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  • Together, to get every child learning

    by Amanda Gardiner

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    As a parent, I know how central education is to the ‘growing up’ experience. New friends, new perspectives, life lessons – these are what I hear about every day when my kids come home from school.

    A classroom provides a safe, supportive space where a child can learn about the world, interact with peers, and feel a bit of normality. It’s a place where it’s okay to ‘dream big’ and a bright future seems possible. But every day, millions of children miss out on the opportunity to attend school and to learn those skills. Half of all out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict.

    Our new partnership with Save the Children, Every Child Learning, aims to improve access to quality education for children who have been affected or displaced by conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies - starting with a pilot in Jordan, which has experienced one of the worst refugee crises in history as a result of war in neighboring Syria.

    It's a project that'll take us out of our comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. We don’t typically operate in places where disaster and conflict is a daily reality, yet it is exactly in the places where education has been abandoned that we have the potential to help.

    That potential isn't about the traditional philanthropic model in which businesses make a donation to a charity and observe project activity from the sidelines.  Rather, it's about being active participants in assessing needs, identifying gaps, and co-creating solutions for the difficult challenge of providing reliable learning opportunities to vulnerable and displaced children.

    Every Child Learning combines Pearson’s expertise in delivering educational products and services at scale with Save the Children’s experience running education programmes in some of the world’s most challenging environments. Together, we’re aiming to create much more than a stopgap intervention – the long-term ambition is to develop new models and ways of working that leverage the core competencies of the private sector and improve the quality of education in emergency and post-conflict settings.

    Ultimately, Every Child Learning is about building innovative learning solutions that can be adapted and scaled in similar contexts around the world, creating Shared Value. What we learn in the context of our pilot initiative in Jordan, we’ll seek to apply elsewhere, so that we help to ensure the cost of conflict isn't counted in empty classrooms and lost generations.

    You can find out more information at https://www.pearson.com/innovation/every-child-learning.html

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    Amanda leads our work with organisations and people that share our vision that education can build a better world. Connect with her on Twitter - @Amanda_Gardiner

  • Making Assessments Count

    by Jon Twing

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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.

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

     

     

     

  • My name’s Diane, and I’m a single parent

    by Diane Budd

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    I am a single parent. It’s funny how often that fact crops up early in conversations when I meet people. Perhaps it’s because I’m proud of my daughter, perhaps it’s a preemptive strike against the stigmas that still linger in the more conservative walks of society. Though single parent families are a strangely common and unremarkable concept, I still come across the odd menacing rumble of quiet disapproval; a glance, a tut, a carefully placed piece of humiliation. It’s rare, but it registers. One way or another, being a single parent seems to define me in a way that two parent families never need to explain themselves.

    I had many fears when my daughter, Xairis, was born six years ago. I had the sort of childhood where I didn’t mix much with other kids. I never really played out, or went to parties, or babysat. I wasn’t unhappy… I never really stopped to consider that I ever needed anyone more than my brothers, sisters and cousins. Perhaps it was because of this lack of having been around children that, when I fell pregnant, I was overcome with a worrying sense that I was hugely unqualified.

    Despite being 28 when Xairis was born, I was very much blazing the trail for parenthood in my social circle. None of my siblings had children, nor any of my close cousins. The only mother I really knew well enough to ask for advice - my own - had died a few years before.

    After she died I had left the family nest of New England, and headed for the sunshine and warmth of Florida, to be with my partner - the man who became my daughter’s father. Pregnancy is tough enough, without also being in a new place, with no disposable income to talk of, surrounded by nobody I knew, and far away from the only people I did know.

    But it’d be OK, I’d tell myself, because my partner has a child already and he’d know how to do things. Wouldn’t he! It turns out, he wouldn’t. It wasn't so much a question of interest as responsibility. He came from a home where mom took care of everything, allowing him to be the man of the house without having to carry the duties that come with that title. So it didn't really seem out of balance to him that it was the mother’s role to do all the heavy lifting. I guess in his mind, that's the way it was supposed to be.

