Assessment Education Perspectives

Assessment Literacy is Critical for Improving Student Learning

Assessment Literacy in the Education Ecosystem

While nuances abound, our mantra is simple: Assessment literacy is critical for improving student learning. This means…

  • Assessment must serve an instructional role: The role of assessment must be expanded to serve as a teaching and learning tool used in the service of greater and broader student learning success. Schools can use quality assessment practices to help overcome inequities, narrow achievement gaps, promote universal high school graduation, help struggling learners find their own success, ensure digital competence and make sure all students are ready for college or workplace training.
  • Which means understanding sound assessment practice: Assessment is the process of gathering information about student learning to inform instructional decisions. Although assessment is often used to certify learning, policy makers and school leaders must embrace the need for balanced assessment systems that also meet the information needs of those who use assessment to support student learning. All involved, from the classroom to the boardroom, must develop an understanding of the principles of sound assessment practice; they must be assessment literate.
  • Especially for teachers and school leaders: Teachers need the opportunity to learn how to use assessment during learning to help all students remain confident, successful learners who believe in themselves. Research has verified the powerful impact sound classroom assessment practices can have on student learning success; but few teachers and even fewer principals have been given the opportunity to become assessment literate. Professional development programs are readily and inexpensively available to develop assessment literacy. Assessment literate teachers and school leaders are essential to greater and broader student learning.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides states and districts an opportunity to strengthen the quality of teaching and learning by ensuring that stakeholders in the education ecosystem are assessment literate. By explicitly incorporating training and professional development that supports assessment literacy into state ESSA applications, states can enhance student learning by leveraging funds to develop assessment policies and systems that are in balance and reflect quality assessment practices.

States have the opportunity with ESSA to ensure that students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and school districts better support student learning by developing a solid understanding of the principles of sound assessment. If we look at the education ecosystem, assessment literacy can play a holistic role.

For State and Local Educational Agencies (SEAs and LEAs)

Eliminating redundant or unnecessary tests and improving assessment programs is supported in ESSA through a grant program that provides for audits of testing systems at both the state and local levels. Such assessment audits will support student learning only if the auditors and the recipients of the audit understand how assessment practices can support greater and broader student learning success. States should identify resources and opportunities to engage LEA administrators and teachers in development of assessment literacies to support the effective use of, engagement in, and response to an assessment audit.

For Teachers and School Leaders

When teachers and school leaders are able to effectively use assessments to identify student strengths and weaknesses, they can individualize students’ learning experiences. When teachers are assessment literate, they effectively use assessments to identify student strengths and weaknesses, avoid spending time covering concepts students already understand and focusing instead on what students are ready to learn. State education agencies (SEAs) need to be aware that good assessment literacy among teachers and school leaders may provide the most leverage to influence the complex endeavor of school improvement.

For Parents

When parents understand the purpose of assessments and can interpret the results, they become empowered to advocate for the needs of their students and their schools, ESSA embeds improvements in family engagement and capacity building so that parents are meaningfully engaged in their children’s educations. Knowledge, involvement, and advocacy is essential for parents to support better educational opportunities for all students through assessment literate educators, school leaders, and stakeholders.

For Students

When students understand the purpose of assessments and can interpret the results, they become partners in meeting their learning goals and can use more than just traditional assessment to demonstrate their learning. Students as a result become more engaged in their learning. Assessment literacy creates opportunities for students to experience more personalized learning, learn more in less time and show what they know.

Development of assessment literate teachers, students, parents and school leaders is essential to support student learning, and ESSA provides this opportunity.