students and parents."

The conference brought together some of the nation's leading education researchers and practitioners from 38 states, including 32 state agencies and 30 urban school districts. Andreas Schleicher of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development also shared lessons learned from the best international systems and his predictions for the future of assessment.

Presenters and their research papers describing their assessment system models included:

The four assessment system model papers (draft versions) and presenters' PowerPoint presentations are available on the Center Web site.

The conference's keynote presentation, "Educational Urgency in a Flat World," was delivered by Thomas Friedman who said that the global economic playing field is being leveled and Americans are not ready. In order to maintain and gain a competitive edge, America must leverage its creative and imaginative edge in liberal arts to improve achievement in science, engineering, mathematics and technology (STEM); areas where the U.S. has been under-performing in international comparisons.

Katherine Blasik, Associate Superintendent, Research Development & Assessment, Broward County, Florida says, "We need tools to make every classroom--virtual or concrete--a learning lab where, at the end, none of our children are at a disadvantage because of differences in where they live and learn, variations in the challenges they face, or misalignment in standards and assessments that guide our decisions." She adds, "This precedent-setting conference gave hope that we can reform education in the United States, with a national core curriculum for our new generation that is strengthened by assessments designed to help every teacher, parent and student know what has been learned and what is needed next.

"Urban educators were pleased to join with state education leaders and national policy makers to discuss how the next generation of assessments can meet their needs and the needs of the children we serve," says Michael Casserly, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools." Testing that measures important concepts and skills and mirrors the best practices in classroom instruction will be a vital component of improving student achievement to world class standards."

ECS President Roger Sampson agrees. "This conference brought together the right people at the right time to talk about the next generation of assessments and how these assessments can inform instruction and make our students more globally competitive. As a result of this conference, the education leaders who attended will be better prepared to increase student achievement and workplace success."

Two recent developments -- the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the anticipated Race to the Top funds for common assessments aligned to those standards -- create an unprecedented opportunity for major advances in the assessment field to support quality education.

Forgione adds, "We want to help state and local leaders improve their assessment and data systems to support enhanced student learning, something that we can start to do well now. We must use the Race to the Top funding well and invest these resources wisely."

The conference was co-hosted by the Education Commission of the States and the Council of the Great City Schools, with support from the new Center for K-12 Assessment & Performance Management, an independent resource created by ETS which provided the content for the conference. It was held at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the assessment system models and a set of research papers on measuring student growth and informing instruction, please visit the Center for K-12 Assessment & Performance Management's Web site at

About the Education Commission of the States (ECS)
ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education. ECS helps governors, legislators, state education officials and others identify, develop and implement public policies to improve student learning at all levels. A nonprofit organization, ECS ( was formed in 1965 and is located in Denver, Colorado.

About The Council of the Great City Schools
The Council of the Great City Schools is the only national organization exclusively representing the needs of urban public schools. Composed of 66 large city school districts, its mission is to promote the cause of urban schools and to advocate for inner-city students through legislation, research and media relations.

About the Center for K - 12 Assessment and Performance Management
Created by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to forward a larger social mission, the Center for K - 12 Assessment & Performance Management, led by Dr. Pat Forgione Jr., has been given the directive to serve an independent catalyst and resource to states and policymakers for the improvement of K - 12 assessment and performance management systems. The Center's initial focus is the stimulation of powerful new assessment system designs that will provide stronger support for improved teaching and learning. The Center will not be participating in any Race to the Top grant applications.

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