Many states have committed to adopting the Common Core State Standards, but numerous questions remain. How should they implement the standards to ensure every high school student graduates ready for college and careers? What will common assessments look like? What does the United States need to do to bring its education system up to the level of high-performing countries?
Measurement and assessment experts from around the country addressed these questions at the Current Challenges in Educational Testing fourth invitational conference sponsored by The University of Iowa Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment (CASMA) and ACT. They focused on four major topics: Common Standards, Common Tests, International Benchmarking, and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Reauthorization at the event, which was held in November on the ACT campus in Iowa City.
Presenters and organizers of the CASMA-ACT Invitational Conference gather for a photo. From left are Cynthia B. Schmeiser, president and chief operating officer, ACT Education Division; Nancy Petersen, ACT distinguished research scientist; Jon Whitmore, ACT chief executive officer; Sally Mason, president, The University of Iowa; and Robert Brennan, director of The University of Iowa Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment and E. F. Lindquist Chair in Measurement and Testing.
ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore and UI President Sally Mason welcomed more than 160 participants, including UI faculty and students, ACT staff and staff from other testing organizations, and faculty and administrators from schools and colleges nationwide.
Judy Jeffrey, former director of the Iowa Department of Education and one of many experts who played a role in the development of the Common Core State Standards, said participating states need to use the standards to improve the national education system.
We are creating two bookendsnational common standards on one end and common assessments on the other. But we cannot forget the major group in betweenstudents and teachers, said Jeffrey. Nothing is going to change until we make sure every teacher has a deep understanding of the standards and the ability to teach the standards so students can learn and apply the knowledge and skills demanded by them.
Two experts who helped develop the standards spoke about the processJason Zimba, a professor at Bennington College, who led the development team for the mathematics standards; and Jim Patterson, ACT senior program development associate, who worked on the writing team for the English language arts and literacy standards.
Other speakers addressed issues related to the development of common assessments that will align with the standards and can be used by the states participating in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Two consortia, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, have received federal funding to create common assessment systems.
Susan Sclafani, director, state services, National Center on Education and the Economy, delivered the keynote address, International Benchmarking: What the U.S. Can Learn From Others. She presented information from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developments Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is a worldwide survey of the scholastic performance of 15-year-old school students conducted every three years.
The results tell us that students in the United States are not getting opportunities at the level of application, analysis, and problem solving that students in other developed countries are, said Sclafani. The complexity of the thinking required by our standards has to be increased if were going to prepare young people for competitive positions in the future. High-performing countries are that way in part because they have high expectations for all of their students. We talk about how all students can learn, but we dont act on that idea, and that needs to change if were to become a high-performing country.