The Value of Assessment

The latest debate in our education community is all about assessment – what should we assess and how should we assess it? Whether we call it assessment or testing, it’s definitely causing concern across the country. Families are concerned that all of this assessment is putting unnecessary stress on our students. Teachers and administrators are upset with the perceived loss of instructional time. Policymakers are caught between the desire to please constituents and the need to meet state and federal laws. These are all real, valid concerns that boil down to two questions, “Are we testing too much? Are these tests really necessary?”

But perhaps we shouldn’t be asking if we are testing too much –it’s not necessarily the amount of testing that is the problem. Instead we should ask ourselves, “Are we are using our assessments effectively?” The purpose of any assessment is to provide evidence of student achievement or student growth. Because, after all, if we aren’t going to use the evidence collected, why bother to collect it?

Through FIP Your School Ohio we have been discussing with educators the need to collect and use accurate evidence of student learning to make instructional decisions. We need data to inform our decision-making.

  • Which students are meeting the learning targets?
  • Who is progressing beyond grade level mastery?
  • Are there students who need more support?

We need strong, classroom-based assessments to know the answers to these vital questions. If we give in to the pressure to arbitrarily reduce the amount of assessment taking place in our schools, we also give up opportunities to collect crucial evidence of student learning.

We don’t “lose instructional time” to assessment when we integrate assessment into our instruction and use the evidence collected to inform our work. Assessment is an essential part of instruction, informing our instructional decisions and guiding our learners toward reaching their goals. We ought to be able to tell our students and their families why we are giving an assessment and how we will use the data collected. Could you answer that question for every assessment you give? Are you making good use of the data collected? If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s time to rethink the “what” and the “why” and stop worrying so much about the “how much”.

The Designing Sound Assessment modules will help you take a student-friendly approach to assessment. The modules in this series will enable you to become more efficient at measuring, monitoring, and adjusting learning. In addition to demonstrating how to create sound assessment items and tasks, the series shows you how to make wider use of assessment as a teaching and learning tool. You can learn more here.