Education Measurement and Assessment

Measurement and assessment are critical to informing research, policy, and practice across the human services. The needs of practitioners and policymakers in education, workforce development, and youth development have been changing rapidly in response to recent trends and technological advances. Broad societal conditions including a growing awareness of the need to counter systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and widespread misinformation and are creating a new sense of urgency to rethink our approaches to assessment and measurement, with the goal of supporting preparation of young people and adults for education, the workforce, and civic and community life.

Further, developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies offer new opportunities to create assessments that are more personalized and responsive to individuals' needs and their social contexts, but AI poses significant risks that need to be considered and mitigated, including the potential for bias and other threats to equitable opportunities. A collaborative, evidence-based approach is needed to inform these changes to assessment and measurement and to maximize their benefits to individuals and society.

Our Work

We define measurement broadly to include not just traditional outcome measures but also measures of implementation, processes, and inputs.

We define assessment in similarly broad terms as referring to a process of inquiry to inform decision making about individuals or institutions through gathering evidence, making inferences, and reporting.

We conduct research and technical assistance designed to address societal needs and challenges while promoting innovation and excellence in the design, administration, reporting, and use of data from a variety of measurement approaches.

We bring a perspective that emphasizes lifelong learning and thriving, conducting work that spans the K-12 education, higher education, workforce development, and youth development contexts in both the U.S. and internationally. We partner with educational institutions, government agencies, foundations, and other organizations to ensure that our work is informed and shaped by the priorities and needs of all involved groups. We collaborate with and incorporate the voices of young people, educators, and others who engage with assessments. Some key areas of emphasis include:

  • Measuring whole-child development in ways that will enhance opportunities to learn and thrive in school, the workplace, and society–this requires attending to academic, social, emotional, and civic learning;
  • Identifying and testing features of assessment that promote personalization and responsiveness to social and cultural contexts, including for special populations;
  • Promoting innovations in digital assessment while working to maximize the benefits of those innovations for test-takers and to minimize potential harms;
  • Advancing measurement methodologies, particularly related to AI; and
  • Consulting on measurement issues across policy, practice, and research.

This portfolio of work is broad and covers a variety of topics and uses, but all our projects and pursuits share several key features:

  • They consist of teams and are led by experts who represent multiple disciplinary backgrounds.
  • They incorporate input from stakeholders and potential users to ensure that measures and data can be turned into insights that support decision making.
  • They reflect an understanding of recent advances and likely future trends in technology and in society.
  • All our work is intended to promote opportunities for all individuals and to prioritize equity and fairness.

Related Work

Youth Development Measurement Lab at AIR

AIR's approach to supporting schools, districts, states, federal agencies, youth-serving organizations, and foundations in their efforts to support youth focuses on our mission to use the best research and technical assistance to improve people's lives. Our experts support clients throughout the entirety of their planning, data collection, analysis, interpretation, reporting, and data use process.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

AIR’s experts provide technical and analytical support for U.S. participation in TIMSS, an international comparative study of the mathematics and science achievement of fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States and students in the equivalent of fourth and eighth grade in other participating countries.

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Center for Process Data

Since 2017, AIR has disseminated process data knowledge and inquiry to the research community through research studies, presentations, and professional development programs. Through its work supporting NCES, the Center has used its explorations of process data to shed light on patterns of students’ test-taking behaviors and to expand current knowledge of students’ use of universal design features and assessment tool use. In this Q&A, AIR Senior Researcher and Center contributor Juanita Hicks explains what process data can reveal and how this relatively new source of information could potentially lead to more equitable ways of assessing educational achievement.

Supporting National Assessments in India

AIR worked with UNICEF India to provide various levels of technical support on the National Achievement Survey and the Foundational Learning Study, one of the largest one-on-one assessments in the world.

Condition of Education Reports

The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated report, produced by the National Center for Education Statistics, that paints a picture of the state of education in the U.S. from early childhood through postsecondary education. AIR staff have helped write and produce the report since 2000. AIR Principal Research Analyst Jijun Zhang answers questions about the report in this Q&A

Synthesizing NAEP and International Large-Scale Assessment Score Trends: A Pattern of Diverging Performance

This study brings together results from NAEP and three international large-scale assessments to examine long-term, intermediate, and recent score trends in reading, mathematics, and science for U.S. students in 4th grade, in 8th grade, and at 15 years old. The analysis finds finds a relatively consistent pattern across these assessments: performance between high- and low-performing students is diverging.