goals. A combination of on-demand and embedded assessment was to be used to tap a broad range of learning outcomes, and priority was given to communicating the performance standards to various user communities. Development of the program was a collaboration between the Learning Research and Development Center of the University of Pittsuburgh and the National Center on Education and the Economy, in partnership with states and urban school districts. Together they developed challenging standards for student performance at grades 4, 8, and 10, along with large-scale assessments designed to measure attainment of those standards.6

The New Standards Project includes three interrelated components: performance standards, a portfolio assessment system,7 and an on-demand exam. The performance standards describe what students should know and the ways they should demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have acquired. The performance standards include samples of student work that illustrate high-quality performances, accompanied by commentary that shows how the work sample reflects the performance standards. They go beyond most content standards by describing how good is good enough, thus providing clear targets to pursue.

The Reference Exam is a summative assessment of the national standards in the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics at grades 4, 8, and 10. The developers state explicitly that the Reference Exam is intended to address those aspects of the performance standards that can be assessed in a limited time frame under standardized conditions. The portfolio assessment system was designed to complement the Reference Exam by providing evidence of achievement of those performance standards that depend on extended work and the accumulation of evidence over time.

The developers recognized the importance of making the standards clear and presenting them in differing formats for different audiences. One version of the standards is targeted to teachers. It includes relatively detailed language about the subject matter of the standards and terms educators use to describe differences in the quality of work produced by students. The standards are also included in the portfolio material provided for student use. In these materials, the standards are set forth in the form of guidelines to help students select work for inclusion in their portfolios. In addition, there were plans to produce a less technical version for parents and the community in general.


Aspects of the program have since changed, and the Reference Exam is now administered by Harcourt Educational Measurement.


The portfolio component was field tested but has not been administered on a large scale.

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