dations and the failure to question basic assumptions that creates conflicts about the meaning and value of assessment results.
Advances in the study of thinking and learning (cognitive science) and in the field of measurement (psychometrics) have stimulated people to think in new ways about how students learn and what they know, what is therefore worth assessing, and how to obtain useful information about student competencies. Numerous researchers interested in problems of educational assessment have argued that, if brought together, advances in the cognitive and measurement sciences could provide a powerful basis for refashioning educational assessment (e.g., Baker, 1997; Glaser and Silver, 1994; Messick, 1984; Mislevy, 1994; National Academy of Education, 1996; Nichols, 1994; National Research Council [NRC], 1999b; Pellegrino, Baxter, and Glaser, 1999; Snow and Lohman, 1989; Wilson and Adams, 1996). Indeed, the merger could be mutually beneficial, with the potential to catalyze further advances in both fields.
Such developments, if vigorously pursued, could have significant longterm implications for the field of assessment and for education in general. Unfortunately, the theoretical foundations of assessment seldom receive explicit attention during most discussions about testing policy and practice. Short-term issues of implementation, test use, or score interpretation tend to take precedence, especially in the context of many large-scale testing programs (NRC, 1999b). It is interesting to note, however, that some of today’s most pressing issues, such as whether current assessments for accountability encourage effective teaching and learning, ultimately rest on an analysis of the fundamental beliefs about how people learn and how to measure such learning that underlie current practices. For many reasons, the present climate offers an opportune time to rethink these theoretical underpinnings of assessment, particularly in an atmosphere, such as that surrounding the committee’s deliberations, not charged with the polarities and politics that often envelop discussions of the technical merits of specific testing programs and practices.
Major societal, economic, and technological changes have transformed public conceptions about the kinds of knowledge and skills schools should teach and assessments should measure (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991). These developments have sparked widespread debate and activity in the field of assessment. The efforts under way in every state to reform education policy and practice through the implementation of higher standards for students and teachers have focused to a large extent on assessment, resulting in a major increase in the amount of testing and in the emphasis placed on its results (Education Week, 1999). The following sub-