The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Improving Student Learning in Mathematics and Science: The Role of National Standards in State Policy
plan with defined milestones to indicate progress can help sustain support by the public, policy makers, business, and professional educators.
Kentucky provides an example of a state that has devised a new approach to statewide assessment. The Kentucky Instructional Results and Information System (KIRIS) represents a comprehensive use of performance assessments as part of the state's accountability system. Over time the state has developed an accountability index that incorporates information from student performance tasks, multiple choice items, and mathematics portfolios.
As another state example, the Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) is a report card for schools and districts that provides a comprehensive set of indicators for school success. The accountability system provides appropriate rewards to schools and districts for high performance and equity, and sanctions for low performance and inequity, by reporting performance not only for a school or district, but also for various ethnic, gender, and socio-economic groups within the school or district. Schools must show comparable performance across all subgroups, with state-defined target performance rates raised each year to ensure growth toward equally high performance among all groups. AEIS indicators include, among others, student performance on the state assessment program and on other standardized measures, correlations between grades and performance, data on participation in advanced academic programs, and data on dropouts and attendance. This accountability system is based on the state's mandated standards-based curriculum as measured on the state assessment.
Although multiple measures are critical to understanding and documenting student learning, states and districts must guard against overtesting. Burdening students, teachers, and schools with undue data collection takes away from important instructional time and attendance.
5-C Collect and use information about learning conditions and the opportunities students have to learn.
With the standards movement largely directed at helping students reach ambitious learning goals, it is easy for assessment to be viewed primarily as measures of student learning. Yet teachers, principals, and local educators responsible for designing and delivering high quality science and mathematics education cannot make informed decisions without meaningful data about what actually goes on in classrooms: data on curriculum, instruction, and classroom conditions. As Martin, Blank, and Smithson (1996, p. 2) point out, "Clearly, a key ingredient to sound policy and program decisions is accurate and relevant information." A major component of the State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS), a project of the CCSSO, addresses the issue that education systems are not well organized to systematically collect and report the kinds of data that are helpful for such decisions.
Both national and international studies have pointed out the importance of having such data-called students' opportunity to learn-in order to interpret student test scores (Porter, Kirst, Osthoff, Smithson, & Schneider, 1993; Schmidt et al., 1996; Stigler et al., in press). The connection between student learning and the teaching, curriculum, assessment, and support that are required for it to be successful is an important theme in both the NRC and NCTM Standards. It is also key to achieving the "science and mathematics for all" vision, for without opportunities for learning, all students cannot develop the concepts and skills described in the content standards for mathematics and science. A recent report of the NRC (1997c), which commented on the proposed national test in mathematics, makes this argument also: "It will be very difficult to interpret test results meaningfully, and to make constructive use of them, without a measure of what opportunities students have had to learn the mathematics that is being tested" (p. 3).
Many states have addressed the need to assess students' opportunity to learn. Some have done so through involvement with SCASS. In