expectations for student learning to the particular knowledge and skills included on the test (Dwyer, 1998; Barton, 1999). The use of assessments for purposes for which they were not designed may partially account for some of that concern, but similar effects have been linked to tests even when used as intended (Stecher and Barron, 1999).

Assessments do more than simply provide information about achievement, they also specify expectations for student knowledge and performance (NRC, 1993, 1996), providing “an operational definition of standards, in that they define in measurable terms what teachers should teach and students should learn” (NRC, 1996, pp. 5–6). The development and use of assessments keyed to the standards to support teaching, to drive educational improvement, and to support accountability are indicators of possible influences attributable to nationally developed standards.


If nationally developed standards are influencing assessment policies and practices, assessments would be aligned with learning outcomes embodied in the standards. In particular, if state assessments and standards are aligned with the nationally developed standards, assessment at all levels would include problem solving and inquiry in addition to other skills and knowledge. Teachers would use classroom assessment results to inform instructional decisions and to provide feedback to students about their learning. Teachers, administrators, and policy makers would employ multiple sources of evidence regarding what a student knows and is able to do, as is called for in the standards, rather than relying on a single source.

Developers of student assessments would be familiar with nationally developed assessment and content standards and create assessment materials that reflect the standards by having appropriate items, clear examples of the kinds of performance that students

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