Making Assessments Count

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I was recently asked why Pearson was so eager to sign up to support and develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, in the US, and other assessment systems aligned to higher academic standards. It's a fair question, and one that many teachers, parents, and others are likely asking as well. Why is Pearson so vested in this work? Why does Pearson agree to take on the scope of work, tight timelines, long hours, and political concerns wrapped around the delivery of successful high-quality assessments?

Quite simply, because it’s the right thing to do. Pearson has always supported the move by US states to adopt higher standards and assessments like PARCC that can measure student progress toward those standards. (We do, of course, get paid for this work, but our goal is bigger than that.)

It is the right thing to do for education and the future of our school-aged children. The evidence is overwhelming – too many young people leave secondary school underprepared for college or a career. Too many of these students enroll in university, accumulate upwards of $40,000 in student loan debt (not counting the spending of savings, of time, and family sacrifice), only to fall behind, become frustrated, and ultimately drop out because they are not ready.

These students then enter the job market riddled with debt, and yet are no better prepared than when they first left high school. This one phenomenon alone, to quote the previous Chairman of the Tennessee State Board of Education, demands "truth in advertising," so that students know how well prepared (or unprepared) they are for success. This is where new, higher standards and new assessment systems come in.

More than five years ago, an effort led by the states emerged to develop a common set of new, rigorous academic standards aligned to the skills and competencies that higher education campuses and employers require of high school graduates in our 21st century global economy. The standards include obvious things, like doing well in Algebra II and English III, and the less obvious things – which employers value tremendously – like being able to think and read critically, solve novel problems and read comparatively. Today, thanks to this collaborative effort, teachers in 43 states plus the District of Columbia are implementing those higher standards, called the Common Core State Standards, in their classrooms.

In turn, the need for states to get more accurate measures of such meaningful aspects of education is why Pearson supported the development of new assessments, including PARCC.

We can all agree and disagree on various aspects of both the new standards and assessments that measure those standards. But the fact is that both the Common Core and PARCC are meant to improve the college and career readiness of students. So, while you engage in discussions about what is good and what is bad about education in America, don't forget to focus on the most important aspect – namely, how can you help get our children ready for success in their future? A future that is unlike anything we have encountered in the past – full of technology, billions and billions of bits of information, and jobs that have not yet been created but require mastery of a new set of 21st Century skills and competencies.

I think Common Core and PARCC are a great start.


Jon leads our development and implementation  of global assessment solutions. Connect with him on Twitter - @JonSTwing