Measuring 21st century skills

Students need to face harder tests that require complex analytical skills, concludes a new Education Sector report.

When ninth-graders at St. Andrew’s School, a private boarding school in Middletown, Delaware, sat down last year to take the school’s College Work and Readiness Assessment (CWRA), they faced the sort of problems that often stump city officials and administrators, but rarely show up on standardized tests, such as how to manage traffic congestion caused by population growth. “I proposed a new transportation system for the city,” said one student describing his answer. “It’s expensive, but it will cut pollution.”

Students were given research reports, budgets, and other documents to help draft their answers, and they were expected to demonstrate proficiency in subjects like reading and math as well as mastery of broader and more sophisticated skills like evaluating and analyzing information and thinking creatively about how to apply information to real-world problems.

Most state exams are “primarily multiple-choice tests of lower-level skills in reading and math, such as the ability to recall or restate facts from reading passages and to handle arithmetic-based questions in math.”

It’s possible to test both basic and advanced skills on the same test, concludes Ed Sector.

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  1. Fascinating. Also nuts, if you think it’d ever be implemented widely. It’s fascinating, though, to see that assessment has gained such credibility that some opponents to standardized tests are building their own kinda-sorta-well,not really standardized tests in competition.