may be somewhat different from their current thinking. The committee emphasizes that in reshaping their approaches to assessment design states should, at all times, adhere to the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education, 1999).


A developmental approach to assessment is the process of monitoring students’ progress through an area of learning over time so that decisions can be made about the best ways to facilitate their further learning. It involves knowing what students know now, and what they need to know in order to progress. This approach to assessment uses a learning progression (see Chapter 3), or some other continuum to provide a frame of reference for monitoring students’ progress over time.1Box 5-1 is an example of a science progress map, a continuum that describes in broad strokes a possible path for the development of science understanding over the course of 13 years of education. It can also be used for tracking and reporting students’ progress in ways that are similar to those used by physicians or parents for tracking changes in height and weight over time (see Box 5-2).

Box 5-3 illustrates another conception of a progress map for science learning. The chart that accompanies it describes expectations for student attainment at each level along the continuum in four domains of science subject matter: Earth and Beyond (EB); Energy and Change (EC); Life and Living (LL); and Natural and Processed Materials (NPM). The creators of this learning progression (and the committee) emphasize that any conception of a learning continuum is always hypothetical and should be continuously verified and refined by empirical research and the experiences of master teachers who observe the progress of actual students.

A developmental approach implies the use of multiple sources of information, gathered in a variety of contexts, that can help shed light on student progress over time. These approaches can take a variety of forms ranging from large-scale externally developed and administered tests to informal classroom observations and conversations, or any of the many strategies described throughout this report. Some of the measures could be standardized and thus provide comparable information about student achievement that could be used for accountability purposes; others might only be useful to a student and his or her classroom teacher. A developmental approach provides a framework for thinking about what to assess and when particular constructs might be assessed, and how evi-


These may also be referred to as progress variables, progress maps, developmental progress maps, or strands.

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