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Experts Caution Testing Consortia on Design, Accessibility

The groups of states that are designing tests for common standards got some expert guidance earlier this week on how they can build systems that are adaptable and accessible to students with disabilities and to English language learners. My colleague Mary Ann Zehr has details for you in her blog, Learning the Language.

The hearing that rounded up experts to talk to the consortia is one in a series organized by the U.S. Department of Education. The last one focused on states' technological capacity to implement large-scale online testing, which is what's envisioned by the assessment consortia.

In the world of common assessments, you also might be interested in a piece written recently for EdWeek. In that Commentary, Charles DePascale attacks what he calls the federal government's "fundamentally flawed premise that the role of the state assessment should be to provide teachers with real-time, actionable data."

"The problem is not with administering multiple, rich, performance-based assessments throughout the year," writes DePascale, a senior associate at the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. "The problem is not with the state or consortia supporting that effort with the development and implementation of high-quality performance tasks to be administered throughout the year.

"The problems arise when one attempts to administer such assessments within the constraints of a large-scale testing program. Assessments which are already successfully implemented at the school level by local educators can be improved with appropriate state support, but they implode when burdened with the external requirements of large-scale assessment such as security and standardization," he writes.

The differing goals of the components of the assessment system—outlined by the U.S. government when it first offered to fund these projects—could prove problematic, in other words, unless great care is taken in the system design. This is a sobering note of caution as the consortia enter the season of turning their ideas into actual designs.

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