Large-scale academic assessments have played a dominant role in U.S. federal and state education policies over the past couple of decades. As a result, the education measurement community and its methods have been catapulted into an arena where they are simultaneously hailed and denounced and where existing theory and technology do not always keep up with the demands of those requiring the tests. These circumstances have incentivized great progress in areas such as online and adaptive testing, the detection of cheating, and automated scoring for constructed response items. They also obligate stock-taking of approaches to validity evaluation as the high stakes requirements on score interpretation and use increases.
Among the many validity issues that presently concern test users is the evaluation of alignment among large-scale assessments and the academic content and performance standards on which they are based. In the pages that follow, we describe the current peer review expectations for alignment evidence, then present alignment as a problem of coherence to be addressed within policy and measurement contexts, describe popular approaches to evaluating alignment, and offer new perspectives that may yield more and more useful alignment information for test users and others.