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A school's system of assessment permits educators to ascertain how much their students are learning. Indeed, assessments provide an operational definition of curriculum goals: it is by answering the question “What could students do if they knew X?” that teachers and curriculum specialists determine what their curriculum statements really mean. In combination, curriculum and assessment fully define what students will learn; where curriculum lays out what students will learn, assessments show what they have learned. It would be reasonable to regard assessments as simply part of the curriculum planning effort—one more element of a well-designed curriculum. However, because of the complexity of the topic, and because of its importance given the current educational focus on accountability, it warrants a separate examination.
As I explained in Chapter 9, there are many different kinds of learning goals, such as knowledge, reasoning skills, etc. Assessment methodologies must be appropriate to the types of goals being assessed. Although short-answer or multiple-choice questions might be suitable for goals related to knowledge, essay questions or oral presentations are more appropriate for measuring communication or reasoning skills. Some dispositional goals—such as persistence or aesthetic appreciation—are virtually impossible to assess formally; in these cases, anecdotal accounts may have to suffice.
Relationship to the Framework