nors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) have led an effort by the states to change the standards for educating K-12 students in reading and math. Known as the “Common Core Standards Initiative,” this effort is working first to identify the skills that students need and have all states in the country adopt these standards and second to develop assessments of these skills.7 Second, the Race to the Top initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education is capitalizing on this effort in supporting consortia of states in their work to design assessments to measure these standards.8 The focus of both efforts is to ensure that students graduate from high school with skills that make them college and career ready. Participants also pointed out that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been working to define and develop an assessment of college and career readiness, and assessing college readiness has been a prime focus of organizations such as ACT, the College Board, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Thus, there is considerable work underway on this issue.
Developing assessments of these skills was an issue that several participants highlighted as critical. As one workshop participant put it, “what is tested is taught and what is not tested is not taught.” Assessments often serve the purpose of defining the standards and laying out priorities for instruction. If assessments focus solely on students’ achievements in factual knowledge, this type of information will be the focus of teaching. To ensure that students acquire and show progress in 21st century skills, assessments need to be available to evaluate their performance in these areas. Participants noted that this should include assessments designed for both summative and formative uses.9 The remaining chapters of this report focus on developing assessments of these skills. Specifically: How can these skills be assessed? What assessments are currently available and how well do they work? What needs to be done in order to develop these types of assessments? And how should the results be used?
8Authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the Race to the Top Assessment Program provides funding to consortia of states to develop assessments that are valid, support and inform instruction, provide accurate information about what students know and can do, and measure student achievement against standards designed to ensure that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workplace. (See http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html [May 2011].)
9See Chapter 5 for an explanation of formative and summative assessment.