Learning matters to everyone. Students, and everyone involved supporting their education, have questions about how well they are learning. The questions vary by role but answering them helps each stakeholder make a unique contribution to learning. By using good assessment practice, we can find the answers to questions at every level:
- Student: What do I need to learn to understand the physics of space travel?
- Teacher: how well are my students understanding this lesson on addition of fractions?
- Parent: what can I do to help my son read more at home?
- Principal: how can I determine which reading classes will need additional texts and workbooks this year?
- Superintendent: how well is the new curriculum working?
- State Department of Education: how effective has the statewide reading initiative has been these last few years?
- US Department of Education: how do we grant all students access to a quality education?
While the questions begin to broaden with each level you venture away from the classroom, all of them are focused on benefiting students. A balanced set of assessments can provide the information needed to drive those improvements, whether for a single child or students nationwide. No single measure can answer all the questions we have. Therefore, it is essential to have an understanding of good assessment methods and practices so the greatest benefits can be realized by all students.
As you consider assessments for your classroom, school or district, consider asking a few key questions:
- Are we assessing to certify learning or support it?
- Who will use the results of the assessment?
- What information will they need to do their job?
- What decisions will be made using these results?
Assessments can empower teachers and improve the teaching and learning process. To achieve this, there are key assessment principles all educators must consider:
- The student is at the heart of the assessment.
- Assessment is integral to teaching and learning.
- Data is used by both teachers and students to make adjustments in teaching and learning.
- Teachers should be provided assessment data in a timely fashion.
- Educators should have the support and professional development to apply assessment results in their classrooms.
The use of data, when integrated and connected to instruction and curriculum creates a cohesive classroom or building plan that supports learning goals and greater opportunities for student growth and success.