My time as Illinois’ Director of K-12 Assessment (leading the development and administration of all standardized tests statewide) was exactly how it sounds: exhausting, fascinating, and bewildering. (I have lots of stories to share about the inner workings of standardized tests. Contact me and let’s start a conversation.)

Improving and measuring the academic performance of 2 million students is not an easy task. Even so, the big picture was inspiring: How do we know if a teaching strategy works? How do we know if student learning is increasing over time? And more specific to assessments: How can we measure learning? How do we collect, protect, and report student data? How do we improve standardized tests to make them more reliable, valid, and applicable?

When it comes to measuring learning, specifically through the use of standardized tests, my opinion is: it’s complicated. I don't believe that standardized tests are evil. I also don't believe that standardized tests are perfect. Far from it. There is great value in examining whether our education systems are effective – but figuring out how to do this well will always be problematic. The world is not simple, education is not simple, students are not simple, and measuring learning will never be simple. But learning what works (and endeavoring to measure it) is critical.