High-Quality Assessments and Standards-based Grading and Reporting

natalie-bolton130x140By Natalie Bolton

Standards-based grading and reporting policies are becoming a norm in P/K ­‐ 12 schools, districts, and states. However, as policies are created calling for shifts in grading and reporting practices, it is imperative that time be spent on making sure that classroom assessments, both formative and summative, are of high quality. So, what tools or checks are in place to assist teachers in making sure their classroom assessments are of high quality, prior to reporting if a student has met a standard?

I’ve found that using the assessment development cycle as described by Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, and Arter (2012) is a great tool to critique an existing assessment or to provide guidance as an assessment is being designed. Using the assessment development cycle helps ensure I can accurately communicate about student mastery of standards. All assessments, regardless of assessment method, should go through the cycle to ensure assessments are of quality. Three stages make up the cycle and are described in Figure 1.

figure 1
Stage 1: Planning is a critical stage to ensure an assessment can be used for standards-based grading and reporting. Within the planning stage, four steps should be considered.
Step One: Considerations need to be made regarding who (i.e., teacher, student, other) will use the assessment information and how the information (i.e., plan instruction, differentiate instruction, offer feedback, student self-assessment and goal setting, measure level of achievement, other) will be used. Teachers also need to decide if the assessment is for formative or summative purposes and how marks, scores, or feedback will be assigned.
Step Two: Requires assessment items be aligned to standards or learning targets. Teachers need to know which learning targets will be the focus of the assessment. Once learning targets are selected, teachers need to identify the target type (i.e., knowledge, reasoning, skill, product, disposition). Using a deconstruction process can also assist teachers in breaking a broad standard into smaller learning targets used for daily instruction. Considerations should also be made at this time regarding setting up standards-based record keeping.

Step Three: Determination of the best assessment methods (i.e., selected response, constructed response, performance task, personal communication) to match learning target type needs to be made.

Step Four: Attention should be given to how much evidence of learning is enough for each learning target based on target type and method used. Teachers need to think about how many learning targets the assessment will cover and the relative importance of each learning target. Alignment to high accountability assessment blueprints and how targets and scores are weighted should be considered during this step.

Stage Two: Development should be fairly straightforward once the planning stage is complete.

Step 5: Development or selection of items, exercises, tasks, and scoring procedures that match the criteria addressed in the planning stage should take place.

Step 6: Requires that items be reviewed and critiqued for quality before use. Several tools are available to critique items based on content and method. Considerations should be made and noted in scoring and record keeping files regarding if items correlate or are congruent (100% match) to learning targets. This is a critical step within stage one if a teacher is to effectively report evidence related to student mastery of a target. If an assessment item only partially addresses a learning target, the item should be revised or additional items will be needed to fully assess the target.

Stage Three: Use. Teachers are now ready to implement items to complete the cycle.

Step 7: Requires teachers to implement and score items. It is important that feedback minimally be given to students regarding the degree of mastery of identified learning targets regardless if the assessment is used for formative or summative purposes. I have found that using three performance levels and colors (on target-green, somewhat there-­yellow, and try again-red) is an easy and clear way to inform students of his/her degree of mastering a learning target. Providing descriptive feedback aligned with targets should also take place at this time and be recorded.

Step 8: Reflection of the quality of the assessment as a whole and by individual item should now take place. Reviewing which targets students did well on, which targets students made simple mistakes on or partially got, and which targets students did not master should all be noted. Teachers can then reflect on these results and review assessment items and consider if revision of items or instruction should take place.

Consistently using these eight steps within the three stages of the assessment development cycle can ensure that assessments used to assess student mastery of learning targets are of high quality. Following the steps also allows for seamless standards-based reporting and record keeping.

Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R. Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right‐using it well (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


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