The skills of amrican workforce

U.S. High Schools in Eight States to Implement World-Class Instructional Systems and Examinations

April 13th, 2010

On February 17, eight states announced they will join with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) to use the world’s best instructional systems and examinations to dramatically increase the number of students who leave high school ready to succeed in college.

Review audio from the Board Examination Project Press ConferenceListen to the Tuesday, February 17, 2010 press announcement

WASHINGTON, DC — Eight states will join with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) to use the world’s best instructional systems and examinations to dramatically increase the number of students who leave high school ready to succeed in college. Students who show they are ready to do college level work will be able to get their diploma and enroll in college as early as the end of their sophomore year in high school.

In today’s announcement from Washington, NCEE President Marc Tucker announced that Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will work with NCEE through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the performance of high school students in these eight states by adopting powerful instructional systems that actually set the international standards.

“By introducing these Board Examination Systems in pilot high schools in these states as early as the 2011-2012 school year, we will begin a process that will ultimately prepare dramatically more students for college success and greatly reduce the high number of students who now take remedial courses in college,” said Tucker.

NCEE has a long track record of analyzing and benchmarking the highest performing education systems around the world. Over the years, it has found that in countries where the majority of students perform at high levels, two factors stand out. One is that teachers are recruited from the top-third of college students, and the other is that Board Examination Systems are used to drive learning to high levels.

Board Examination Systems currently are in place in Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Singapore, parts of Canada and Germany, and other countries and they typically consist of a core program of courses, a well-designed syllabus, instructional materials matched to the syllabus, high-quality exams also matched to the syllabus and professional development for teachers.

NCEE first introduced the Board Examination idea in its groundbreaking report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, in late 2006. The report received wide acclaim, and was the cover feature of TIME magazine and praised broadly by educators and the media.

In addition to the eight states being announced today, in 2009, the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, and two leading business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers got behind the recommendations made in the Tough Choices report.

“The NCEE Board Examination Proposal can be the very foundation of transforming our high schools into successful places for all of our students,” said John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association. “The National Education Association will support any of our state affiliates who wish to collaborate and partner with their state education agencies in assuring these pilots programs provide all students a pathway to college and a career.”

“Because these programs, the best the world has to offer, are currently available, these states will be able to leap to the front of the pack without having to spend the millions of dollars and years of effort it takes to develop world-class systems from scratch,” noted Tucker. “Once these systems are in place, these states will be able to go a long way toward closing the gap between their performance and the performance of the countries with the most successful education systems.”

Ten to twenty schools in each of the eight states will begin to pilot the system in the 2011-2012 school year. This new effort, laid out today, will be guided by a Governing Board and a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and be involved in making decisions including approving the five Board Examination programs identified by NCEE for use in their states’ high schools, ensuring that each of the Board Examination programs meet or exceed the Common Core Standards as they become available, establishing cut-scores for the lower division (grades 9 and 10) exams so that states will know that students meeting those scores are ready to enroll in any open-admissions college in their state without remediation, and approving the method the project will use to create a common reporting scale across the three lower division Board Examination programs. By offering high schools a variety of programs that each cover the core subjects and are set to the level of cognitive demand needed for success in college, high schools will be able to choose those instructional approaches that best suit their students’ needs and faculty’s interests.

“To oversee the technical work and ensure it meets the highest standards of quality, we have pulled together a multidisciplinary Technical Advisory Committee made up of some of the best minds in the country and beyond with a broad range of expertise and experiences,” said Tucker. The TAC will be co-chaired by Howard Everson, professor and senior research fellow at City University of New York, and James Pellegrino, distinguished professor of education and co-director, Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (NOTE: TAC full membership listed on attachment.)

“The Board Examination Consortium announced today by the National Center on Education and the Economy represents a bold, imaginative effort to design and implement a large-scale assessment system that will promote student achievement by building upon world-class standards of teaching, learning, and educational measurement. This initiative offers a unique opportunity to think differently about the design of standardized tests and link curriculum, instruction and assessment in new and innovative ways,” said Dr. Everson.

Board examination systems typically include formative assessments teachers can use to track student progress during the year, and some make it possible to include student work on major assignments in the final course grade, as well as their scores on their final exams. Participating states will approve up to five Board Examination programs for use in their states and invite high schools to pilot one or more of those programs at the 9th and 10th grade and one or more at the 11th and 12th grade levels.

The five Board Examination programs already identified by NCEE include ACT’s QualityCore, the Cambridge International Examination’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and their AICE program, the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, the International Baccalaureate Diploma program, and Pearson/Edexcel’s IGCSE and A-level programs.

Students from these eight states who volunteer to participate will take the exams at the end of 10th grade, and should they pass, be given a high school diploma and opportunity to enroll the next fall as a full-time student at any two-or-four year open admissions post-secondary institution in the state without having to take remedial courses, if they choose to do so.

Today, nearly half of the students in community colleges take one or more remedial courses and many are never able to complete developmental courses and move on to credit-level courses to complete their college degree.

Students who pass these examinations at the end of their sophomore year may also choose to remain in high school and take a program of study designed to prepare them for entrance into a selective college. Any student who does not pass the lower division high school exams on their first try will be offered a customized program designed to help them succeed on their next attempt. The goal of the Board Examination Project is to prepare the vast majority of American high school students for college without first having to take remedial courses.

“NCEE’s program offers the states a way to leap to the best instructional practices in the world; to provide a powerful system of support to struggling students, to our most able students and everyone in between; to motivate our high school students to take tough courses and study hard in school. It can work in urban centers and in rural states like ours. In an age of constrained resources, it offers the states an opportunity to take advantage of enormous investments in time and money made by others, to stand on the shoulders of the countries that have developed the most successful instructional systems in the world,” said Susan Gendron, Maine’s commissioner of education and chair of the Board Examination Project’s Governing Board.

Work is underway to submit a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education for its Race to the Top Assessment Program to support the project’s work to bring the world’s best assessment systems to U.S. schools.

For more information and quotes from state leaders, national organizations and TAC members, visit

Attachment: TAC Full Membership


Contact: Sara Lense
202.667.0901 x1130, or