Aligning Policy and Methodology to Achieve Consistent Across-Grade Performance Standards

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In a coherent educational assessment system, the relation between the cut scores across the grades of a content area should reflect the goals of the educational system moderated by the state of the standards within that system. In this article, we discuss the need for consistent cut scores across the grades of a content area; we present and interpret several models of consistency; and we argue that the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) provides an opportunity to bring articulated, consistent standards to contiguous-grade testing programs. We propose an additional step in the standard-setting process-the identification of an across-grade alignment model for each content area-and provide a case study to demonstrate how a sponsoring agency can identify appropriate models of consistency. We describe a standard-setting design that integrates the across-grade alignment model into the judgment process and discuss the results of an operational standard setting that utilized this design. We close with an analysis of the processes used to determine the across-grade alignment models in Colorado and discuss how informed policy can foster progress toward meeting the goals represented by the cut scores.