Meaningful Assessment Systems in Education

Dr. Lindy Crawford, College of Education

Educational accountability efforts at the national and state level have profoundly affected curricular, instructional, and assessment practices in K-12 schools. In response to the College of Education's desire to collaborate with local school districts as they meet accountability challenges, the Pikes Peak Educational Research Center (PPERC) officially opened its doors July 2003. Crawford helped establish PPERC and currently directs two major research projects through the Center. The PPERC is an operating unit in the new campus-wide Education Outreach Center.

[Image: 2004 National Evaluation Institute Colorado.]One research project, funded by the Spencer Foundation and managed through the National Academy of Education, investigates the validity of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) in Writing. Research conducted with this postdoctoral fellowship includes both qualitative and quantitative analyses of students' writing at two different grade levels and across general and special education. A content analysis of students' revisions on the statewide test will be conducted this summer along with a quantitative comparison of first and final drafts. After the scoring of writing products is complete, a select group of students will be interviewed in the Fall of 2004 for a description of their writing processes and strategies. Interview data will be "walked back" to students' CSAP performance. The hypothesis is that the same quality of information can be collected over a much shorter period of time than is currently allotted, thus allowing teachers more time for instruction and less time for standardized testing. This study builds on previous research conducted by Crawford in the state of Oregon where she analyzed students' writing on the state assessment with funding from the federal Office of Special Education Programs.

Accountability through use of educational assessments is not limited to the general education population. In 1997 the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandated inclusion of all students in state and district assessments. By law, all states must implement an alternate assessment system by 2000. And, because alternate assessments need to be validated on the same dimensions as traditional assessments, Crawford recently completed a test reliability study of Oregon's Extended Assessment (which she co-developed in 2000) and is currently working with the Colorado Department of Education to analyze inter-rater reliability and fidelity of teacher implementation of Colorado's alternate assessment, the CSAP-A.

The No Child Left Behind federal legislation places a significant emphasis on educational assessment, but researchers at Pikes Peak Educational Research Center are acutely aware of the need for assessment efforts to drive instructional change and impact student learning. Thus, Crawford directs a second project, funded by the Colorado Department of Education, investigating the affect of statewide training initiatives on instructional practices used by teachers of English language learners. Data is being collected through four primary methods: (a) state wide survey of second- and fourth-grade teachers, (b) classroom observations and teacher interviews, (c) long-term ethnographic study of an entire elementary school undergoing intense changes to meet a rapidly diversifying student body, and (d) outcome data for students whose teachers have been trained in effective instructional practices for English language learners. Funding for this project continues for one more year.

The College of Education, including Crawford and many of her colleagues, is beginning to establish a state, regional, and national presence in the field of educational research. As an example of this presence, for the first time in its history the National Evaluation Institute has chosen to host its annual conference in Colorado Springs. The Pikes Peak Educational Research Center is co-sponsoring this conference at which nationally recognized educational scholars, alongside UCCS faculty, will present. The Conference and the Center stand as evidence of the College's ongoing commitment to creating a better educational system for all learners.