No topic in education is more ubiquitous today than assessment. It shows up in curriculum reform efforts, NSF grant guidelines, the efforts of teachers innovating in their own classrooms, and reports from national commissions. Certainly assessment is central to the various programs and projects of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It’s something all of us committed to educational improvement must know about.

And yet, assessment can be a daunting topic. It comes with a whole raft of technical terms and concepts, and with debates and dilemmas that have occupied experts for decades now. What is the difference between reliability and validity? What is a “true score” and an “error component.” What are the limits and possibilities of “value added assessment”? What can assessment tell us (and not) about the quality of teaching? About the learning we care most about?

Over the past several years, Carnegie Senior Scholar Lloyd Bond—a psychometrician with a long list of credentials in educational measurement—has produced a collection of short essays designed to demystify assessment and open up discussion in fresh ways. Some of these essays have appeared as Carnegie Perspectives pieces; some are posted here for the first time. All are yours for the taking. We encourage you to read, reflect, and share with others. Assessment isn’t just for the experts anymore: it is the responsibility of all of us to understand its issues and possibilities.

Pat Hutchings

List of Essays

The Assessment of “”Understanding”
What does it mean to “understand” something—a concept, a scientific principle, an extended rhetorical argument, a procedure or algorithm? In response to this vexing question, Bond proposes a list of criteria that classroom teachers might use to assess understanding.

Some Thoughts on Effective Schooling, No Child Left Behind and the Achievement Gap
As controversy continues to swirl around a perpetually vexing problem in American education—the substantially lower mean levels of achievement in virtually all academic subjects by African American, Hispanic, and poor students—Bond finds a source of common ground in the words of John Dewey.

Fires and Eternity
In the era of high-stakes testing and strict teacher accountability, Bond reminds us that assessments of teaching only tell part of the student learning story.

Aptitude, Ability, and Achievement
Bond argues that while the constructs of aptitude, ability and achievement can be difficult to measure, they have real implications for how educators approach their craft.

Toward A Signature Assessment for Liberal Education
Bond calls for an assessment that captures the vision of liberal education—an assessment challenge that may be the most important in higher education today.

The Think-Aloud Protocol: A High Yield/Low Stakes Assessment

To combat the performance pattern of high grades/low test scores, Bond shares a powerful assessment technique that offers educators insights into their students’ thinking and allows teachers to reflect back on their classroom practices.

Coaching and Test Validity
Bond directs our attention to commercial “coaching” schools, used by students seeking a competitive advantage in college admissions tests, and calls for research into the validity of these students’ test results by examining three possible coaching outcomes.

A Little Test Theory
Bond argues that the Classical Test Theory Model, used to analyze tests for the greater part of the twentieth century, is more about errors of measurement than true scores.

Predicting Complex Performance
To better predict a student’s performance in college or on the job, Bond argues a test must do more than assess a single construct.

Toward a Framework for the Assessment of Integrative Learning
Bond outlines the key characteristics that a good assessment of integrative learning should possess.

Is There a Deep Structure to Teaching?
Bond considers the “surface features” that characterize particular teaching environments and discusses their effect on determining teaching excellence.

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