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March 2014 | Volume 71 | Number 6
Using Assessments Thoughtfully
Mandated standardized tests, data-driven approaches to learning, and the need to ensure that students are making progress are just a few of the forces that are keeping assessment in the spotlight for educators today. But assessment is about more than numbers—it's about discerning where students are in their learning and planning lessons accordingly. This issue of Educational Leadership looks at how educators can use assessment thoughtfully to help students move forward in their learning.
The title of Carol Ann Tomlinson's article, "The Bridge Between Today's Lesson and Tomorrow", expresses what formative assessment should be. Such assessment must be aligned with each day's lessons; therefore, it's unlikely to be available as part of a packaged set of assessment given monthly or quarterly. Formative assessment is a day-by-day endeavor. As Tomlinson notes in this month's Watch This Spot video, it's assessment for learning, rather than assessment of learning.
Teachers assess students each day, whether formally or informally. One of the most common means of informal assessment is asking questions during class. But in "The Right Questions, The Right Way", Dylan Wiliam notes that this time-honored classroom routine does not necessarily give teachers the information they need to plan upcoming lessons. When a teacher calls on a single volunteer to answer a question, all the teacher learns is what one willing student knows. How then can teachers make their in-class questioning routines more useful ways to assess learning of all their students?
For many U.S. educators, discussion of assessment inevitably turns to the new Common Core State Standards and the aligned assessments rolling out in the coming year. The coming assessments bring with them a host of questions, some involving the logistics of the tests themselves and others involving how schools can prepare students for what may be considerably more rigorous standardized tests than those they've taken in the past.
In "The Problem with Penalties", Myron Dueck explains why penalizing students for failing to complete homework is not helpful. He suggests that any penalty should follow what he calls the CARE guidelines, meaning that students should care about the penalty, that it must align with the aim of the teacher, that it should lead to a reduction of undesirable behavior, and that students should be empowered to control the factors that may lead to incomplete assignments.
Copyright © 2014 by ASCD
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