New Assessments, Better Instruction?

Designing Assessment Systems to Promote Instructional Improvement

by Susannah Faxon-Mills, Laura S. Hamilton, Mollie Rudnick, Brian M. Stecher

View related products

Download eBook for Free

Full Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 1.2 MB Best for desktop computers.

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 7.0 or higher for the best experience.

ePub file 1.8 MB Best for mobile devices.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view ePub files. Calibre is an example of a free and open source e-book library management application.

mobi file 0.5 MB Best for Kindle 1-3.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view mobi files. Amazon Kindle is the most popular reader for mobi files.

Summary Only

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.2 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 7.0 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. What does research tell us about the influence of testing on instructional practice, and what are the implications of this research for predicting the likely impact of new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards?
  2. What conditions could be put in place to promote a positive impact of assessments on instruction and, ultimately, deeper learning?

Abstract

The Hewlett Foundation commissioned RAND to review research about the effects of assessment and to summarize what is known about assessment as a lever for reform. To explore the likely influence of new assessments on teaching practice and the conditions that moderate that relationship, researchers conducted a series of literature reviews. The reviews suggest a wide variety of effects that testing might have on teachers' activities in the classroom, including changes in curriculum content and emphasis, changes in how teachers allocate time and resources across different pedagogical activities, and changes in how teachers interact with individual students. The literature also identifies a number of conditions that affect the impact that assessment may have on practice. Research suggests that the role of tests will be enhanced by policies that ensure the tests mirror high-quality instruction, are part of a larger, systemic change effort, and are accompanied by specific supports for teachers.

Key Findings

How Educators Respond to Assessment and What Factors Affect These Responses

  • Educators' responses to testing include changes in curriculum content and emphasis (changes in the sequence of topics, reallocation of emphasis across and within topics, focus on basic skills and tasks, and focus on higher skills cognitive level); changes in pedagogical activities (focusing on test preparation, changes in instructional strategies, changes in classroom assessment practices); and changes in teachers' interaction with individual students (using test results to individualize instruction, focusing on "bubble kids").
  • Other factors that mediate the relationship between assessment and instructional practices include the attributes of the tests and testing programs; the accountability context; educator background, beliefs, and knowledge; schools and student characteristics; and district and school policies.

Recommendations

  • Test content and format should mirror high-quality instruction.
  • Tests should be used only for purposes for which they were designed and validated.
  • Score reporting should be optimized to foster instructional improvement.
  • Teachers should receive training and support to interpret and use test scores effectively.
  • The test scores should "matter," but important consequences should not follow directly from test scores alone.
  • If there are externally mandated, high-stakes tests, they should be part of an integrated assessment system that includes formative and summative components.
  • Accountability metrics should value growth in achievement, not just status, and should be sensitive to change at all levels of student performance, not just a single cut point.
  • Assessment should be one component of a broader systemic reform effort.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methods

  • Chapter Three

    How Educators Respond to Assessment

  • Chapter Four

    Conditions That Influence Educators' Responses to Assessment

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and was produced within RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.