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Report: States Should Be Required to Test 'Deeper Learning'

To help measure and drive more sophisticated learning, the federal government should require all states to assess "deeper learning competencies" in their student testing systems and it should provide ongoing financial support for the operating costs of such assessments, argues a new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Those are among the recommendations for federal action outlined in the document, which also gives an overview of the need for better assessments and the efforts under way by two consortia of states to develop such tests aligned to the new common standards. (As most readers know, we've been covering work on the common assessments very closely. One of our more recent entries on the topic notes that one consortium has decided to pare back the number of tests required in its design.)

"Preparing students to succeed in a complex world will require many changes in education policy and practice, but perhaps the most urgent priority is changing the way students are assessed," says the policy brief, authored by Robert Rothman, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a research and advocacy group based in Washington. "Assessments are powerful levers in education, and current state assessments have in many ways impeded the development of deeper learning."

The alliance says the federal government has made a strong start toward supporting better assessments by providing $330 million for the two state consortia to develop new, comprehensive assessment systems.

The report also calls on the federal government to provide professional-development funds toward the improvement of teachers' ability to assess student knowledge and skills, and ensure that assessments "fairly include all students," including English-language learners and students with disabilities.

With regard to the call for federal aid to administer tests, the report notes that once the initial development work of the common assessments is completed, states will face ongoing costs that will be more expensive if they require human scoring.

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