This report provides guidance on how state policymakers and education leaders can develop coherent and strategic assessment systems to prepare students for college and 21st century careers. Conley and Hammond draw on research and successful assessment practices to offer a “blueprint for new systems of assessment that are able to support the development of deeper learning skills, to generate instructionally useful diagnostic information, and to provide insights about a wider range of student capacities that are actionable by students and inform parents, colleges, employers, and policymakers” (p. iv).
According to the authors, "This report describes how systems of assessment and accountability can be designed strategically to support continuous improvement across all levels of the education enterprise." In general, the authors accomplish this goal that make this resource a worthwhile read, especially by state policymakers. They present a nice overview of the performance assessment movement, both past and current, and conceptually present a strong argument for deeper, more meaningful accountability systems, focusing more on the formative aspects of teaching and assessment than summative. Communications quality is quite high and makes for a fairly easy read, although somewhat lengthy. The weak part of this resource is the lack of evidence to show that their recommendations have indeed been effective or practical, either in the United States or other countries. Simply citing other studies or articles does not provide convincing proof that many of their recommendations will produce a better assessment system. They do not for example, discuss many of the scoring problems that doomed earlier performance assessments or issues of costs or classroom time that would be required by their recommendations. They also skip over other research showing increased learning gaps caused by performance assessments, especially for ELLs and students with disabilities, who are often at an even greater disadvantage due to the high language and cognitive skills required by more complex assessments. As a thinking piece, the article should be relevant to state and district policymakers, but numbers crunchers and practitioners may likely have concerns.