About Our Research
- Item and Test
- College, Career,
and Life Readiness
- Access for
- Flexibility &
DRC|CTB ranks among education's leading assessment partners. Our programs and services are recognized for excellence and innovation and encompass diagnostic, summative, interim and formative, performance-based, and observational assessments for learners of all ages. DRC|CTB has a long tradition of innovation in educational assessment and measurement theory. We develop educational assessments that are valid, fair, and reliable, and report results in ways that are easy to access, use, and understand and with information that informs instruction.
DRC|CTB Research is actively involved in both basic and applied research. Our researchers are leaders within the educational measurement community; they present their original research at major conferences and in major publications. We also apply this research as part of our testing programs that use both our published assessments and the custom tests we develop for our customers, putting innovation into action.
DRC|CTB has pioneered numerous innovations in educational measurement. We were one of the first companies to use item response theory (IRT), both multiple-choice and constructed-response items to calculate students' scaled test scores, and statistical techniques to detect bias to support large-scale assessments. DRC|CTB researchers developed the Bookmark Standard Setting Procedure™, a groundbreaking method for establishing cut scores (e.g., passing scores) for tests.
DRC|CTB's innovation continues today with technologies that include web-based assessment and reporting, student response device software, and artificial intelligence for automated scoring of student essays. Our fully automated Optimal Test Design (OTD) engine, which is used during test development, was developed to ensure that test forms are optimal with respect to statistical criteria specified by the customer, while simultaneously satisfying content constraints specified by the test framework.
DRC|CTB Research partners with our customers to bring them the newest assessments and innovations. These partnerships allow us to understand what students, teachers, and schools need from tests and test results. We know that the educational landscape is constantly changing, and we eagerly share our innovations with users of DRC|CTB's custom assessments and published products by delivering rapid and thoughtful implementation of effective solutions that improve education and learning.
DRC|CTB Research's commitment is to be the industry leader in Research and Development efforts to continue to make innovative scientific advances that improve applied educational assessment methodologies, and to conduct basic research in measurement psychometrics and assessment that have long-term benefits for our customers, DRC|CTB, the industry, and education at the local, state, and national levels.
Our commitment to research ensures that every assessment we design meets the highest standards of validity and reliability. Our industry-leading research expertise ensures that any assessment we develop gives our customers the information they need to make meaningful, high-confidence inferences and conclusions.
Careful and thorough research activities are paramount throughout our assessment development process and as we collaborate with our customers and partners—in test design, item development, tryout studies, and standard setting and content alignment. DRC|CTB's attention to detail, proven procedures, leadership, and innovation ensure dependable test results. Our assessments deliver data that that helps educators deliver informed instruction and policymakers make informed decisions.
DRC|CTB Research is actively involved in basic and applied research in the field of educational measurement. Working collaboratively with our customers and partners, DRC|CTB investigates the theoretical, technical, and fundamental aspects of educational measurement. Recent research resulted in our Optimized Test Design engine, new types of technology-enhanced items, and better ways to assess language proficiency. Our researchers have a variety of backgrounds, including statistics, mathematics, and psychometrics.
The DRC|CTB Research & Development Program, sponsors research in educational measurement. The R&D Program engages teams of researchers from both within and outside DRC|CTB to conduct basic research that addresses one of the three strategic priorities:
- Applications of new technologies to improve measurement and learning;
- Applications of item response theory to problems outside of educational measurement and assessment; and
- Research on test design, psychometrics methods, and/or statistics for application in educational measurement and assessment.
Through the R&D Program, DRC|CTB Research actively pursues opportunities to create partnerships with researchers at other institutions to advance the field of educational measurement.
DRC|CTB Research scientists are also active members of major professional organizations, such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), and the Psychometric Society. DRC|CTB is also a proud member of industry organizations such as the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) and a corporate partner with Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
To assess students' college, career, and life readiness, we recognize that tests let students demonstrate their knowledge and skills through a variety of item types. Some skills are best measured by open-ended items or performance tasks. Delivery of assessments with technology makes new technology-enhanced item types feasible. DRC|CTB has been actively engaged in the development of innovative item types, including technology-based items that engage students in new and different activities to measure instructionally relevant skills with greater depth. These new items also allow the measurement of skills that have traditionally been limited to classroom assessments.
To meet today's assessment needs, DRC|CTB now uses Evidence Centered Design (ECD) during test development. First we work with the customer to identify the inferences that will be made about student achievement based on assessment. Then we identify the evidence that is needed to support the claims and what task models will elicit the behaviors—what students will say, do, or make—that will provide the needed evidence. The nature of the needed evidence determines the item formats that will be used in the assessment.
DRC|CTB has also developed cutting-edge automated test assembly; our Research is the leader in this innovative test development technology. Our Optimal Test Design (OTD) engine promotes highly customized, equitable testing programs. It allows DRC|CTB to develop new forms of tests rapidly, whether the tests are published online or on paper. Because a large pool of test items can be used to create many different combinations of tests according to pre-established test blueprints, OTD also promotes secure and equitable assessment.
