The Future of Research & Development at ETS

By Ida Lawrence

Change, transformation and the ability to adapt have always been critical factors for long-term growth and sustainability. This has never been clearer than in 2020.

But even before the pandemic, ETS and Research and Development (R&D) were strategically planning how we would continue to advance quality, access and equity of education and assessment worldwide in a rapidly changing landscape and provide learners with the tools and solutions they need to be successful.

What we do best is the delivery of leading foundational, applied, psychometric and statistical research, bringing thought-leadership to educational policy conversations and global assessment efforts and supporting the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA) in closing achievement gaps in K-12 schools. To provide fair and valid assessments, our psychometric and data analytic expertise ensures that the design, analyses and scoring of assessments results in accurate, timely and equitable scores for all test takers. The assessments we design, construct and bring to scale provide the information needed for learners, educators and other stakeholders to guide their decisions and support their growth and development. It is our investments in our people (e.g., training and development), processes (e.g., optimization and simplification) and technology (e.g., content automation and efficiency tools) around test development, including in the forms of automated item generation and digital assessment, which will allow us to best position ourselves to serve the learners of tomorrow.

As we think about those learners of tomorrow and what their needs may be, the way our underlying research and development efforts need to look forward as well. We will continue to engage in impactful foundational, applied and psychometric research that address educational challenges and fairness and equity in learning and assessment through our new Research Centers which will focus on K-12 teaching and learning; language learning, education and assessment; education and career development; foundational psychometrics and statistics; digital learning design and methodologies; and validity, fairness and equity. In parallel, we are excited to organize our research in a new way – through our Research Labs. The Research Labs are a new area of R&D focused on identifying user needs and co-designing innovative solutions with them through experimentation and rapid prototype development. This approach provides us the opportunity to partner with learners early and often throughout their educational journeys.

Our new way of thinking about how we engage in core research activities and our new capability development focus allow us to directly address both the assessment needs of today and tomorrow and enhance our ability to more broadly fulfill our organization mission – to improve teaching and learning, expand opportunities for individual learners and inform educational policy and assessment.

R&D remains at the core of what ETS does. As we continue to move our work forward and respond agilely to the world around us and the needs of our key stakeholders, we will strengthen ETS’s growth as a digital education solutions leader.

I believe strongly that the organization, with the support of R&D, is uniquely positioned to enhance its legacy of leading research to advance the science and practice of measurement and assessment. We are excited by the opportunity to use our foundational and applied research expertise in new and innovative ways to create impactful, user-focused solutions. Applying our research in new ways positions ETS for long-term sustainability, helps to establish new opportunities for collaboration and partnership with external organizations, additional sources of mission impact and drive new business opportunities.

I look forward to continuing to share, with pride, the outstanding work of this division and ETS as an organization as we move education forward.

Ida Lawrence is Senior Vice President of Research & Development at ETS.