CSAI Theory of Action

The nation faces an unprecedented education challenge as nearly all of our states work to implement new and rigorous college and career readiness standards and the innovative assessments designed to measure student learning against these standards. The Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation (CSAI) is a federally funded national center charged with focusing research- and evidence-based technical assistance to increase states’ capacity to support their districts and schools in this implementation effort.

CSAI’s theory of action begins with the new college and career readiness standards that provide the framework for classroom instruction and student learning. Research and best practice have shown us that the degree to which there is coherence and alignment among the standards, curricular materials, and instructional strategies used is directly correlated to opportunities for student learning.

The standards also provide the foundation for developing meaningful and effective assessment. The alignment between the standards and assessments is key in determining to whom the assessments are administered and how the data are used. Issues of technical adequacy, including validity (content, construct, predictive, consequential), reliability (measurement precision, stability/consistency, scoring), and fairness (with implications for diverse student populations), are critical to consider in developing, identifying, or evaluating diagnostic, interim, benchmark, and summative assessments. This is especially true as student achievement data is increasingly used as a metric for accountability at the teacher, school, and district levels.

As seen in our theory of action model, there is not only alignment among curriculum and instruction and assessment, but also a continuous feedback loop among the three, as each informs the others to provide a valid and accurate measure of student learning.

Although CSAI does not work directly in classrooms, we apply this model through the lens of supporting the needs of our diverse learning population at the center of our work. This is reflected in the research, technical assistance, and support that is needed at the classroom, school, district, and state levels of decision-making. Our aim is to focus on building capacity, at all levels, in the development of balanced, coherent, and efficient systems of teaching and learning.