A Framework to Evaluate Cognitive Complexity in Mathematics Assessments

Monday, April 30, 2018Printer-friendly version

Download a PDF of the brief here.

Around the country, vendors are approaching states and making claims that their summative mathematics assessments are aligned to state standards, such as the Common Core. These claims are easy to make, yet difficult for state employees to confirm. To assist states in their efforts to establish the accuracy of such claims, Achieve has been working to develop a methodology and tools to evaluate the quality and alignment of assessments, building from the earlier review work of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO).

In this process, Achieve recognized an opportunity to forward the national conversation on higher-order thinking as an aspect of assessment evaluation. The most popular framework for this purpose is Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK), which places items on a scale from 1 to 4, from recall to extended thinking. However, most of the current state standards expect students to evidence procedural skills and fluencies, conceptual understandings, and applications, and DOK is not able to distinguish or emphasize these elements. These “Aspects of Rigor” represent a beneficial shift that was promoted by the Common Core and should apply to assessment as well as standards.