    In a way, I had been a single parent a long time before my little girl arrived. You expect your baby to utterly rely on you for their every need; not your partner. It had been good training for motherhood.

    I was afraid I would make mistakes, but I was more afraid of not giving my little girl the right start; of hanging around in an environment where she might learn from the behaviours she was seeing. That’s why, when Xairis was about three, we left. Just the two of us, me and my new little girl, heading out in the big, big world. I didn’t know what I was doing. I made mistakes. Lots of them. I still do. But I’m learning how to be a better mom every day.

    I do not get child support and I don’t have my family network close by. I don’t get any help from Xairis’ father - something I have chosen to accept. The relationship had taken its physical and mental toll on me. In the end I decided that the struggles of being alone would be financially and emotionally easier than the struggles of asking him to be reliable. So having a job is a financial necessity. But even if it wasn’t, I would still work. Knowing that you have to work hard to earn what you want is one of the best examples you can give a child

    Xairis is now in school, which makes life a little easier. But I still pay for wrap around school care, as well as someone to look after her in the evenings I’m working. She enjoys reading, and loves learning; animals and dinosaurs are the flavor of the month at the moment. But recently she’s been having difficulty focusing in class, so I’ve also employed a private tutor to give her the the 1-2-1 attention she needs right now. Her teachers tell me that her hyperactivity requires some kind of extracurricular outlet, but I’ve long since run out of time and money.

    I am blissfully aware that with someone good by my side, I might be less strapped for cash, have more time, provide more, be a better parent. That dinner, bath and stories wouldn’t need to get squeezed into the last drops of the day before one of us falls asleep. That I wouldn’t need to rush in the mornings, just so we can steal a few more minutes together by strolling to her daycare center. (We’ve been trying to get up even a little earlier, so we can do some yoga and meditation together - alas it’s turning out to be a class of one!)

    But amongst the waves of guilt and frustration, I am optimistic, because I know she’s got education on her side. Unlike tens of millions of children around the world, she gets to go to school. She gets to be taught and to learn. To a degree, she’ll get to decide the way she wants her life to turn out. In the list of things I want for my daughter, an education comes way, way above a father.

    I know that my daughter feels very loved, and knows I am doing my best. She embodies many of the things I still strive to be. She is resilient. She lets problems slide off her back. She entertains herself. She’s popular, but isn’t attached to any one person. She regularly goes without the things her friends expect to get - new toys, clothes, vacations, time with mom. But she’s rarely without a smile. One day, out of nowhere, she turned to me and said: “Mommy, dya know what? Before I was born, I asked for you to be my mom”. My heartbreaker and my everyday-maker.

  • Teaching twice: The hidden cost of America’s education system

    by Don Kilburn

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    President Obama offered up an ambitious plan to make the first two years of community college free of charge. It’s a highlight of his budget proposal and will be a tent-pole issue of the administration’s education policy for 2015. And it would expand access to more people across the country.

    But students throughout the educational ladder, from pre-school to college, are falling further and further behind in basic skills. Mathematics and literacy top the list. The widening gap between expectation and reality threatens the value of college as fewer students are prepared to succeed in degree programs, such as those offered at community colleges, and thrive in the careers higher education makes possible. The costs of teaching twice – both financial and the overall strain on the system – is the largest undiscussed threat to our higher education system.

    Let’s take a look at the landscape. Fifty percent of community college students and twenty percent of four-year students need to complete remedial core competencies before advancing to a degree program. The cost: $4 billion every year. This is an unsustainable system. The burden on state and federal education resources must be addressed before more students are sent to college unprepared.

    From my perspective in a career working across the educational system, there are three core areas where modest improvements would lead to lower remediation costs and more students obtaining the skills they need.

