Pearson Prepares for a 'Renaissance' in Assessments

RENAISSANCE TESTING: Pearson gets high marks when it comes to getting test contracts. In addition to administering standardized tests in many US states and owning rights to develop and deliver PARCC's Common Core assessments, the publisher recently scored a deal with the OECD to revamp the PISA exam--which many consider a standard when comparing education systems across different countries.

Still, Pearson says there's much to improve. In a recent essay, "Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment," Sir Michael Barber (Pearson's Chief Education Advisor) and assessment guru, Dr. Peter Hill, admit that "current assessment methods are no longer working." They recognize the imbalance between today's tests and the skills they are supposed to measure--a common criticism of the Common Core standards and assessments: "Assessment is dictating and constraining, rather than reflecting, the curriculum."

The paper explores the authors' excitement over "dynamic, adaptive tests" that can "accommodat[e] the full range of student abilities" and "assess the full range of valued outcomes" beyond rote memorization and formulaic problem solving. Rather than reducing student understanding a single score, technology makes it possible to deduce multiple levels of proficiency. But to do so, it'll require sophisticated analytics that "mine far more information from student's responses...[to] enable a more rounded and complete picture of a student's achievement and capabilities."

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