Panel: A Time for Optimism about Assessment

by Rebecca Salon

“There are lots of reasons for optimism about assessment of the 4C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration & creativity) and a lot of good models out there if you’re a district leader wanting to assess these skills.” That’s the message conveyed by Valerie Greenhill, chief learning officer at EdLeader21 and her panel of experts that appeared at the AASA national conference on Saturday.

21st Century Assessment
Thoughtful discussion on the future of assessment

Greenhill believes the panel is a reflection of how many encouraging things are happening and how far the policy discussions have gone.

Panelist Bob Lenz, co-founder and CEO of Envision Schools, described his firm’s deeper learning student assessment initiative. The latter reports 100 percent student course completion as a requirement for college, 90 percent college-going rate, and 90 percent of those students make it to the second year, more than twice the norm.

Their assessment changes the 4C’s somewhat, embedding creativity throughout and making the fourth C into “completed projects” so students learn time and project management. As part of this, every student completes and defends two portfolios, in 10th and 12th grades, that reflect the common core curriculum, their frameworks and competencies like inquiry, research, analysis and creative expression.

Auditi Chakravarty, vice president of Advanced Placement curriculum, instruction and assessment for the College Board, provided a preview of new and proposed AP course curricula and exams. She noted that, based on feedback from educators, they are redesigning content domains to assess critical thinking, reasoning, inquiry and investigation skills in different courses.

In order to focus on applications of knowledge, there will be fewer multiple choice questions, more constructed free-response questions, and questions that reflect historical thinking skills, math reasoning, science practices, and problem-solving.

AP will be rolling out new courses and tests slowly over the next few years, likely offering two or three a year so there is time to prepare teachers and schools.

When asked how teachers can be expected to teach AP content and teach students how to apply what they’re learning, Chakravarty explained that, while the curriculum framework for biology, for example, is about 20 times longer than the prior framework, teachers are given choices as to the content they teach, with clear statements about how things might be tests and what will not be on the test. That is, they can choose one of many content areas through which they can teach an application, without having to teach the other content areas.

Marc Chun, director of education at the Council for Aid to Education, discussed his firm’s college and work readiness assessment, based on their teach, learn and assess model. Chun said he and others designed their model to prepare students for what they will need in life, noting that 65 percent of students will work in jobs that don’t currently exist.

Chun noted that it’s only OK to teach to the test when you have the right test, assessing skills that are important to learn and master.

Find more information for Envision Schools at, EdLeader21 at, Council for Aid to Education’s College and Work Readiness at and the College Board’s AP course updates at