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Can We Get Comparability Without One National Test?

When it comes to assessment, comparability is something lots of folks are interested in. In other words: How do we compare Idaho students with Georgia students?

While No Child Left Behind lifted the veil in a new way on achievement gaps, it offered limited help in making cross-state comparisons of that achievement, since each state gets to design its own tests.

Now that the common-standards-and-assessment train has picked up speed, there is renewed talk about the prospects for comparability. Especially with federal money hovering to design assessment systems used by many states, some are asking, might it be possible that enough states sign on to one type of test that we could get traction on cross-state comparisons?

Or is there a way to design tests that still yield comparability even though multiple tests are being used? (This is a question the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, which are organizing the common-standards work, are exploring with experts, according to a paper they released last month.)

Now another paper is exploring some of this comparability terrain. This paper, released last week, is written by six researchers from the College Board, the Educational Testing Service, and Pearson Learning.

The paper is on a new resource page created by the ETS.

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