SOURCE: P.L. 107-110, No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, Title I Part A, Subpart I, Basic Program Requirements, Section 1111, State Plans.
Committee on the Cognitive Foundations of Assessment (National Research Council, 2001b) and the Committee on Assessment in Support of Instruction and Learning (National Research Council, 2003). Both of these committees called for the creation of balanced assessment systems that are supported by the larger education system and are based on what is known about how people learn and gain expertise in a specific domain of knowledge. These ideas provided the foundation for the committee’s thinking.
In this report, the term assessment is used to mean a process for collecting information that can be used for a variety of purposes—for example, to exemplify the state’s learning goals, to categorize the achievement of individual students, to provide the basis for instructional decisions or decisions about resources, or to monitor and evaluate the success of instructional programs. High-quality assessment is critical to science education because it is both the way in which states exemplify the goals for science education embodied in the standards and a major source of the information that states use in making important decisions about education.
Based on our review of relevant research and extensive practical experience with the design of assessment programs, the committee decided to take a systems approach in thinking about the nature and role of science assessment in education. This approach explicitly recognizes that the elements that make up the education system are independent but also interrelated and interacting, so that changes in one element necessarily create changes in others. Indeed, this is the premise on which NCLB is based—set high standards, implement assessments aligned to those standards, hold schools and districts accountable for the assessment results, and use the improvement of assessment results as a lever to foster changes in curriculum and instruction in ways that will lead to better student outcomes.