10 Principles for Building a High-Quality System Of Assessments

High-quality, comprehensive, and timely information about what students know and can do is critical to ensuring that schools and families can prepare each and every student for success in school, college, careers, and life.

No single assessment or piece of student work can provide the robust information needed to inform teaching, learning, and supports, as well as public accountability and continuous improvement of education systems through families, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

A high-quality system of assessments can facilitate this by providing aligned and coherent information from a variety of assessments about students’ college and career readiness—maximizing efficiency while reducing duplication, in a timely and rich enough manner to inform instruction, student self-direction in learning, and accountability.


for Building a High-Quality System of Assessments

State and district leaders at the forefront of designing, implementing, and overseeing assessment efforts can use these ten principles as guidance as they evolve the current array of assessments into a high-quality system of assessments.

A high-quality system of assessments should …


Capture the array of knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed for college and career readiness (i.e., deeper learning)


Balance assessment of learning with assessment for and as learning through a comprehensive set of tasks and measures


Advance equity and be inclusive of and accessible to all students


Build educator and school capacity for designing and using assessments


Align assessments to support learning and avoid duplication of testing


Convey clear, coherent, and continuous data on student learning


Include meaningful, ongoing input and collaboration from local communities and diverse stakeholders in the development and continuous improvement of the system


Encourage cycles of review, calibration, and continuous improvement of assessments individually and as a collective system


Employ high standards of coherence, validity, reliability, and fairness


Protect data privacy



The following groups and organizations aim to set a new precedent with these principles:

  • 2Revolutions
  • Achieve
  • Alliance for Excellent Education
  • Heidi Andrade, EdD, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology and Methodology, University at Albany School of Education
  • Center for Collaborative Education
  • Center for Curriculum Redesign
  • The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
  • David T Conley, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Educational Policy Research, University of Oregon; President, EdImagine
  • EducationCounsel
  • Envision Learning Partners
  • The Foundation for Excellence in Education
  • Great Schools Partnership
  • iNACOL
  • Jobs for the Future
  • KnowledgeWorks
  • Learning Forward
  • Learning Policy Institute
  • MHA Labs
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education
  • Teaching Matters

In joining together, we underscore our belief that if states and districts implement the enclosed ten principles for building and evolving a high-quality system of assessments, they will be taking impactful and much needed steps to bridge from current over-burdensome and incomplete assessment practices and policies to a system that puts each and every student’s learning at the center. Together, these principles lay out a vision for systems focused on continuous improvement and the full array of knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed for each student to succeed beyond high school, in the workplace, and throughout life. While individually our organizations and efforts may emphasize different principles, collectively we share the goal of advancing equity in college, career, and civic readiness. As such, we stand ready to support states, districts, schools, and their communities in working toward building and evolving systems that embrace all ten principles to foster high-quality systems of assessments for all students.

Thank you for your support of the Ten Principles! We encourage you to share all Ten Principles with colleagues and influencers in your respective fields. To help inform these interactions, we offer a social media kit with Facebook posts, tweets, and accompanying graphics.