    Assess outcomes at every stage. For decades, educational investment policies have been driven by “old metrics” such as the quality of facilities and class size. These are important, but with the technologies and methods we have now, we can focus on the ability of a lesson plan to deliver results. These can be achieved in real time, without waiting for test results. High stakes tests have a role in education, but they are a lagging indicator and do not allow for immediate intervention if a student, or a class, is struggling.

    Efficacy of products and services is a critical concept for the entire education industry. School districts, teachers and taxpayers alike all need to be able to see the utility of every tool that’s used and every dollar that’s spent.

    Ed tech is a catalyst. Students today are digital natives and expect a seamless integration between technology and the classroom experience. The largest 1:1 digital learning initiative, in Huntsville, Alabama, is already paying off. The district saw reading scores improve by 18% and math scores improve by 27% in just two years from 2011 to 2013. The graduation rate improved 14% over the same period. Students’ digital habits are helping to raise standards, and we need to be prepared to meet their expectations with learning that’s available anytime, anywhere.

    But it’s not the only answer. We know that pouring money into new devices doesn’t solve the educational puzzle. New tools are only effective when teachers are trained on how those tools can help them identify their students’ challenges, and help them overcome them. Better equipping our teachers to make a difference with good professional development is a smart investment.

    As instruction methods evolve, so too should evaluation and accreditation. Competency-based learning means using mastery as the metric of student success instead of the amount of time spent in class. With more flexibility and focus on the student, remedial needs could be cut from whole semesters of coursework down to modules for the specific skills a student needs to progress.

    Remediation is a huge impediment to students even finishing a degree, as the time and money required to master essential skills often put the dream out of reach. Enabling more students to go to college for little or no cost is the right thing to do, so we need to ensure that we’re preparing all our students for success in college and in the workplace that follows. The value of a college education is only as good as the ability to gain new skills, instead of relearning old ones.

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    This article was originally published on thehill.com.

  • Are you ready for a renaissance in assessment?

    by Amar Kumar

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    I was recently having coffee with my friend, Jodie, a teacher in England. She was telling me a story about an English test she had once given her class. The scores from the test showed that several of her students had clearly not grasped some important concepts. Alas the test had been designed simply to produce a score, rather than to uncover insights. It gave the grades, without the whys. And without those whys, how could she know what to revisit, with whom, and how?

    In particular, one of her ‘star’ students, who she had expected to fly through the test, had not.  It turned out that on the morning of the test, he had had a big fight with his brother, and this had clearly affected his performance. Yet the test simply told her that he hadn't understood the topic.

    There is a rapidly accelerating debate amongst educators around the world – from developed and developing economies, and from schools, universities and professionals – about the purpose and use of assessments. A new consensus is emerging advocating for the use of new technologies to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of assessments.

    Today’s publication of Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment contributes to this debate and advocates for a new set of principles and guidelines in the way assessments are designed, conducted, and applied.

    We probably all know what we mean by “assessment”. In the broadest sense possible, it’s any appraisal, judgement, or evaluation of a student’s work or performance. These evaluations can be formal (e.g., standardised testing) or informal (e.g., classroom observations), and determine what students know, how much they understand, what they can do, and what they struggle with.

    But for me, and for an increasing majority of the education community, assessment is so much more than a certification of a student’s ability or a mark of their likelihood to succeed in further study or employment. Assessment is - or at least it should be - a way to help teachers teach better; a way to inform them of their students’ needs and make the appropriate interventions.

    Yet assessments have historically been used predominantly to hold teachers, schools, and systems to account for the performance (and largely academic performance only) of their students. As such they have tended to ignore the full compliment of a student’s ability: Does he display emotional intelligence? Can she solve a problem? Can they work well as a team?; and subsequently focus on a too narrow definition of ‘value’ for outcomes.

    A cappuccino and more conversation later, Jodie recalled a particular student who failed her math and science tests, but always shone when it came to creative writing. Unfortunately, back then, creative writing wasn’t a skill anyone tracked. So the writer in her - the thing that gave her most potential - was ignored, and so unnourished.

    However, the scent of a renaissance is now in the air.