No matter which approach or delivery mode is used for an assessment, delivering accurate, easy-to-understand test results is only part of the story. We know that, in order to impact students' everyday learning, teachers and schools need test results delivered quickly. DRC|CTB is working to implement real-time assessment scoring with automated scoring and artificial intelligence (AI) scoring algorithms using state-of-the-art computer systems to quickly and reliably evaluate students' performance on tests. This includes students' written and verbal responses to prompts and other constructed-response items.
DRC|CTB Research is actively studying and working to improve test security in large-scale assessment. We recognize that test security protects test fairness, giving all students the same opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. By implementing studies that detect aberrant test responses and by designing testing programs that strategically use pools of items in new combinations, DRC|CTB's Research Scientists are finding new ways to promote test security throughout the test development, administration, and analysis phases.
DRC|CTB Research works closely with our customers to understand their needs and to implement flexible, interoperable testing programs that align with their needs to assess students' college, career, and life readiness in terms of each customer's curriculum and performance standards. Through our work with the national assessment consortia, we have developed new item types and approaches to assessment design so that test results reflect today's instruction and educational goals.
We have also worked with the National Center and State Collaborative Partnership (NCSC) as it developed assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. DRC|CTB Research is working with our customers to create alternate assessments that are accessible and equitable for all students and to promote flexible testing programs that help educators assess all students. For more information, see the Access for All Learners tab.
Access for students with disabilities
DRC|CTB recognizes that access for all students is of paramount importance for all assessment programs. We are committed to working with our customers and to publishing tests that allow all students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities in an equitable manner.
Promoting access for all students begins with the principles of universal design. DRC|CTB Research collaborates with other departments to develop test items and test delivery systems that are inherently accessible. By designing accessibility into tests from the beginning, all students can engage fully with the assessments and demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
DRC|CTB Research is proud of its work to develop alternate assessments. These tests are designed to assess students with cognitive disabilities for whom states' standard tests are not appropriate. Working in close collaboration with our customers, DRC|CTB has helped develop statewide assessments of alternate academic standards. These tests have helped our customers comply with pertinent federal law. More importantly, they have also allowed teachers of special education students to gain reliable, quantitative insight into the academic performance of their students.
Measures for English-language learners
The measurement of language proficiency of English-language learners (ELLs) represents an important challenge in educational assessment. The emphasis on college, career, and life readiness requires that students are not only English speakers, but that they become proficient in Academic English Language. Students and teachers rely on dependable, diagnostic information from language assessments, and districts and states depend on reliable reporting of students' acquisition of English-language skills.
To meet these needs, DRC|CTB Research worked with educators from across the country to evolve the LAS Links suite of language assessments. New forms of LAS Links and LAS Links Español emphasize academic language, as informed by the Common Core State Standards and standards established by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
DRC|CTB is developing innovative assessments that use speech-recognition technology to assess English-language skills via computer. Our researchers are also exploring new ways to improve access to assessment for language learners, to obtain diagnostic information on the progress of ELLs, and to provide tools that help students and teachers chart student progress.
Assessments for adult learners
Learning continues well beyond K-12 education. DRC|CTB is dedicated to serving the needs of learners of all ages, and our Research supports the development of tests for all learners, including adult learners.
The Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) is used by educational institutions across the country to measure the skills of adult learners. DRC|CTB Research actively works to expand the TABE family of tests. For example, we supported the development of the TABE Complete Language Assessment System—English (CLAS-E), which measures adult learners' English-language skills.
DRC|CTB Research helped develop TASC, Test Assessing Secondary Completion™. This state-of-the-art, affordable national high school equivalency assessment assesses five subject areas including Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. It measures examinees' levels of achievement relative to that of graduating high school seniors and career and college readiness.
States and districts need flexible assessment systems that work on a variety of platforms and in multiple environments. DRC|CTB Research listens to our customers and has developed tests that can be given in a variety of modes and on various devices, to meet the accessibility needs of each student.
States, districts, and schools are using comprehensive data management systems to maintain student test results. DRC|CTB is committed to providing easy-to-interpret, tailored score reports, including electronic test results that feed into student information systems. Only data that can be readily accessed can be used to tailor classroom instruction, measure student growth, and view results longitudinally. By providing data that can be easily added to new and existing information systems, DRC|CTB Research makes test results available to customers when they are needed to inform key instructional decisions.
In addition to flexible assessment systems, states and districts need interoperable assessment technology. Assessment technology interoperability will allow states and districts to deliver test content on a variety of platforms, to deliver assessment results using various systems, and to use assessments and instruction from a variety of sources. DRC|CTB works closely with the IMS Global Learning Consortium and has contributed to recommended best practices for use of the Accessible Portable Item Protocol (APIP) Standard. The APIP Standard is a data model for standardizing the interchange file format for digital test items, making use of items easy across systems. DRC|CTB Interoperability standards will allow greater flexibility in the administration and maintenance of assessment programs and will also improve access to assessments for all students.
Keith Boughton, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist. Dr. Boughton works as the lead Research Scientist for Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), DRC|CTB's test for high school equivalency. In this role, he provides psychometric leadership to product managers, content experts, and software engineers who work to implement the TASC assessment system across the country.Learn more about this researcher »