CRESST Distinguished Scholar Colloquium Presents Results of Gordon Commission Study of Assessment

Nationally renowned education assessment and policy experts gathered to discuss the results of studies by the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education on June 12. The event, which was co-sponsored by the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, and the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, took place on the UCLA campus in DeNeve Plaza.

Edmund W. Gordon, professor emeritus of education, Columbia University and Yale University

GSE&IS Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco delivered the opening remarks at the symposium, noting that the Gordon Commission studies offered an accurate and innovative picture of what education needs to become to meet the demands of global economics, technology, and migration in the 21st Century. He then introduced Dr. Edmund W. Gordon, professor emeritus at Yale and Columbia Universities, who has chaired the Gordon Commission since it was established in 2011 by ETS.

“The work of the Commission…offers what I think is a profound synthesis of the best of current research and practice in educational assessment,” said Suárez-Orozco. “[It] fundamentally covers the range of domains that are central for clear thinking, moving forward. The report… is an authentic, true statement of Professor Gordon’s tremendous theoretical, empirical, conceptual contributions to our field.”

Eva Baker, distinguished professor of education, GSE&IS, and director of UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) and Louis Gomez, professor of education and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning, GSE&IS, represented UCLA on the Gordon Commission’s 30-member team and assisted in producing the report, “To Assess, To Teach, To Learn: A Vision for the Future of Assessment.”

Eva Baker, director of UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) addressed the need for instructional relevance in educational assessment.

The Gordon Commission’s reports emphasize the Common Core assessment’s focus on critical thinking and problem-solving, rather than on rote recall of information and more basic skills. The report warns, however, that the potential of new assessments might not be reached if their purpose is solely to hold teachers and schools accountable for performance, and that the nation must invest in the development of new types of assessments to inform teaching and learning while still providing measures of progress for accountability purposes.

The Commission’s three recommendations on how to develop these assessements include the creation of a permanent council on educational assessments in each state, modeled on the national Education Commission of the States; the inclusion of new ideas about assessment into the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by President Obama and Congress; and the collaboration of the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development with professional teacher organizations, the philanthropic community, and other education-related agencies to commit to a 10-year research and development effort to strengthen the capacity of educational assessment nationwide.

A premier educational psychologist, Gordon said that the Commission’s work addresses the challenges to education and its mission, which has changed significantly with globalization.

GSE&IS Professor Louis Gomez (at podium) served on the Gordon Commission committee. Pictured with Carl Cohn, clinical professor of education at Claremont University and UCLA alumnus.

“The major products of the Commission are ideas,” he said. “We set out to change the conversation with respect to assessment and the relationship between assessment and education. Changes in the way we think about knowledge… changes in education itself; and certainly changes in the technologies that are available to enable and support education and in a sense… amplify the abilities of human beings.”

Dr. Baker stated that assessments of the previous 30 years were developed for outdated levels of program, school, and student accountability. She said that while these tests were strong on technical grounds, they were lacking in instructional relevance for today’s classrooms. Baker said that the work of the Gordon Commission committee posed the question of whether the existing system of assessment can be rebalanced in the right way to meet current educational demands.

For pdfs of the Gordon Commission executive summary and presentations and video from the Colloquium, click here.

To obtain a printed copy of the Gordon Commission reports, email:


Above: GSE&IS Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco welcomed the audience to the symposium on the reports of the Gordon Commission. L-R: Edmund W. Gordon, Teachers College, Columbia University and Yale University; and Karen Symms Gallagher, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education