Jan-Feb-March 2016

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Fordham and HumRRO Research
By Kay Mayer, Director

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction recently received information from a study entitled Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments.  In this study, two independent reviewers, Thomas B. Fordham Institute (Fordham) and Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) completed an in-depth look at four ELA/literacy and mathematics assessments.  The four programs included in the study are ACT Aspire, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Fordham and HumRRO used test quality parameters set up by the Council of Chief State and School Officers.  The criteria used to evaluate the four assessments measured the areas of content, depth of knowledge, and accessibility.

The Fordham Institute evaluated the capstone grades for elementary and middle school, in this study it is grades 5 & 8.  The Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) evaluated the high school assessments.  Each of the reviewers examined how strong the four assessment programs are in the criteria developed by CCSSO.  The reviewers examined the questions of: Do these tests reflect strong content? Are they rigorous? What are their strengths and areas for improvement?

In summary, the Fordham Institute (grades 5 & 8) and HumRRO (high school) found:
  • In ELA/Literacy, PARCC and Smarter Balanced scored higher in the Content criteria than ACT Aspire and MCAS.
  • In ELA/Literacy, all four assessment programs were a  generally a good match for measuring Depth of college and career readiness with MCAS showing a limited match in cognitive demand at both the grade and high school levels.  PARCC showed limited match in text quality and cognitive demand at the high school level.
  • In Mathematics, Smarter Balanced and PARCC were a good match or higher in assessing Content and Depth needed in College and Career Readiness.   ACT Aspire was generally a limited match in the Content area, but scored much higher when assessing Depth.  MCAS was an excellent match in measuring the Depth of the demands of College and Career Readiness at the lower grade level, but fell lower in overall Content criteria at the same level.
Included are final copies of both reports.