Designing Next Generation Assessments

A balanced, or uniform, assessment system consists of a set of strategically selected, coherent measures—formative assessment tools, interim/benchmark assessments, and summative assessments—that fit together to assess students’ knowledge of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and yield relevant information to support state accountability systems and continuous improvement for students, teachers, and schools.

Next generation assessments that align to the CCSS will build upon these systemic qualities, incorporating features such as use of evidence-based design; innovative assessment items and tasks; adaptations to student achievement levels and learning styles; and cutting-edge technology for assessment administration, scoring, and reporting. WestEd is working with state assessment consortia, as well as individual states and localities, in the development of next generation assessments that are aligned to the Common Core standards.

Featured Projects

Building Common Assessment Systems

State assessment reform is occurring through the work of national assessment consortia, especially the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced). Smarter Balanced and PARCC are pioneering multi-state consortia charged by the U.S. Department of Education with building next generation assessment systems aligned to the CCSS. WestEd is the Project Management Partner for Smarter Balanced. In this role, WestEd is responsible for tracking the timeliness and quality of all components of the Smarter Balanced Common Core-based next generation assessment system.

WestEd also works with PARCC. Staff contribute to item development for PARCC. In addition, WestEd staff are conducting research on English language learner assessment access issues and developing options for PARCC’s English language learner assessment accommodations policy.


Development of Nevada CCSS Transition Assessment

Nevada is committed to robust preparation of their students, teachers, and schools for transition to the CCSS, including the accountability aspects of CCSS implementation. As part of the state’s formal transition plan to the Common Core, Nevada has contracted with WestEd to develop, field test, and evaluate new CCSS-aligned assessments. These new assessment tasks and items will help demonstrate for students, teachers, and schools the differences between the existing standards and the Common Core standards. They will be field tested across the state beginning in spring 2013. WestEd is also developing instructional materials to support the CCSS transition in Nevada.

Kansas Transition to CCSS and Next Generation Assessments

WestEd helped the Kansas State Department of Education plan for their transition to the Common Core and next generation assessment systems. Our technical assistance included assessing needs, as well as developing monitoring strategies and evaluating implementation activities. A special focus of our work was to examine the alignment between Kansas’ career-technical education standards and the CCSS. The purpose of this study was to help ensure a robust connection between college and career readiness content and performance expectations.

Developing Next Generation Assessments in Non-CCSS Content Areas: SimScientists

New science assessment frameworks and standards call for deeper understanding of dynamic science systems and uses of science inquiry practices. Many states recognize that traditional assessment formats cannot adequately assess these aspects of science. WestEd’s SimScientists program researches and develops science simulations that can be used in curriculum activities, embedded formative assessments, and summative assessments. Embedded formative assessments include classroom activities that promote using the Common Core for communication and collaboration. The SimScientists program also studies how science simulation-based assessments and supplemental curriculum materials can be used at different levels of the educational system—classroom, district, and state—in balanced state science assessment systems.


How Can Simulations Be Components of Balanced State Science Assessment Systems? (policy brief)

This policy brief, produced by WestEd’s STEM program, explores how simulation-based science assessments can become transformative components of multilevel, balanced state science assessment systems.