Assessments are an everyday occurrence in classrooms around the world. There are many different types of assessments, which generally fall into formal and informal. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The major importance is selecting the right assessment. It is up to the teacher to decide what information is needed and how that information is collected.
Formal assessments are a way of observing and recording information in a highly structured manner. It typically requires a large amount of preparation and training. There are many different forms of formal assessments to choose from. Two examples are standards based test and national norm-referenced test.
Standards Based Test
Standards based test are used to measure students’ and schools’ progress in reaching standards put forth by the state. Many students take a multiple choice test, towards the end of the school year, which assesses many things, including reading comprehension and grammar. One of the positive advantages of this type of assessment is the accountability factor. All teachers must make an adequate attempt to teach the information needed for the students to show success. Standards are typically provided for each grade level, so students know what they need to learn for the following year. Students and schools are also able to gauge their progress with other schools throughout the country. Standards based tests are known for their reliability. There is very little room for error and has a standardized grading system. The standards based tests insure that curriculum for that grade level is being taught, no matter where the test is given in the country. Now with this being said, a disadvantage to this test is that low economic status is not taken into consideration. Another disadvantage is that teachers are not ‘allowed’ to teach to the test. However teachers feel that they need to focus on preparing the students for the test because it does have such high stakes. This need to prepare the students for the test keeps the teachers from teaching the real stuff’. According to Center of Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning (CAESL), “Testing in our nation’s schools is on the rise…the pressure for education to be “accountable” has intensified (2004).” The test is high staked and the stress of it does not allow the students to problem solve or think outside of the box. In the end, it does not truly represent whether the students have fully grasped the concepts.
National Norm-Referenced Test
National Norm-Referenced tests are used to gauge the learning of basic skills. This typically takes place at different intervals throughout the school year. These tests are still highly structured and scripted; however unlike the standards based test it is very quick. They are given in the same format each time, so the students know what is expected of them. Immediate results are accessible. This tells the teacher whether that student is on grade level. If the student is not on grade level, the norm-referenced tests helps to ensure the right interventions are implemented to get the student where they need to be. A few down sides to norm-referenced tests are it is timed and there are no accommodations allowed. Some students, including myself, do not do well with timed tests; it puts more pressure on an already stressful situation. There are times when students need help understanding the format and when following the script provided, this is not allowed. While having a script is helpful for administering the assessment, it does not allow for student frustrations.
While formal assessments are always in the minds of teachers when preparing lessons, informal assessments are used, on a day to day basis. Informal assessments are a way of observing, measuring, and recording data with a lot less structure. With informal assessments, they are less data driven and allow...