    New technologies are rapidly making assessments more reliable, less subjective, and less time consuming. For example, adaptive testing technologies (i.e., tests that evolve in real time based on student performance) increase the accuracy of the assessment and can reduce the number of questions a student needs to answer. Automated exam marking can reduce the subjectivity of grading for more qualitative subjects such as history, English, and creative writing. And personalised learning tools can integrate assessments into the day-to-day activities of a classroom, so teachers get real-time feedback on student performance, rather than having to wait until the end of a unit or semester.

    In this new environment, assessments are no longer this conveyor belt of one-moment-in-time temperature checks. No longer do they rely solely on the assessed only having one chance to prove what they know. No longer do they simply produce the letters and numbers for someone to carry about for life.

    Rather, the assessment renaissance is cultivating a new approach; a virtuous circle of insights, interventions, and improvements, where teaching and technology come together in perfect harmony.

    The authors of the new paper detail the steps that policymakers, schools, teachers, and parents need to take in order to prepare for this renaissance. Among their recommendations is an investment in training teachers, so they can better use technologies to make assessment less subjective, less time consuming, more reliable, and ultimately more purposeful.

    When Jodie was just beginning her teaching career, she said one statistic in particular left its imprint. Only 10% of students who were assessed as below average at the start of secondary school went on to achieve good grades by the end. She told me she wanted to know why, in all the intervening years, they weren’t able to uncover the reasons why 90% of students weren’t getting better? When, Jodie asks, will assessments become less about pleasing the school management team and more about understanding how she can become a better teacher and help her students achieve their ambitions?

    Well Jodie, the renaissance is upon us.

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    Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment is authored by Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s chief education adviser, and Dr Peter Hill. It is available at research.pearson.com.

     

  • How Technology Can Boost Student Engagement

    Kids interacting with a table touch screen

    Gallup’s 2013 State of America’s Schools reported that 55% of US K-12 students are “engaged” in the learning process, while 28% are “not engaged,” and 17% are “actively disengaged.”

    Technology may be one of the keys to increasing the number of engaged students in America’s classrooms. In our multi-phase Teaching in a Digital Age study, we are working with many partners to research digital teaching strategies and how they positively affect student learning. One of these positive effects reported by educators is the increased intensity of student engagement that occurs when technology is integrated into the classroom.

    Technology as a tool helps teachers create and present content and instruction that is interesting and relevant to students. When learning is relevant to students, then they become engaged, active learners. How does this happen?

    With increased access to learning resources, tools and information, students are drawn deeper into a topic than ever before. They can even direct their own learning. In fact, when done well, students don’t just learn with technology- they create. One educator noted:

    “When students have this technology, they can create things. They can innovate things…. When they have Photoshop in front of them and I say do this, this, and this, what they can create is always going to be completely, uniquely different. And, they become artists with that or they become filmmakers, or they become web designers. Like they can take on a lot of really advanced roles, and I think that’s something that technology does uniquely provide, because you can’t be a web designer without that technology. You can’t create a film without that technology. And, I feel like that’s really different than a textbook…let me let you take your creativity, and using this technology, create something I would have never made.”

    Educators in Meridian, Idaho noted the misconception that students are only engaged individually with technology. Their classrooms don’t look like separate students glued to a screen. Instead, educators can direct students to engage collaboratively with the use of technology. With technology, collaboration among students is easier and broader. It also opens doors to widen the audience and purpose of student work, giving meaning to the schoolwork.

    And, with increased student engagement, comes increased learning. There is a strong research base that describes how technology strengthens student engagement and learning. For example, active learning is associated with improved student academic performance (Hake, 1998; Knight & Wood, 2005; Michael, 2006; Freeman, et al., 2007; Chaplin, 2009), and increased student engagement, critical thinking, and better attitudes toward learning (O’Dowd & Aguilar-Roca, 2009). Read more in my paper Teaching in a Digital Age.

    If technology supports teachers’ efforts to focus on effective practices that engage students, then we have another tool to engage that half of US students who aren’t currently engaged.

