“Ultimately, we want students to grow to be independent. For them to do that, they have to have a sense of what the criteria are that make them successful. For a long time, the criteria have been a mystery to students.”
R.J. Tierney, M. Carter, & L. Desai
DescriptorAssessment, as both a process and product, promotes learner success when used intentionally to uncover each learner’s level of mastery and to determine the next steps in instruction. In the process of assessment, educators regularly check for understanding through systematic monitoring. A systematic and systemic assessment process ensures that educators, learners and parents have an understanding of where each learner is along the continuum of content and skill mastery.
Assessments, when considered as a product (e.g., portfolios, multiple-choice tests, constructed response items and performance assessments) provide a measure of mastery, which typically occurs at the end of instruction.
Assessment as a process or product informs multiple aspects of learning, including differentiation of instruction, mild or intensive interventions and placement and graduation decisions. To this end, assessment provides valid and reliable qualitative and quantitative data, which improves the learning of each individual.
The goal of a comprehensive assessment program is to provide educators information to guide student learning through formative and summative assessment. When used formatively, assessments provide a means to assess FOR learning while learning is taking place. Summative assessments, assessments OF learning, provide a means for educators, learners and parents to identify mastery of learning outcomes at a culminating moment, such as the end of a unit, grading period or semester.
Educators use all forms of data, both qualitative and quantitative, to inform decisions about learning design and learning pathways. A balanced assessment system includes daily ongoing assessment strategies, periodic diagnostic progress assessments and large scale standardized assessments.
Role of the Administrators
Effective assessment leaders promote a coherent system of standards, a common curriculum, common formative assessments, confirmed instructional practices and timely interventions. Administrators develop:
- high expectations for all learners
- a culture of continuous improvement
- systematic communication of accountability and assessment
The Design and Use of Assessment
Educators align and design assessments to standards, learning outcomes and cognitive rigor of instruction to identify if learners are meeting the expectations of the curriculum. Sound assessment design includes:
- an alignment between the assessed content and clearly defined learning outcomes
- well-designed rubrics, when appropriate, to provide learners with an understanding of where they are on the learning continuum
- an appreciation for learner goals, learning modalities and learner choice
- transfer (performance) tasks, when appropriate, to measure deep understandings resulting from the curriculum and elements of cognitive rigor such as application of knowledge
- an opportunity for educators and learners to provide specific, accurate, fair and timely feedback regarding learner performance
- collaboration among educators in the design of common assessments and subsequent use of the data to monitor and adjust instruction
- clearly set success criteria that the learner understands and can articulate
The design of assessments should provide sufficient information to allow educators to respond to the four questions asked by professional learning communities (PLC):
- What do we expect our learners to learn?
- How will we know they have learned it?
- What will we do if they do not learn it?
- What will we do if they already know it?
Using Assessments for Formative Purpose
The assessment process is ongoing. It is a spiraling, data driven practice that guides instruction. As such, assessments used for formative purposes must entail sufficient breadth, depth and cognitive rigor to promote a deeper level of understanding. With formative assessment, educators use quantitative and qualitative data, acquired through formal and informal means, to determine where the learner is, where the learner should be and how to move the learner forward on the learning continuum.
Educators and learners use assessment formatively for the improvement of learning. The formative assessment process is validated through both the educator’s and the learner’s use of the information derived from the assessment.
Using Assessments for Summative Purpose
Educators use assessments for summative purposes as a means for the measurement of learning, effectiveness of instruction and the alignment of the curriculum. The summative assessment process evaluates and communicates performance at established times.
Types of AssessmentsUniversal Screeners are:
Progress Monitoring is:
- brief assessments administered to all learners to determine as early as possible which learners are at risk of not meeting academic goals
- norm-referenced measures
- administered on grade level three times a year in K-8
Diagnostic Assessments are:
- a brief assessment to determine if learners are making adequate progress
- appropriate at the learner’s instructional level over an extended period of time
- measuring the rate of improvement
- measurements to match specific intervention/deficit
Formative Assessments are:
- designed to provide the educator with an understanding of the prior knowledge and skills, as well as the strengths and specific needs of their learners
- conducted before instruction is given
Summative Assessments are:
- designed scaffolding learning experiences to customize learning
- checks for understanding which identify learning gaps
- specific, accurate, fair and timely
- measurements of mastery of standards and learning outcomes
- a tool to communicate learners’ strengths and areas for growth
- used to inform curricular and programmatic decisions