Assessment Literacy Definition, Resources Now Available
Assessment matters for teachers. Teachers target and differentiate instruction based on evidence gathered in classroom assessments. Teams of teachers in schools review assessment evidence to understand student needs and to guide curriculum development. Parents, teachers, and students themselves make use of assessment results to make the most of learning opportunities. Assessment and interpretation of assessment results is also sometimes a particular challenge for novice teachers, and it is often the subject of school and district professional development efforts. With so many tests, so many strategies, and so much evidence, assessment is a wide and sometimes confusing topic.
Two new resources from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a not-for-profit educational services organization based in Portland, Oregon, provide a good overview of how educators and parents are viewing assessment these days, and a framework for promoting widespread clarity and common understanding of assessment’s role in education.
The first resource is NWEA’s third installment of an assessment perceptions survey, Making Assessment Work for All Students: Multiple Measures Matter. Conducted with Gallup, the survey asked representative samples of teachers, school administrators, students, and parents with students in schools what they thought about assessment. The study helpfully breaks out perceptions about different types of assessments, from formative classroom assessments, through classroom test, to large-scale state accountability measures.
Among the surprise findings: Despite the press that the parental “opt out” movement has received, half of parents and three quarters of students think the amount of testing in schools is about right. But three quarters of educators feel there is too much testing. Of interest to AACTE members, most teachers reported feeling well-prepared to create valid assessments and to use assessment to inform instruction; also interesting is that they felt less well-prepared to communicate about assessment results with students and parents, and even with other teachers. Given the importance of having students and parents understand assessment results and their implications, the latter finding is concerning.
The second new resource is the fruit of the National Task Force on Assessment Education for Teachers convened by NWEA. The task force, on which I serve along with some two dozen other educators and advisers, is a multiyear effort intended to provide the field of education with a common definition of assessment literacy and with resources to promote it. The group has agreed on a common definition, now available for download here, developed with input from a survey last fall of various stakeholders in the field. We also benefited from the input of Portland State University (OR) Dean Randy Hitz and his partners from local schools, who responded to our drafts at our last meeting, and from colleagues like Kristin Hamilton of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, who helped the task force think about supporting good assessment practice across the professional continuum.
For more information, visit www.assessmentliteracy.org.