Educators are developing a more sophisticated understanding
of not only learning, but how to assess it. Testing of
students as part of school district and state accountability
systems is now standard practice across the nation. Educators,
test developers and the public have an interest in ensuring
the tests don't just test "what's easy to measure," but
assess a student's understanding of important and complex
ideas. New techniques improve the quality of measurement
and technology, especially simulations, permitting educators
to gauge students' understanding of more complex concepts.
The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS),
conducted every four years to compare achievement of U.S.
elementary level students with those in other countries,
reveals that fourth-grade students in the United States outperform
some of their international counterparts at answering a combination
of fact-based and theoretical questions. Middle school students
in the United States, however, do not fare as well internationally.
Results of a new TIMSS study, released in December 2004,
provide U.S. educators and policymakers with information
to guide how U.S. math and science education programs might
be structured to address future needs.
A recent National Research Council synthesis of research
identifying promising new directions in assessing student
learning was published in their report, Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment (2001). (link) Commissioned by NSF, the report reviews
current knowledge about assessments in the classroom and
in district or larger-scale settings. The report calls for
establishing a foundation to emphasize how knowledge is represented,
organized and intellectually processed, as well as social
practices that support knowing and understanding. It describes
the state-of-the-art in assessments and recommends new directions
for research, policy and practice.
Entirely new assessments are being created for college-level
students in mathematics, science and engineering. For example,
researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have
developed a student assessment for college chemistry that
integrates the big ideas of chemistry into a single framework.
It provides a basis for judging student achievement and identifying
Other research efforts now underway are attempting to make
national assessments more useful to daily classroom practices
of elementary and secondary level teachers. Researchers are
also looking beyond national assessments to improve teaching
by creating classroom practices that involve students themselves
in daily assessment routines.
How does technology
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