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California Community Colleges Common Assessment InitiativeWilliam P. Fisher Jr., Ph.D., has joined the California Community Colleges (CCC) Common Assessment Initiative (CAI) as lead researcher for the test development and validation process, announced Jennifer Coleman, CAI Statewide Program Director.


Fisher is a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education, and is the founder and principal of Living Capital Metrics, a data measurement services provider.


“We are in the unique position of building the assessment model from the ground up,” Coleman said. “William Fisher will be an invaluable resource as we develop an adaptive assessment tool for the California Community Colleges. His insights and guidance will be instrumental in putting assessment and student success research into practice. In addition, CAI will benefit from his vast local and international experience in education and business.”

Fisher said he is delighted to be working on the CAI. “I have great confidence in this team,” he said. “With representatives from every aspect of placement assessment as well as the platform expertise, CAI is covering all the bases to assure a successful outcome that serves students by enhancing their education experience.”

Wide Impact

William Fisher Jr., Common Assessment InitiativeThe new systemwide assessment tool will positively impact students, counselors and faculty, Fisher explained.

“Students will be able to take one assessment and the results will be transferred easily throughout the system,” he said. “Colleges will have autonomy to use the assessment as a placement mechanism in ways that are most useful for their schools.”

Students will benefit by saving time, and speeding their path to graduation and careers, Fisher added. “The assessment will pinpoint students’ shortcomings with specific feedback that will allow them to learn the specific material they need. Sometimes, instead of taking a whole course, they may only need instruction on a specific chapter, such as fractions or word problems. This will enable students to progress faster and encourage them to complete coursework needed for graduation.”

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment identifies what a student does and does not know, allowing both teachers and students to make adjustments. “The new common assessment tool will put powerful information at disposal of students, counselors and instructors,” Fisher said. “Graphical representation of where the student is performing, from easy to difficult concepts, will help them understand specific strengths and weaknesses so they know what to focus on to successfully complete required math, English and ESL courses.”

The CCC assessment process that is being developed will set the stage for future assessment tools that will focus on each student’s individualized learning progression, Fisher explained. “In the future, instruction will then be customized based on students’ knowledge. Through these instructional assessments, students will be able to see what comes next in the progression and what lessons they ought to be learning, rather than reviewing what they already know or attempting material that is too difficult for them.”

Instructional Benefits

Faculty will gain new insights from the comprehensive data that will be available through assessment. “Instructors can look at the consolidated data for the students in their class to diagnose what topics will be the most useful to focus on,” Fisher said. “Additionally, down the road, future developments in formative assessment will make it possible to better customize instruction for each student.”

Tool Validation

Fisher will guide the CAI in validating the new systemwide tool. “It’s like calibrating an instrument,” he said. ”We must very carefully scrutinize what we measure to determine if the results truly mean what we think they mean.”

Fisher explained that there are three elements in determining the reliability of the assessment scales:

  • Data
  • Instrument
  • Theory

“Repeated testing of the tool with students in various environments will provide concrete information as to whether it can do what we think it will do, and to allow us to make appropriate adjustments,” Fisher said. “It is a balance of power between data, the instrument and our theory, and they inform each other. Extensive field testing and explanatory theory will assure that the assessment tool works. That said, we are not going to try to create the perfect placement assessment in version 1.0. There is always room for improvement.”

Program Impact

Fisher believes that this project will have a lasting impact. “This new assessment tool will influence education in California,” he said. “I believe that great things are going to come out of this work. The formative assessment will enhance our ability to document the learning progression and improve teaching techniques. It can smooth the pathway between high school, community college and university, supporting students as they pursue education and success in the workforce.”

Research Participation

Research faculty working in the CCC may be interested in participating in this project, Fisher indicated. There are three research areas that will be part of the CAI validation:

  • Psychometric – performance of scales and measures that are rich with data analysis and construct validation challenges.

  • Natural Variation – measures associated with outcomes such as course progress and graduation rates across schools, demographic groups, etc.

  • Quality Improvement –review comparable outcomes from faculty of similar courses across California to identify best practices and opportunities for improvement.

For more detailed information about how you might contribute to this project, please contact William Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Karen Fraser-Middleton is a marketing consultant for the
California Community Colleges Common Assessment Initiative


Tech Central is an internal newsletter for the personnel of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Technology Center.