for improving student scores on such assessments. Although this focus on summative assessment poses a challenge to the wider teaching and learning of 21st century competencies, recent policy developments do appear to open the window for a wider diffusion of interventions to develop these competencies. For example, the previous chapter noted that the new Common Core State Standards and A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (hereafter referred to as the NRC science framework) include facets of 21st century competencies.
While the new English language arts and mathematics standards and the science framework articulate goals for deeper learning and the development of facets of 21st century competencies, the extent to which these goals are realized in schools will be strongly influenced by their inclusion in district, state, and national assessments. Because educational policy remains focused on outcomes from summative assessments that are part of accountability systems, teachers and administrators will focus instruction on whatever is included in state assessments. Thus, as new assessment systems are developed to reflect the new standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, significant attention will need to be given to the design of tasks and situations that call upon a range of important 21st century competencies as applied in each of the major content areas.
Although improved assessments would facilitate a wider focus on teaching approaches that support the development of 21st century competencies, there are a number of challenges to developing such assessments. First, research to date has focused on a wide variety of different constructs in the cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal domains. Although our taxonomy offers a useful starting point, further research is needed to more carefully organize, align, and define these constructs. There are also psychometric challenges. Progress has been made in assessing cognitive competencies, but much further research is needed to develop assessments of intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies that are suitable for both formative and summative assessment uses in educational settings. Experiences during the 1980s and 1990s in the development and implementation of performance assessments, including assessments with open-ended tasks, can offer valuable insights, but assessments must be reliable, valid, and fair if they are to be widely used in formal and informal learning environments.
A third challenge involves political and economic forces influencing assessment development and use. Traditionally, policy makers have favored the use of standardized, on-demand, end-of-year tests for purposes of accountability. Composed largely of selected response items, these tests are relatively cheap to develop, administer, and score; have sound psychometric properties; and provide easily quantifiable and comparable scores for assessing individuals and institutions. Yet, as discussed in Chapter 6, such standardized tests have not been conducive to measuring or supporting the