Measuring What We Teach: Three Ways We Often Miss the Mark

Student assessment is really about improving student learning. We test because we need answers, answers to crucial questions that will guide instruction, planning, placement, and intervention:

  • Is the student responding well to intervention?
  • Is she catching up to her peers?
  • Do we need to try something different?
  • Are all students being challenged and making expected progress?

Good assessments will guide us in what we do next. Unfortunately, assessments sometimes fail to deliver the feedback we need, especially for struggling learners. One of the most common culprits of this pitfall is surprisingly simple.

Your Students Benefit When You Use an Adaptive Assessment

When reviewing data with teachers I am sometimes asked, “why not give all students in my class the same test items?” I understand where this question comes from. When you are looking at your students’ test results it makes sense to want to see the questions that most students answered incorrectly so that you can then focus instruction on those areas. This approach does not benefit some students and gives the impression that most students have the same need which often is not the case.

When we give all students in a class a test with the same test questions we are using a “static” or “fixed-form” test. Test designers typically select test questions for a static test at the middle of the grade level in terms of difficulty. The test designer is making a compromise by selecting the most test questions that will be in the learning zone of the most students. If the test has 25 questions maybe 20 of those questions will be designed for the middle of the grade level with a few easier questions and a few harder questions.