that are as accessible as possible. Recommendations for task development are as follows:

  • Select contexts that create rather than restrict access. Do not assume that a realistic context will facilitate access. It is possible to explore the accessibility of a particular context by trying out the same mathematical idea in a range of different contexts.

  • Keep the reading challenge of the task low. Use diagrams to communicate the demands of the task. Test out the graphics: they should not include irrelevant variables that might miscue the student.

  • Use clear and unambiguous vocabulary.

  • Avoid esoteric abbreviations or idioms that might not be familiar to all students.

  • Use scaffolding to create access but evaluate the effect on the assessment target.

  • Beware of over-zealous assessment where there is the temptation to load a task down with too many parts. If students have been unsuccessful on the first or second part of a task, they are unlikely to attempt parts that come later.

  • Beware of cognitive overload. Try tasks out with students to make sure that the cognitive demands of the tasks are aligned with the expectations laid out in the standards and that the demand is appropriate with the circumstances of performance that are required. More can be expected in a situation where the circumstances of performance are characterized as research-feedback-and-revision than on a timed situation.

  • Locate talented task designers. In addition to developing its own tasks, New Standards sought kernel tasks from many sources, including The Balanced Assessment Project, mathematics teachers from across the U.S., curriculum developers, and task developers in Australia and England.

Perhaps the most sound practical advice is that all revisions to high-stakes assessments should be tried out with students to explore the effect of these revisions on opportunity to perform. No one can guess reliably how students will respond to a particular version of a task.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement