Topic: Assessment Architecture



What a Difference Our Words Make! Asking Questions that Require Understanding

There are so many ways to ask a question! I was reviewing some assessments yesterday and noticed that one or two simple word changes can totally change the sophistication needed for the response. When we consider what we want a student to know, and then create the question, I think we need to look at the question from a different perspective. We need to ask ourselves if the question leads to a response that truly measures understanding. Read more


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What are Common Formative Assessments Anyway?

One thing I’ve learned as I work with schools across the country is that there are a lot of different definitions collaborative teams are using for common formative assessments, and what these teams think common formative assessments are influences how they write and use these assessments with their students. In our book, Collaborating for Success in the Common Core, we offer the following definition to help teams make sure they’re able to use their results to improve student learning Read more


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For Leaders: Recognizing Quality Assessment in the Classroom

A few years ago, after a number of professional learning experiences on the topic of assessment, several principals in my district asked how they might recognize strong assessment when they saw it during classroom observations or walkthroughs. They also wondered what questions they might ask to invite further reflection and refinement. These were fair questions because we often develop our assessment philosophies and practices in environments removed from the classrooms in which they will eventually be applied. Understanding something is one thing, and implementing it is an entirely different enterprise. So how do we recognize quality assessment as it is being lived out in classroom spaces, and how can leaders support teacher reflection on assessment practices? Read more


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Putting Reporting in Perspective

Imagine you walk into your doctor’s office, ready for the follow-up appointment where the results of your diagnostic tests are shared with you and your prognosis is revealed. You are a little anxious and uncertain, but you are confident you are in good hands. You understand that this appointment is intended to communicate information that may lead to future healthcare processes. You expect that you may need to shift your diet or your exercise and that you may need further tests or supports from additional health care personnel. You also know that there is a system in place that will take care of you the best way they know how, so in spite of your uncertainty, you feel confident you will leave that office knowing what you need to know. Read more


What type of questions do we put on tests? Better yet, why?

While working recently with a high school mathematics team to write quality common assessments, I asked the teachers to bring in their previously used unit tests. They had already been giving common assessments for about three years as collaborative teams, so their unit assessments were in agreement. However, I noticed that every assessment item was multiple choice on every exam throughout the department.

When asking the algebra team about the reasoning behind only using multiple-choice items, I was told it was necessary in order to quickly analyze the data as a team and give results to students. When I asked what teachers or students did with the results, I was met with silence. When I asked how teachers and students learned from the common misconceptions shown on the exam—again, silence. Read more


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Are Essential Standards a Part of the Assessment Process?

As I’ve worked with teams across the country in developing and using assessments, I’ve heard some interesting beliefs about essential standards (e.g., “We’re not allowed to do this in our district,” or “Our curriculum only requires us to teach the essential standards”). Comments like these have convinced me that there are lots of educators who have misconceptions about the first of the four essential questions we ask a collaborative team in a PLC to answer. That question is: “What do we want our students to know and do?” Read more


Painting an Assessment Plan

About seven years ago, I decided the kitchen needed to be painted. Never having painted before, I quickly learned painting is messy and tedious and far from one of my favorite activities. Filled with indecision, I decided on a lavender paint color to replace the eggshell yellow that had been on the walls. After my husband and I started the work, I realized the color was not what I had hoped. Read more



Do We Really NEED Common Formative Assessments, Too?

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with collaborative teams in a school whose principal had asked them to add common formative assessments to their arsenal of assessment practices.  Many of these teachers had worked hard to develop classroom formative assessments that were used to diagnose student learning issues.  This school also had a sophisticated response system that used benchmarking and progress monitoring assessments to identify and monitor students who were not yet at grade level in reading and math. Each of the teams I met with included teachers who were worried about the amount of time it would take them to write common formative assessments, give them to their students, and work collaboratively to plan how to respond to the results of these assessments.  Early in our workshop, I asked teachers to talk together and brainstorm a list of their best hopes and worst fears about this work.  Not surprisingly, several teachers articulated their concerns about adding more assessments in addition to those they were already using. My next step, then, had to be to explore the “why” behind this work. Read more