White Papers
Posted: October 21, 2014 by Kris Ellington et al.

Criteria for High-Quality Assessment

States and school districts across the nation are making critical decisions about student assessments as they move to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), adopted by 45 states. The Standards feature an increased focus on deeper learning, or students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, compare, connect, critique, hypothesize,
prove, and explain their ideas. States are at different points in the CCSS transitions, but all will be assessing their K–12 students against these higher standards in the 2014–15 school year.


Based on the changing demands of today’s workforce, advances in other nations, and original analysis, this report provides a set of criteria for high-quality student ssessments.
These criteria can be used by assessment developers, policymakers, and educators as they work to create and adopt assessments that promote deeper learning of 21stcentury
skills that students need to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy.


The five criteria include:
1. Assessment of Higher-Order Cognitive Skills that allow students to transfer their learning to new situations and problems.

2. High-Fidelity Assessment of Critical Abilities as they will be used in the real world, rather than through artificial proxies. This calls for performances that directly evaluate such skills as oral, written, and multimedia communication; collaboration; research; experimentation; and the use of new technologies.

3. Assessments that Are Internationally Benchmarked: Assessments should be evaluated against those of the leading education countries, in terms of the kinds of tasks they present as well as the level of performance they expect.

4. Use of Items that Are Instructionally Sensitive and Educationally Valuable: Tests should be designed so that the underlying concepts can be taught and learned, rather than depending mostly on test-taking skills or reflecting students’ out-of-school experiences. To support instruction, they should also offer good models for teaching and learning and insights into how students think as well as what they know.

5. Assessments that Are Valid, Reliable, and Fair should accurately evaluate students’ abilities, appropriately assess the knowledge and skills they intend to measure, be
free from bias, and be designed to reduce unnecessary obstacles to performance that could undermine validity. They should also have positive consequences for the quality of instruction and the opportunities available for student learning.


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