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Commentaries and Feedback About the CBAL® Initiative

These are some examples of what individuals and organizations outside of ETS have said about the initiative.


  • Susan Embretson, a 2001 recipient of the American Psychological Association's Messick Distinguished Scientist Award and a professor of psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology, published a commentary (Volume 8, Issue 4 of the journal, Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research & Perspectives) in which she examines the CBAL® system model. Her paper focuses on mathematics assessments and on how critical thinking skills are integrated into assessments and instruction, but she adds that her comments can also be applied to the CBAL reading and writing assessments.

    Although she warns about some possible unintended consequences of focusing on critical thinking skills, she writes that "[The CBAL] approach should be considered a model for how instruction and assessment can be integrated."

  • Robert Linn, a 1998 recipient of the Messick Award and a distinguished professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, also published a similar commentary (Volume 8, Issue 2–3 of the journal, Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research & Perspectives). Linn writes that the CBAL system model contains many of the features that state consortia envisioned in their successful applications for federal funding under the U.S. Race to the Top Assessment Program.

    Along with their remarks about the CBAL system model's potential, both Linn and Embretson emphasize the long-term, experimental nature of the initiative.

  • At the 2011 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in New Orleans, P. David Pearson of the University of California, Berkeley gave an address as the recipient of AERA's highest award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education. Pearson's address was titled, "The tortured history of reading comprehension assessment: Are there lessons from the past? Is there hope for the future? Will we ever get it right?" In the talk, Pearson included six slides about the CBAL initiative's research to illustrate why he has hope for the future, calling the CBAL English language arts (ELA) competency model an "elegant conceptualization."

  • In March of 2011, just prior to Pearson's AERA address, Paul Deane presented the CBAL ELA competency model at an ETS forum held in Washington, D.C. Juli Rose, an English curriculum specialist associated with EdOptions, blogged about the presentation here: EdOptions blog. In her blog entry, she commented, "Through the CBAL [approach], teachers are equipped with more effective means of assessing students' current level of performance and implementing instruction that increases student fluency in complex skills."

Other reviews of the CBAL Initiative have appeared in these independent publications:

The CBAL Initiative in the Media

  • Portland, Maine

    In the CBAL system, teachers have the freedom to integrate assessment tasks into the curriculum. Teacher Peg Lane in Portland (Maine) Public Schools used a CBAL language arts formative assessment task on the subject of "electronic waste" to teach critical-thinking and research skills to her eighth-grade students. The "E-Waste" task presents students with the following project:

    In order to raise money for your annual class trip, you and other members of your class fund-raising committee have decided to sponsor E-Waste Day, a one-day electronics recycling project. People in your community can bring in old cell phones, MP3 players, computers, and other electronic products, which your class will send to a recycling company in exchange for cash. Your committee will need to research the issue of e-waste in order to help the school select the best recycling company for E-Waste Day and learn as much as it can about the issue.

    As Portland television station WMTW reported in a video news segment, the task inspired eighth-grade teacher Peg Lane's students to take what they learned in the CBAL task even further by running their own community E-Waste Day.

  • North Brunswick, N.J.

    At North Brunswick (NJ) Township High School, the CBAL Initiative is being used in English language arts and mathematics classes. A teacher, Amanda Perry, and administrator, Michael Santa Maria, presented about their CBAL experiences at the 2012 National Conference on Student Assessment, hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Perry and Santa Maria relate those experiences in a news article.

Teacher Feedback

Here's what middle-school English language arts teachers Maureen Tevanian, Gail Hood, Peg Lane and Antona Briley in Portland (Maine) Public Schools had to say about their experience working with the CBAL prototype assessment:

"The CBAL formative materials are structured enough to give a teaching framework, but flexible enough to be used as it appropriately connects to curriculum and standards."

"The topics and skills mesh easily into the curriculum."

"The formative and summative materials are aligned with the Maine Learning Results and the Common Core Standards. The tasks examine prerequisite skills in order to determine whether or not students are meeting specific standards."

"It is great to have materials that we know are both based in standards and cognitive science."

"Formative tasks are closely aligned to the summative tasks. Summative assessments don't seem as if they are isolated from instruction."

Promotional Links

ETS Research Forum: Paul Deane

ETS Research Form: Paul Deane video

Learn about the CBAL Language Arts learning progressions and their relationship to the Common Core State Standards (Flash, 4:49).

The CBAL Research Program: Overview

The CBAL Research Program: Overview Video

Get an overview of the CBAL research program, including how the CBAL assessment prototypes are being used in the classroom (Flash, 8:02).