Assessments: Start with the Why

“Assessment” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in education: formative assessment, summative assessment, state assessment, district assessment, digital assessment, continuous assessment, common assessment, etc… Literally anything could be considered an “assessment” when you are gathering data. Assessments are not anything new; they have always been, and should always be, a part of every teacher’s toolkit. We have to know where our students are, in relation to the material that we are teaching, in order to best target the learning.

Although the act of assessing a student can be as simple as asking a student a verbal check for understanding, in recent years the term “assessment” has developed a bad reputation. In the US there has been uproar that we are “over-assessing” our students and many are calling for restrictions on the amount that we assess students. While people may have had a bad experience with a particular assessment or group of assessments, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Speaking with such vague generalities is confusing the issue. Regular assessment and data are not inherently bad—although some would lead you to believe that they are.

Assessments and data are essential, but they can be tainted when the administration doesn’t align with why the assessment was meant to happen. The problem isn’t that we are over-assessing, it’s that we aren’t always clear WHY we are assessing and therefore, aren’t ensuring the how and what follow appropriately.

Julia Sweeney_Data

Let’s not waste our time waging a war on data, or focusing our energy on attacking specific assessment providers, let’s instead take the time to reflect on assessment practices in our schools. Let’s discuss the why behind assessments and then make sure we align our how and what.

Using the Start With Why book and Ted Talk by Simon Sinek as our inspiration, we started our recent Professional Development event with a Michigan school district with an exploration into their why regarding assessments. The session sought to help their school district develop common assessments to measure student learning and develop ways to respond to the data. Often times when people think about developing assessments, they immediately think about scheduling and the form the assessment will take. That approach doesn’t start with why and will lead you to question whether these assessments were “successful.” You have to know what it is that you want, in order to know whether you’ve gotten it. So, we started with what they wanted in assessments–we started with their why.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 1.59.01 PMWe had the coaches begin by thinking through the various rationales behind assessment. Coaches evaluated some potential reasons for assessment, by considering statements like:

 

  • We assess to provide students feedback.
  • We assess to hold teachers accountable.
  • We assess to inform our instructional decisions.

 

From there, groups collaborated to identify the three biggest reasons they want to assess student learning. Once we had a clear picture of why we were creating assessments, then we could better ask and answer questions about how we create and administer assessments, and THEN coaches could start developing assessments (or creating the structures to have assessments developed).

The schools and districts that I support, in their creation of common assessments on Edcite, have a much healthier relationship with data when they have a clear understanding of why they assess students. The problem isn’t the assessment; the problem is, that too often, we don’t know why we are doing it.

If you would like more information about the Professional Development events we have done in regards to school and district assessments, please contact me at Julia@edcite.com.

Our Test Prep Playlist: Math

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Spring is in the air! And that doesn’t just mean rain showers and spring allergies. For many, spring means testing season, and there’s nothing quite as stressful as that.

To help our beloved teacher community, we have assembled a playlist of our best test prep resources. This one has exceptional resources for math teachers, and we’ll be post a similar playlist for ELA folks soon. We hope this helps!

SmaterBalanced Resources

*SmarterBalanced is a major testing consortium that will be administering digital exams in 18 member states, including California, Oregon and Washington on the West Coast and Connecticut, Delaware, and Vermont on the East Coast.

Grade Assignment Name Link
3 SBAC Grade 3 Practice Test https://edcite.com/1m42ht
4 SBAC Grade 4 Practice Test https://edcite.com/122l59
5 SBAC Grade 5 Practice Test https://edcite.com/1i15tv
6 SBAC Grade 6 Practice Test https://edcite.com/19ytlk
7 SBAC Grade 7 Practice Test https://edcite.com/1hbsvr
8 SBAC Grade 8 Practice Test https://edcite.com/1fp7nd

 

PARCC Resources

*PARCC is a major testing consortium that will be administering digital Common Core exams in 13 states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois.

Grade Assignment Name Link
5 PARCC Grade 5 EOY https://edcite.com/1en3fb
6 PARCC Grade 6 EOY https://edcite.com/13fdda
7 PARCC Grade 7 EOY https://edcite.com/19o70m
8 PARCC Grade 8 EOY https://edcite.com/10pxfl

You should also see our Top 10 PARCC Assignments for more outstanding resources!

Tests on Common Core Standards

These “quizzes” (quizzes are probably less stress-inducing to the little tykes!) will help you assess which Common Core standards your students may need to review, and which standards your students aced this year. Edcite’s standards-based reporting features will be particularly helpful with this!shutterstock_222285793 

Grade Assignment Name Link
K Quiz — Kindergarten — All Standards https://edcite.com/1nh8q1
1 Quiz — Grade 1 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1q6m42
2 Quiz — Grade 2 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1wey1a
3 Quiz — Grade 3 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1xmp02
4 Quiz — Grade 4 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1t2q0n
5 Quiz 1 — Grade 5 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1e2wps
5 Quiz 2 — Grade 5 — All Standards https://edcite.com/1nent0

Think there are other assignments on Edcite that could be helpful test prep? Share them in the comments below!