  • Part 2: How learning progressions can help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring

    Girl in Chemistry class

    In my previous blog, I talked about the difference between progress monitoring and monitoring progress. Today, I share my ideas of how learning progressions can inform both.

    The key to monitoring progress is understanding what students know and don’t know at any given time. Learning progressions use research on how students learn to clearly define the learning pathway and conceptual milestones along that pathway. For example, my fourth grader’s teacher could compare his work to learning progressions so that she understands more clearly what he knows, and what she can do to move him most efficiently from his “check-minuses” to “check-plusses”.

    In progress monitoring, teachers use data on a regular basis to understand students’ learning rates, but it is up to the teacher to formulate an instructional response. If the CBM slope is flat, the instructional next steps may not be entirely clear. If CBMs were linked to learning progressions, it could enhance progress monitoring by making clear how students are approaching problems and what misconceptions are preventing their progress.

    The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) states that effective progress monitoring (NRCLD, 2006, p. 22):

    1. Assesses the specific skills represented in state and local academic standards.
    2. Assesses marker variables that have been demonstrated to lead to the ultimate instructional targets.
    3. Is sensitive to small increments of growth over time.
    4. Is administered efficiently over short periods.
    5. Is administered repeatedly (using multiple forms).
    6. Results in data that can be summarized in teacher-friendly data displays.
    7. Is comparable across students.
    8. Is applicable for monitoring an individual student’s progress over time.
    9. Is relevant to the development of instructional strategies and use of appropriate curriculum that address the area of need.

    These characteristics are quite similar to some of the features of learning progressions:

    • Many learning progressions have been linked to standards, such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (#1).
    • What the NRCLD refers to as “marker variables” are commonly referred to in learning progressions as “levels of achievement,” or the conceptual milestones that students pass through as they are learning in a particular domain (#2).
    • The sensitivity to small increments of growth over time is related to the grain size of a learning progression; to be useful for formative assessments learning progressions usually need to have a relatively fine grain size (#3).
    • Formative assessments based on learning progressions should also be administered efficiently and repeatedly, and should be useful for monitoring students’ progress over time (#4 ,#5, and #8).
    • Because learning progressions are based on the scientific literature describing how typical students learn, assessments based on learning progressions should be comparable for most students, although it is necessary to collect empirical evidence that particular subgroups of students follow the same learning pathways (#7).
    • One of the most promising aspects of learning progressions is the potential for providing teachers with instructionally actionable information in the form of “teacher-friendly” student and classroom performance reports and instructional tools and resources that are aligned to the learning progression (#6 and #9). We are engaging in research to learn about the inferences that teachers make from learning progression-based assessment reports. Stay tuned to learn more about these efforts as the year unfolds.

    Can learning progressions live up to their promise and really help educators monitor progress and conduct progress monitoring? It is still too early to tell, but there is some encouraging research showing that with ample training and support, teachers can use learning progressions as a framework for their formative assessment and instruction and by doing so, they come to better understand their students’ learning pathways.

  • Part 1: Monitoring Progress, Progress Monitoring and Learning Progressions–What IS the difference?

    Boy in Chemistry class

    What do these three terms have in common? Progress, of course. Educators and parents across the globe all want to enable their students to make progress. When my fourth grader’s teacher sends home a weekly folder with his work samples and tests, a “check” or a “check-plus” tells me that he gets it, or he pretty much gets it, and a “check-minus” gives me the impression that he has more work to do, but I don’t know what pathway he needs to take to move from the “check-minus” to the “check-plus”, and what is the best way to get him there.

    Currently, educators frequently measure what students know and what they don’t know, but this “mastery measurement” does not provide information on students’ progress or learning pace so that they can ultimately meet the standards we set for them. Monitoring is an integral part of ensuring that students make progress, but what is the difference between monitoring progress and progress monitoring? They sound like they’re the same, don’t they? And how do learning progressions fit in? In previous posts I defined and described learning progressions and why the Research & Innovation Network thinks they have promise. In today’s post (Part 1) I will distinguish monitoring progress from progress monitoring. In Part 2, I’ll share ideas of how I think learning progressions can inform both.

