“What Do Good Assessments Look Like?”
Bernice M. De Jesus
EDU 490: Interdisciplinary Capstone
Instructor: Gary West August 15, 2011
“The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 is arguably the most far-reaching education policy initiative in the United States over the last four decades. The hallmark features of this legislation compelled states to conduct annual student assessments linked to state standards, to identify schools that are failing to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP), and to institute sanctions and rewards based on each school’s AYP status. A fundamental motivation for this reform is the notion that publicizing detailed information on school-specific test performance and linking that performance to the possibility of meaningful sanctions can improve the focus and productivity of public schools”(Dee, Jacob, Hoxby, & Ladd, 2010). In order to ensure that all students are engaged in all aspects of learning, we as educators need to balance both summative and formative classroom assessment practices and information about student learning. Assessments take everything into account from statewide accountability tests to district benchmark or interim tests to everyday classroom tests. Many educators feel that there is an overuse of testing. However, they should learn to use testing as assessments, and that assessment is information. The more information we have about students, the clearer the picture we have about achievement or where gaps may occur. Assessments that are given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what students know and do not know are called summative assessments. These are used at the district and classroom level as an accountability measure that is usually part of the grading process. Some examples of summative assessments are: a) State assessments; b) District benchmark or interim assessments; c) End-of-unit or chapter tests; d) End –of-term or semester exams; e) Scores that are used for accountability of schools (AYP) and students (report card grades). We need to think of this type of assessment as a gauge, at a particular point in time, of student learning relative to content standard. However, since summative assessments are spread out through weeks, months or even years, and cannot be used effectively in providing quick information for instructional adjustments at the classroom level, it requires formative assessment to accomplish this.
Formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure students achieve their targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame. I believe that formative assessments help to improve a teacher’s instructional strategies as part of their overall teaching skills. A major component of formative assessment is that of student involvement. Students need to be involved both as assessors of their own learning and as resources to other students. teachers can effectively engage students by allowing students to take ownership of their own work, which eventually leads to an increase in a students’ motivation to learn. Teachers also play a very critical role in identifying learning goals, setting clear, criteria for success, and designing assessment tasks that provide evidence of student learning. We should also provide students with what is called “descriptive feedback”. It is one of the most significant strategies that we can use to move students forward in their learning. Descriptive feedback provides students with an understanding of what they are doing well, links to classroom learning, and provides specific input on how to reach the next step in the learning progression. In...