In a standards-based system, both content and achievement standards play a critical part in the educational system. Achievement standards provide targets for instruction and assessment and help students to know what is expected of them so that they can adjust their learning strategies to meet expectations. However, the most consistent finding from the research literature on standard setting is that different methods lead to different results. It is nonetheless incumbent on states to ensure that the methods they use to set standards are defensible. Setting achievement standards for a system of assessment is even more challenging than for a single assessment, and states will need help in this regard. The committee calls on the educational measurement community to conduct research on standard-setting methods that can be used in conjunction with assessment systems. We also urge the U.S. Department of Education to require that states evaluate the methods they currently use.
Recommendation 8: Research on the development of standard-setting strategies that could be used to establish achievement levels when results from multiple assessments are involved should be conducted. Federal funding agencies and others should support this important research.
Recommendation 9: The U.S. Department of Education should require that states have an independent external body evaluate the process they use to develop and set achievement levels. This evaluation should be conducted as early in the development process as possible.
The committee urges states to use NCLB as an opportunity to make science both an educational priority and a responsibility shared by all. At the same time, we urge the federal government and the other bodies mentioned above to take their responsibilities seriously and to join states in considering this an opportunity to bring about substantial improvements in science assessment and student learning.
Recommendation 10: Federal agencies and others should support, with funding and expertise, the development and pilot testing of model assessment systems in order to assist states in their efforts to create such systems.