    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies. All teachers monitor their students’ progress throughout the year, using a variety of strategies, but these strategies are not standardized and vary greatly in quantity and quality. Formative assessment plays an important role in monitoring progress, but some teachers are more comfortable with formative assessment than others, and all teachers could use tools and resources that would make conducting formative assessment easier.
    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies.

    Progress monitoring is a term used to describe a formal part of Response to Intervention (RTI); it is a scientifically based practice used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. It was originally designed for use in individualized special education, but is now seen as a useful approach for many different types of students (Safer & Fleischman, 2005). Teachers are trained to use student performance data to continually evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction. Students’ current levels of performance are determined and measured on a regular basis. Progress toward meeting goals is measured by comparing expected and actual rates of learning, and teachers are prompted to adjust their instruction based on these measurements.

    Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is one type of progress monitoring. A CBM test assesses all of the skills covered in a curriculum over the course of a school year. Each weekly test is an alternate form (with different test items but of equivalent difficulty) so that scores can be compared over the school year. Students’ scores are graphed over time to show their progress (see examples here); scores are expected to rise as students are learning and are exposed to the curriculum. The rate of weekly improvement is quantified as the slope of the line, which teachers can compare to normative data. If scores are flat, it signals the need for additional intervention.

    How can learning progressions help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring? Stay tuned for ideas in my next blog.

  • What does Proficient mean?

    by Katie McClarty

    Man and girl playing chess

    The end of the school year is a time for field trips, class parties, and final report cards. The iconic report card lets parents know how their student did that year and typically reflects attendance, participation, and performance in class. Parents generally understand how to interpret report card grades: A (great), C (average), or F (failing).

    The end of the year also is the time when many parents receive their child’s standardized test scores. These results, however, are not as easy to interpret. For example, in Massachusetts, a student who earns a score of 250 on the state test is considered proficient. In Washington, it takes a score of 400. Each state has its own assessments, and each defines proficiency differently.

    Now, however, nearly all the states have agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards as an outline of what students should be taught in mathematics and English language arts. Educators will use instructional materials appropriate for teaching students the knowledge, skills, and practices laid out in these documents. That should produce less variability in instruction state to state and district to district.

    In order to monitor how well students are learning this material, most of the states also have agreed to use one of two Common Core assessments that are being developed. That will make it possible for states to report results on a common scale: a 400 in English in Tennessee, for example, would be the same as a 400 in Florida. But the question remains: is 400 good enough?

    To answer that question, states set performance standards. Typically, this is done by educators and other experts who get together and look at assessments and agree on which questions or tasks a proficient (or advanced or in need of improvement) student should be expected to answer or complete. That information is then translated into a specific score. The same process can be used to analyze the quality of examples of student work.

    More recently, it’s become possible to answer the question of what is good enough more precisely, based not just on expert judgment but also on data. If by proficiency we mean that a student has learned enough in one grade to be ready to do well in the next one, we can test that definition by tracking how students actually perform. We can look at how well a group of students performs on a 5th grade math test and then look back at how those same kids had done on the 4th grade math test. Using statistics, we can then more accurately define what it means to be proficient in the 4th grade.

    This process is called Evidence Based Standard Setting, and because scores can be linked to future performance, it can give parents confidence that if their child is proficient, he or she has not only mastered an important set of knowledge and skills, but also is likely to be successful in the next grade. It can even give students and their parents a sense of whether they’re on track to do well after high school in college or in demanding career training programs. The scores can also help identify students who need extra help before it becomes too late, and parents, using this information, can advocate on their children’s behalf to make sure they receive that help.

    The familiar report card is but one source of information about how well students are doing in school. Test results linked to important future outcomes can provide another critical piece of information to teachers, parents, and students.