The State of Educational Assessment Research

By Joanna Gorin

As a parent, teacher, employee, employer or learner, most if not all people have either directly or indirectly been affected by educational assessments. In fact, assessments have been used as part of some of the most significant decisions in many people’s lives, including hiring, admissions, promotion and placement. So, not surprisingly, people are talking about educational assessment, as they have been for decades. However, the conversation seems to be changing around educational assessment which makes it important that the educational assessment community is listening.

Education environments are evolving at an incredible rate, most notably affected by the speed of change in technology and society. As a result, the needs, challenges and priorities of those within the education field are shifting and they are doing so in different ways for different people. As an assessment company whose core mission is based on the belief that assessment can improve education and opportunities, ETS must be listening. What we hear should challenge us to question whether the assessments that provided solutions to the educational needs of previous generations are still contributing to effective solutions for the needs and challenges today.

Sustaining our position as a leader in educational assessment research, we must start by understanding the challenges and opportunities that are most important to society. These priorities should form the foundation for our strategy and investment in educational assessment research. From this foundation, we can be more effective in developing and delivering capabilities, tools and potential solutions into the hands of those dedicated to improving education worldwide.

In 2017, we purposefully looked at whether our research agenda was responsive to what we heard from the educational community. As a result, we reframed our agenda around themes that arose — nine Big Educational Challenges — that directly address needs in the educational space. We pursue this agenda to have maximum positive impact globally in the 21st century by enhancing the science and practice of educational assessment from which innovative capabilities to measure and advance individual learning and success can arise.

The reframing of our agenda is only part of the change needed if people’s needs are to fully be met. The cultural, linguistic, professional and personal diversity of those we serve is inherent in our pursuit of solutions to the challenges we are tackling. We acknowledge that no one organization will have all the knowledge and resources needed to deliver on a promise of actionable solutions. The only way to be successful is to form partnerships with like-minded organizations who can bring their capabilities and understanding of the needs of the broader communities they serve.

As we join with the larger ecosystem of educational improvement, we must understand how and where our unique capabilities complement and are complemented by our partners. Our role in contributing our assessment science and expertise frames the way we approach our research agenda: with the future in mind, but the present as a guide. This is critical in helping students across the globe realize their individual potential and find pathways to success. As the field of education continually evolves, we remain committed to being at the forefront of invention and innovation.

Education affects us all, personally and collectively. There are important discussions surrounding standardized testing that take place because there is so much at stake. We must embrace these challenges to the status quo. That is why we’re committed to seeking opportunities to improve methods of measurement and continue creating gateways, not barriers, through rigorous research and sound science.