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November 1, 2005
Vol. 63
No. 3

Web Wonders / Assessment to Promote Learning

Web Wonders /  Assessment to Promote Learning- thumbnail
Although your students' number 2 pencils may dull during the course of the school year from marking all the standardized tests they must take, we hope these Web sites will sharpen your use of assessment as an instructional tool.

Designing and Aligning Assessments

An assessment tutorial created by Australia's Flinders University ( can help you tap into the potential of assessment. Although the information is aimed at a university audience, all educators can benefit from this site. The “How to Assess” section is particularly useful when designing assessment tasks. There are also sections on giving effective feedback, fairly assessing students with disabilities, and more.
The spring 2003 issue of the American Educational Research Association's newsletter Research Points ( gives suggestions for aligning assessments to standards.

Rubric Masonry

Rubrics that provide criteria for evaluating student work can help teachers assess student learning in a more objective and ongoing way. The Landmark Project's Rubric Builder ( provides a template for building your own rubric in any subject. You can also easily clone rubrics that others have posted on the site and make them available online for your students or colleagues. ( is another good place to look for all things rubric. The site includes an overview of what rubrics are, links to articles on assessment approaches, and links to dozens of other sources for rubric-building templates.

Resources for English Language Learners

As teachers try to tailor assessments to gauge the abilities of individual students, they often find it particularly difficult to measure the skills of children who do not speak a school's dominant language. For help, visit the Web site of the English Language Learner Knowledge Base, an online resource for those administering programs for English language learners ( The site is organized around seven elements of program development; “Element 4: Identify and Assess Students” is particularly useful. This area of the site guides users through a step-by-step procedure for identifying limited English proficient students and assessing their capabilities, including such steps as becoming familiar with relevant laws and administering a home language survey.
Keep the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition's “Assessment & Accountability” page ( handy, too. Although you'll need to dig through menu items to get what you need, stay steady—the hunt is worth it. Menus lead to resources on placement of English language learners, content area assessment, and much more. From this site you can instantly search the NCELA database for hundreds of articles, research studies, and conference proceedings related to English language learners.
The 2005 report by the School Redesign Network of Stanford University, Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation (, describes alternatives that 27 states have developed to traditional high school exit exams in an attempt to more equitably assess English language learners and struggling students.

Student, Assess Thyself

This Web site ( makes self-assessment in math and science fun. Students can participate in grade-appropriate quizzes and tutorials in math and science. They can then see how their results stack up to those of students in other countries who answered these questions as part of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. The MSTV portion of the site ( is graphically appealing to teenagers, fully interactive, and linked to meaningful uses of math and science. It puts high schoolers at the helm of self-assessment tuned to their own math and science skills improvement.

Father Knows Test

The Parent Portal site sponsored by the Center for the Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning ( offers plain talk on testing for parents eager to help their child successfully navigate the standardized assessment waters, with links to such topics as Educational Jargon Defined. CAESL also makes available assessment briefs on such topics as “What Parents Should Know About Test Types” which are a worthy read for parents and educators alike (available

Advocating for Alternatives

The New York Performance Standards Consortium is made up of 28 small public high schools in New York State united in their commitment to providing alternatives to high-stakes standardized testing. Visit the consortium's site ( to learn about these schools' self-styled assessment systems and to get pointers for advocating for alternatives to high-stakes tests in your own state or district. The Web site of Marylanders Against High-Stakes Testing ( is also a strong resource for educators interested in advocating against current assessment policies.
To get a range of perspectives on assessment issues, visit the TrueScores blog hosted by Pearson Educational Measurement ( This open blog is a forum for exchanging “pointers and perspectives on psychometrics and test measurement practices.” And a segment of National Public Radio's “Talk of the Nation” program aired last September called “Schools Aim to Improve Test Scores” (available presents a round-up of practitioners' responses and concerns regarding pressure to raise test scores under NCLB.

Digital Portfolios and Performance Assessments

Digital portfolios are a popular means of authentic assessment. For examples of students' digital portfolios, visit the home page of Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska ( These portfolios creatively showcase what Mt. Edgecumbe students have learned and make their work broadly accessible beyond classroom doors.
The Center for Performance Assessment's site () provides many free resources for addressing standards through performance assessment. And we'd be remiss not to mention ASCD's own Education Topic site on performance assessment ( Gurus Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins answer common questions about performance assessment, plus, it's your one-stop shop for links to ASCD's assessment resources.

Laura Varlas is a former ASCD writer and editor.

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