Consortium Common Assessments
An Unprecedented Opportunity Demands a Unique Response
An unprecedented confluence of events — voluntary adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the majority of states, historic levels of federal funding for education reform and significant advances in technology — offer our nation's educators a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform student assessment for years to come.
The federally funded Race to the Top Assessment (RTTTA) initiative sparked a national interest in education reform and more than 40 states and territories have now joined one of the K–12 comprehensive assessment consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced, along with three other consortia, have received funding to design the next generation of assessment systems. The National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) Partnership and the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Alternate Assessment System Consortium are developing a new generation of assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, while the Assessment Services Supporting English Learners Through Technology Systems (ASSETS) Consortium is developing assessments for English-language learners.
These consortia have just three more years to push the frontiers of the assessment field. They are leveraging federal and state resources, along with recent innovations in assessment design and cutting-edge technologies, as they seek to overcome some of the limitations of current state large-scale tests.
ETS is prepared and qualified to help the consortia and its member states, as well as states that have not elected to join a consortium, respond to the ambitious call to develop assessment and reporting tools that:
- balance summative, interim and formative testing through an integrated system of standards, curriculum, assessment and instruction
- effectively gauge college and career readiness
- support quick turnaround of results
States must be confident that their assessment systems are of sufficient technical quality, as well as support the broad range of uses of results that withstand legal challenges — particularly when used for high-stakes purposes. Our psychometricians, research scientists, assessment developers and program managers are well-versed in drawing upon ETS's substantial research capabilities to drive innovation in assessment and advance education and equity for all students.
A National Imperative?
One critical component in the nation's effort to improve student performance and the public education system is the RTTTA program. PARCC and Smarter Balanced are developing a new generation of assessments (PDF) with the aim of yielding timely data that enhances instruction, accelerates learning and provides accurate information on how our students and schools perform.
The ultimate goal, however, is not to merely create better tests. The adoption of a common set of college- and career-readiness standards by states means that by 2014–15, more than 80 percent of U.S. public school students and teachers will be focusing on the same content standards. This fundamental change is key to our potential success, mainly because the current patchwork of state standards has resulted in great variability in academic expectations. For example, one student performing above academic standards in one state may fall below a different set of standards in another state. In addition, the 50 sets of state standards have fragmented the investment of resources, time and talent.
In 2009, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia collaborated to address this variability. They developed a common set of standards in English language arts and mathematics, for grades 3–8 and high school, as well as defined consistent and clear expectations of the skills students need in order to compete in college and the workplace. Nearly 10,000 public comments and standards set by top-performing countries were considered while creating the final standards.
Considering the fact that most of the 50 states helped develop the CCSS, have adopted the standards and are using open-source platforms to collect and share resources, it is clear that many of them view the improvement of public education as a national imperative of our generation and that they are eager to work together toward that goal. As a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to advancing quality and equity in education for all learners, ETS stands ready to offer expertise, assistance and guidance to help contribute to the nation's success.
Using ETS Capabilities to Address the Consortia's Challenges
Since our founding in 1947, we have produced test items, test forms and supporting materials for an array of well-respected testing programs — some ETS-owned and some client-owned — for diverse populations. Many of our staff hold advanced degrees and use their expertise to develop, administer and score more than 50 million tests annually — including the College Board® Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) exams, the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests as well as the GRE® revised General and Subject Tests, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called "The Nation's Report Card."
Beyond designing assessments, we conduct educational research, analysis and policy studies as well as develop a variety of customized services and products for teacher certification, English language learning and elementary, secondary and postsecondary education.
Our experts are committed to using their skills to help the consortia assess K–12 education standards that improve students' ability to compete in a global economy.
Learn more about our capabilities in:
- leveraging key advances in technology, cognitive science and assessment methodology to develop a new generation of assessments
- applying an assessment design approach, such as Evidence-centered Design, to develop tests for a range of populations including English-language learners and students with cognitive disabilities
- using tools to effectively design and deliver computer-based tasks
- offering a suite of automated scoring technologies based on research extending back more than 25 years
- creating innovative solutions to item development and text complexity evaluation
We welcome the opportunity to discuss our array of resources that can help you as you consider your needs for an assessment of common core standards.
Vice President and General Manager
ETS K–12 Student Assessment Programs
ETS Government Relations
The K–12 Center at ETS offers a variety of resources on the assessment consortia, including summaries of their designs and future plans, videos and presentations.
ETS has assisted the NAEP program in introducing numerous psychometric and assessment design innovations over the years. Learn more >