Academic Playbook : Assessments

Turning Data into Information

Assessments Within the Playbook

Assessment is the singular tool by which teachers can diagnose, understand, and tailor instruction to effectively meet the needs of their students. Throughout the playbook, three specific forms of assessment will be regularly referenced. Each of these, their positioning within an instructional cycle, and the purpose they serve is outlined below.

1. Prior to beginning instruction, units in this playbook suggest teachers utilize a pre-assessment to accurately determine the immediate prerequisite skills that students may be deficient in prior to delivery of grade-level content. For the sake of this conversation, "immediate prerequisites" are defined as the skills most immediately preceding the grade-level content which are necessary to comprehension and mastery.

2. Once teachers have identified where each student is in relation to the goals of the unit, effective design begins by clearly defining the intended expectations for mastery through the development of an end of unit assessment. This assessment should be common across members of a content and grade level team and utilize a common rubric to ensure that mastery is equitable and clearly defined for every student in the school regardless of teacher. When a team has achieved clear uniformity on the expectations for student mastery and how it will be exhibited, instructional planning becomes the process by which teachers will ensure students master the clearly defined, collaboratively built targets.

3. As part of the instructional plan, teams should agree on common formative assessments that provide regular, actionable data for the teachers. They are intended to measure smaller increments of learning or specific learning targets at key times throughout the instructional process that lead to the "end in mind" for the unit. The goal of these assessments is not to assign a grade, but rather to provide invaluable information to the teacher on student understanding, instructional pacing, and the need for intervention or extension. These assessments should be common across a team to allow for uniform understanding of student needs and comparative data among teachers. The frequency of common formative assessments could vary based on student need or the number of learning targets within a particular unit.

The functions of these three tools, along with the assessments that schools regularly engage in, are explained in the following table.

What Assessment?When is it given?Who is giving it?Why is it given? What do you do with the data?
Pre-AssessmentPrior to starting an instructional unit or cycleClassroom teachersHelps to gain information about what the students already know and to discover any gaps they have in their prerequisite learning.
Common Formative AssessmentThroughout an instructional cycleClassroom teachers/shared collaboratively within a teamHelps to determine whether students have learned essential learning targets and helps teachers understand what instructional strategies are most effective. (Helps guide Tier 1 interventions)
End of Unit AssessmentAt the end of a unit of instructionClassroom teachers/shared collaboratively within a teamHelps to determine whether students have learned essential learning targets and helps teachers understand what instructional strategies are most effective. (Helps guide Tier 2 interventions)
Benchmark AssessmentIn periodic intervalsClassroom teachers Should look at results as a team to determine additional resources/strategies needed.Helps to determine if students are making progress toward end-of-year standards. (Helps to identify the need for additional Tiered support)
State/National AssessmentEnd of yearClassroom teachers Should look at results as a team and school to determine additional resources/strategies needed.Helps to measure overall student learning and the effectiveness of pacing, curriculum, and instructional strategies.
Universal ScreenersBeginning of yearClassroom teachers/specialistsHelp to identify students who are significantly below grade level (guides Tier 3 interventions)
Classroom Formative AssessmentDuring and throughout the instructional cycle as learning is happeningIndividual classroom teachersHelps to guide instruction as it is happening. Teachers should monitor and adjust based on these type of assessments.

Assessment Timeline

Each of these assessments is intended to provide information to the classroom teacher at specific points of the instructional cycle. Prior to planning instruction, teams should first collaboratively design an end of unit assessment and rubric that serves as the guidance for teaching and learning throughout the unit. This defines mastery for all students and allows teachers to adjust instruction to ensure student success. The pre-assessment will be beneficial to administer at the beginning of the unit prior to any skills being introduced. After no more than two weeks of instruction, a common formative assessment (CFA) will be given. This is a check-in on how students are grasping the essential standards that have been taught. At this point, the teacher will reflect and make "teacher moves" based on which students need intervention and which students need extensions in addition to classroom instruction. The unit plans have outlined strategies to try for each of these areas. Following the CFA, instruction continues around the essential standards found in the unit while still addressing the specific needs of students in a small group setting.

The following scenario is an example of collective teacher efficacy, which is the staff's shared belief that in working as a team they can impact student growth in a positive manner. Hattie's meta-analysis noted that teacher efficacy has a 1.57 effect size. In Hattie's work, anything larger than 0.4 effect size should produce more than one year of traditional student growth. In working within a teacher team, the team's mindset must be that they are all of our kids. This is sometimes difficult for elementary teachers to grasp, but being able to create this culture will lead to true collective teacher efficacy.

Classroom Scenario

Mrs. Luck is a second grade teacher. She teaches with three other second grade teachers on her team. Mrs. Luck and her colleagues decide to administer the common formative assessment (CFA) for place value. Prior to giving the CFA, the second grade team discusses how they will give the assessment to make sure it is uniform across classrooms. All details are reviewed such as directions being read aloud and if students will use manipulatives to answer the questions. Once teachers have discussed these details, they will determine a day to give the assessment. After the assessment has been administered, the team will meet together to look over results. During this discussion, each teacher will be transparent with their results. If Mrs. Dickson, a second grade teacher, had better results on the CFA, the team will ask her to explain how she approached the lessons leading up to the CFA. In doing so, all team members will glean new teaching strategies and knowledge to utilize with their students. If each teacher has a few students that need more assistance on the essential standard that was tested, they may decide to allow Mrs. Dickson to engage in interventions with these students. While Mrs. Dickson is assisting these students, the other three second grade teachers could provide extensions around that essential standard to the remaining students.

Students' Role in Assessment

In order to create a culture of success, student involvement will be imperative. Prior to instruction, the learning target must be explained to students and what success criteria would look like for that standard. Students should be given the chance to set a goal to reach their target. Following the CFA, the teacher will want to provide feedback to the student while revisiting their goal with them. At this point in time, helping students write a new goal to continue their growth will be key.

From the beginning of the school year, the teacher will have to set the culture within the classroom to ensure students know how assessment will be used. Many students dread the word test and assessment. Over time, the mindset of students can be altered to understand that assessment doesn't have to be punitive, but is used to gather information to help students continue to learn and grow.

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