Publications & Resources

Assessing Opportunity to Learn: A California Example

Jan 1997

Joan L. Herman and Davina C. D. Klein

Across the nation, states, districts, and schools are working to transform American education by setting rigorous academic standards for student performance and establishing assessment systems to help assure that all students achieve these standards. Targeted on the complex thinking and problem-solving skills students will need for future success, the policy goals are ambitious and reflect a dramatic change in the expectations for student performance and in the curriculum and instruction in which students are to be engaged. In many cases, the stakes are equally dramatic: Those who do not meet expectations–those who do not pass the assessments–may be held back and/or not allowed to graduate; those who do pass will be granted important access. The potential consequences for these students’ futures are substantial indeed. Are these policies working? Are these policies fair for all students? What other actions are necessary to support the objectives of such policies? The answers to these questions require accurate information about the quality of curriculum and instruction available to students – the opportunities that schools provide students to learn what is expected of them. In the current lexicon, this is termed students’ opportunity to learn (OTL). In this paper, we explore the “what” and “why” of assessing opportunity to learn and then illustrate some of the challenges of assuring accurate measurement, using data collected as part of a pilot study of eighth-grade mathematics for a statewide assessment system.

Herman, J. L., & Klein, D. C. D. (1997). Assessing opportunity to learn: A California example (CSE Report 453). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).