New report examines balanced assessment systems

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) on April 10 released an in-depth examination of assessment systems with guidance for state and district leaders and policymakers as they implement more balanced assessment systems.

Balanced assessment systems and practices are designed to provide feedback to students and information for teachers to support rigorous, equitable instructional and learning opportunities. According to the report, this type of assessment system facilitates educator engagement in the process to support ambitious and equitable teaching.

Specifically, high-quality assessments can help in everything from informing decision making on allocating resources and professional development opportunities, to providing insights to teachers about how well students have learned what they need to from an instructional unit and help teachers adjust instruction during daily interactions.

“Good assessments are crucial to understanding and supporting student learning, but far too often, our approach is incoherent and ineffective,” said James Pellegrino, a professor emeritus of liberal arts and sciences, psychology and education at the University of Illinois Chicago, founding co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute and co-editor of the report. “It was time to build on what we already know, and capitalize on updated views of learning, equity, and classroom assessment, to offer a richer vision of balanced assessment systems.”

The report provides a roadmap for developing, implementing and using balanced assessment systems. Across nine chapters, researchers detail how local and state educational agencies can foster and maintain a culture of productive assessment use to improve equitable teaching and learning at the classroom level; design policy, professional learning and other systems necessary to implement balanced assessment systems; and implement processes to use aggregate data to continually improve the assessment system itself to better serve all students — especially those who have been historically disenfranchised.

The following is a brief description of what is included in the report:

Chapter one provides a recounting of how assessment data can be used to monitor educational opportunities and support high-quality instruction indirectly when used to guide decisions on appropriate curricular resources and professional development opportunities.

Chapter two documents prior struggles in implementing balanced assessment systems.

Chapter three illustrates how balanced assessment systems are grounded in the most up-to-date knowledge of human learning and development.

Chapters four and five explain how balanced assessment systems work within classrooms supporting ambitious and equitable teaching and learning with robust assessment literacy and professional learning for educators.

Chapters six and seven recognize the critical roles of local and state education agencies in establishing and supporting balanced assessment systems.

Chapters eight and nine provide considerations for developing, implementing and institutionalizing the complex educational innovation of balanced assessment systems, as well as criti­cal lessons for enacting policies to promote balanced assessment systems.