Although the necessary change in mathematics assessment will be neither swift nor straightforward, we cannot afford to wait until all questions are resolved.

What we can say with assurance is that if old assessments remain in use, new curriculum and teaching methods will have little impact. Moreover, if new assessments are used as inappropriately as some old assessments, little good will come of changes in assessment.

It will take courage and vision to stay the course. As changes in curriculum and assessment begin to infiltrate the many jurisdictions of the U.S. educational system, these changes will at the outset increase the likelihood of mismatches among the key components of education: curriculum, teaching, and assessment. It is not unlikely that performance will decline initially if assessment reform is not tightly aligned with reform in curriculum and teaching.

Mathematics education is entering a period of transition in which there will be considerable exploration. Inevitably there will be both successes and failures. No one can determine in advance the full shape of the emerging assessments. Mathematics education is in this respect an experimental science, in which careful observers learn as much from failure—and from the unexpected—as from anticipated success. The necessary change will be neither swift nor straightforward. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to wait until all questions are resolved. It is time to put educational principles at the forefront of mathematics assessment.

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