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Assessment: Driving Education Transformation

Executive Summary: Assessment matters

Many of the countries that rank as world class on K-12 international benchmarking, have instituted comprehensive, balanced assessment, and accountability systems that have served as catalysts in their educational transformations into top performers. A closer look reveals that different assessment strategies, at different stages of their trajectory were necessary in order to attain world-class status. Nations and states across the globe are recognizing that education is key to economic competitiveness and a high standard of living in today‘s knowledge economy. Their ticket to global competitiveness is integrally linked to the intellectual capital of their citizenry – a natural resource that every country can develop.

The centrality of intellectual capital to economic viability serves to level the playing field internationally. Korea is a classic example. A generation ago, Korea educated only a quarter of its citizens and ranked mid-range internationally. Today, it ranks first in the world on the latest (2009) international benchmarking results.

Over the last 30 years, in order to accomplish this radical transformation, Korea shifted its approach to assessment from one of classifying and sorting, to a more balanced approach. On the one hand, Korea was still interested in using standardized assessments to benchmark to standards and to other countries. As such, they used a sampling approach (less than 5% of students at any grade) to track the progress of their education system over time – tracking and reporting progress at the national level only. They balanced this national strategy by entrusting teachers and administrators in their schools with the responsibility for local assessments, both formative and summative. Thus, teachers – who are actively engaged in professional learning – are able to scaffold students appropriately, ensuring that all students are learning. Today, the majority of Korean students complete a post-secondary education, earning Korea a ranking in the top third of countries in the world with college-educated adults, in addition to the first in the world status on K-12 international benchmarks.

Read the full Driving Education Transformation Assessment.

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