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Student Assessment


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Student assessments include both formative and summative assessments. The results of the assessments are used by all stakeholders to make program, staffing, professional development, instructional, financial, and personal decisions. They are an important component of both the Collecting/Analyzing Student data step and the On-going Data Collection step in the Iowa Professional Development Model. State-wide and district-wide summative assessments are mandated by Iowa Code (Chapter 12) and used for district accreditation and federal reporting, as defined by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Formative assessments are on-going and are used to inform the instructional process and develop student learning goals.

Student Assessment Tips

  • Clearly define learning targets and expected outcomes prior to instruction. This will help ensure that what is taught is both aligned to the learning targets and assessed.
  • Identify the baseline data you will need to document change. Pretests are one way to determine the baseline data.
  • Align the assessment tool or technique to both the instruction and the learning target.
  • Formative assessment is done to provide feedback for ongoing instruction, assist students is knowing how close they are to the learning target, and to inform any needed mid-course corrections.
  • Summative assessment is done to measure overall success, grade, or sort students.
  • Longitudinal assessment tracks impacts beyond the duration or initial scope of the project.
  • An assessment plan should be developed at the beginning of the unit of study or project.
  • Attitude surveys are used to evaluate student' attitudes. Very little time is needed to use an existing survey, but a great deal of time is needed to develop a valid and reliable survey.
  • Validity is a measure of how well an assessment actually measures what it is attempting to measure.
  • Validity is also a measure of the extent to which the conclusions and inferences drawn from the assessment results are appropriate and meaningful.
  • Just as you wouldn't use a tape measure to measure the temperature of a room, you need to ensure that the assessment, formative or summative, is aligned to the learning targets it intends to assess – that is valid.
  • Reliability is the degree to which the assessment consistently measures what it is intended to measure. The consistency needs to be both within the assessment as well as across time.
  • If you had a bathroom scale that always gave a different reading every time you stepped on it, regardless of whether or not you lost or gained weight, it wouldn't be reliable.
  • If you have an assessment that only some parts of it measure the learning target, it isn't a reliable measure of that learning target.
  • If a passage or application used in the assessment becomes a part of classroom instruction, the assessment is no longer assessing higher order thinking, but instead measuring recall. The assessment instrument is no longer as reliable as it was previously.
  • Rather than assigning extra credit as make up for work not done, consider having students resubmit some or all of their previously graded work along with revisions in a learning portfolio. The extra credit work will then be truly aligned to the learning targets.
  • One way to give students quality feedback on written assignments is to write your comments in a Word document. You can then keep a running record of the comments you have provided to each student as well as cut and paste your most common comments.
  • When grading a paper that is poorly written, do not continuously write the same comments throughout. Instead, choose one paragraph or one short section that reflects the problems of the larger work and thoroughly mark up that sample. With examples of how it can be improved.
  • Give the student the chance to rewrite the entire paper showing that he/she understood and learned from the one paragraph you marked up.
  • Never underestimate the time it takes to develop a really good rubric/scoring guide.
  • Have rubrics/scoring guides critiqued by colleagues, write it in student-friendly language, stay true to the learning targets to be assessed, think about outlier performances, and revise it each time you use it.
  • Decide on the type of rubric you need before you develop a scoring guide/rubric.
  • Analytic rubrics are usually used to measure process, while holistic rubrics are usually used to measure product.
  • You may develop a general rubric to use for different projects or a task specific rubric for a specific project.
  • Analytic rubrics are best for formative assessment in that they break down the learning target or targets into measurable parts. The scoring is a sum of the parts.
  • A holistic rubric is often used for summative assessments and scores a performance in its entirety.
  • The holistic rubric is frequently used to measure a whole product or when the parts of the product are so interrelated that they are not easily discernible.
  • Percentile and percentages are not the same.
  • A percent is an average while a percentile is a value below which a certain percentage of scores fall. For example, a student may get only half of the points on an assessment and receive 50%, but if that is the highest score of all the students taking the assessment, the student scored in the 99 percentile.
  • Consider developing alternate forms of assessments, whether for formative or summative use.
  • An alternate form should be interchangeable in that it measures the same learning targets at the same cognitive level for the same purpose and uses the same set of directions.
  • Alternate forms of assessments may be used in alternating years or in alternating classes.
  • Check assessments for all forms of bias to ensure a fair assessment. Is the content or language biased toward one group of students? Have all students had the opportunity to learn?
  • There are many different types of assessments – paper/pencil, observation, oral response, performance, etc. Give students the opportunity to show what they know and can do using a variety of assessment types.
  • Consider the rigor and relevance of the assessment. Ask students to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize content. The more authentic, real-world, the more relevant it is to students.


Assessment for Learning
(Formative Assessment)

Assessment of Learning
(Summative Assessment)

Assessment for Learning (Formative Assessment) is a process used by teachers and students as part of instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of core content. As assessment for learning, formative assessment practices provide students with clear learning targets, examples and models of strong and weak work, regular descriptive feedback, and the ability to self-assess, track learning, and set goals. (Adapted from Council of Chief State School Officers, FAST SCASS)

    Assessment of Learning (Summative Assessments) are given at a point in time to measure and monitor student learning. They provide the feedback to educators, students, parents, and community members and are used to make adjustments in instructional programs, report student progress, identify and place students, and grade students.

      Assessments and Accountability

      All students must take a variety of achievement tests every year to determine how much and how well they are learning. Iowa's assessment system has been fully approved by the United States Department of Education.

      Student Assessments in Iowa at a Glance

      Local Assessments: Districts must annually administer district-wide assessments in reading, math and science, and they must align their assessments to their curriculum or content standards. These assessment tools are selected by the district and must be complementary (not identical to) to the state required tests. For more information about local assessments, contact the district's curriculum director or building principal.

      State Assessments: Iowa uses the Iowa Assessments for grades 3-8 and 11 as our annual statewide assessment. The following Iowa Testing Programs subtests were originally used by districts for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and Annual Progress Report (APR) reporting:

      • Reading Comprehension for Reading (now Reading – given in 2 parts for 3-8 grades and 1 test for grade 11)
      • Mathematical Concepts and Problem Solving for Mathematics (now called Math – 2 parts for 3-8 grades and 1 test for grade 11)
      • Analysis of Science Materials for Science (now just called Science)

      Beginning in 2011-12, Iowa will use the following Iowa Assessments for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and Annual Progress Report (APR) reporting:

      • Reading (2 parts for grades 3-8 and 1 test for grade 11)
      • Mathematics (2 parts for grades 3-8 and 1 test for grade 11)
      • Science

      Go to for descriptions of the tests and times for administration.

      National Assessments: The National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) tests are conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Education to a representative sample of students in grades 4 and 8 nationwide. Prior to 2003, the tests were periodic and voluntary; since the Fall 2003, all states have been required to participate. See Iowa NAEP Results.

      Reporting Results: Each fall, all districts publish and distribute an Annual Progress Report that includes local student achievement results and other accountability indicators. The state also produces an Annual Condition of Education Report that provides statewide demographic, curriculum, staffing, financial, and achievement data to help districts and policymakers evaluate the state's educational system and ensure it is meeting the needs of students and communities. In addition, the state produces an annual report card as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, listing achievement results, teacher quality indicators, and schools or districts that did not meet achievement goals for two consecutive years.

      Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 25, 2016 at 4:06am.