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ETS Launches New Assessment Website – CBAL

Educational Testing Service (ETS), the world’s leading measurement and research organization, has launched a new website to stimulate discussion, debate, and promote empirical research to help teachers and students meet the goals of the English language arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards. The standards were designed, in part, to set a trajectory so all students are college and career-ready by no later than the end of high school.

The focus of the website is ETS’s Cognitively Based Assessment of, for, and as Learning (CBAL) research program. CBAL is designed in part to create innovative approaches to assessment that are aligned with quality instructional practice and substantive professional development for teachers.

“The Common Core State Standards offers a roadmap of goals and sequences for the ELA curriculum,” explains Paul Deane, Principal Research Scientist, ETS Research and Development Division. “We believe that educators should elaborate on the standards so as to make them as effective a roadmap as possible. The goal of the CBAL ELA Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions website is to help provide such an elaboration, one that we think can offer new insights into how best to design assessment, instruction and professional development so that they have maximum positive impact.”

Through ETS’s CBAL research program, the conceptual foundation has been laid for an integrated system in which summative assessments, formative assessments and teacher professional support work together to encourage and enhance effective teaching and learning.

“The CBAL system model is conceived as an educational intervention,” says Deane.  “The conceptual foundation guides assessment design and validation, both in the evaluation of what scores mean and in the evaluation of the intended impact of the assessment system on individuals and institutions. The assessment designs themselves are guided by modern theories of learning and cognition.”

“In the course of elementary to secondary education and beyond, students must learn the specific skills to read, write, and thoughtfully engage in a wide variety of advanced literacy practices and master all the precursor skills that eventually yield career- and college-level proficiency,” adds John Sabatini, Senior Research Scientist at ETS. “However, skills cannot be taught all at once.”

“Many skills grow in sophistication over time, building on and integrating precursor skills.  For example, students need to learn the elements of a narrative story before they can interpret how characters’ goals and conflicts influence the development of the plot of a novel. Students need to be able to distinguish fact vs. opinion, pro vs. con, and claim vs. evidence before they can assemble a sound, reasoned argument. The discussion this website is intended to foster, we hope, will help us all share thoughts about how best to design assessments of, and instruction for, the Common Core State Standards. We encourage everyone interested in the subject to visit the site and contact us with their reactions,” Deane concludes.

To view CBAL ELA Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions, visit:


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