The novice-expert continuum is
important to keep in mind when con-
structing assessment systems because it
allows for the construction of a vertical
scale that sequences growth in strategic
thinking across multiple grade levels.
As learners develop their knowledge
schema and gain more experience
drawing knowledge from their schema,
their performance progresses. Assess-
ments that measure this progression
in complex, nonroutine ways allow
for the development of instructional
programs that contain progressively
content acquisition as a means to an
end, not an end in itself. If students
do not have numerous opportunities
to use content knowledge to solve
interesting problems, grapple with key
questions and issues of the discipline,
and examine social issues, they will
be unlikely to perform well on the
The common assessments will
measure a wider range of student
learning than current tests do.
Keeping Our Eyes on the Goal
As educators begin to translate the
Common Core State Standards into
practice, they have a new opportunity to
think about what is important. The
standards lay out a road map of major
ideas, concepts, knowledge, and skills.
The common assessments will measure
a wider range of student learning than
current tests do. If schools take
advantage of this opportunity—
redesigning curriculum and instruction
in ways that fully engage students in
cognitively challenging tasks—the result
will be students who are better prepared
to succeed in college and careers. EL
1 For more information about the
Common Core State Standards, see www
more complex cognitive expectations.
Common assessments and curricular
systems can potentially use this novice-expert continuum to chart student
progress toward the higher levels of
cognitive functioning within a content
area at each successive grade level.
Making the New Standards
and Assessments Work
As educators design and implement
curriculum aligned to the new standards and assessments, they can
focus and organize their programs of
instruction toward the goal of preparing more students for college and
careers by adhering to several overarching principles.
Content mastery is not sufficient. As
frustrating as it may be to hear, simply
getting students to recall some facts
or answer questions correctly on a
test does not make them ready for
college and careers—nor is it likely
to guarantee high performance on the
common assessments. We should view
that require little engagement in
learning. To reach the new levels envi-
sioned in the common standards and
assessments, students must actively
participate in their own learning.
Curriculum that includes interesting
problems, investigations, debates,
simulations, games, Socratic ques-
tioning, presentations, projects, and
other forms of learning that demand
engagement will help maximize
retention of key content and concepts.
2 See Conley, D. (2005). College
knowledge: What it really takes for students to
succeed and what we can do to get them ready.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; and Conley, D.
(2010). College and career ready: Helping all
students succeed beyond high school. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
3The Educational Policy Improvement
Center has developed the College-Ready
Performance Assessment System (C-PAS),
a means to teach and assess student proficiency with key cognitive strategies. C-PAS
uses complex performance tasks aligned
to Common Core State Standards to gauge
student readiness for college and careers.
More information about C-PAS is available
David T. Conley is professor of educational policy and leadership and director
of the Center for Educational Policy
Research in the College of Education at
the University of Oregon; david_conley@
epiconline.org. He is CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center and
was co-chair of the Validation Committee
for the Common Core State Standards.