Effective classroom assessment requires a systemic rather than a singular approach. Such an approach requires a change in mindset whereby assessment is not as a single test but rather as an articulate system of metrics. A coherent system will be comprised of “valid measures of learning and be horizontally, developmentally, and vertically aligned to serve classroom, school, and district improvement’ (Herman, 2010, p. 1).
Although a multiple choice test can be efficiently administered it cannot reliably measure the range of annual learning standards. However, a systemic mindset encourages utilization of multiple measures that can evaluate both the depth and breadth of student learning and development. Therefore, a systemic approach that embraces multiple and diverse forms of evaluation provides the opportunity to analyze a more thorough exhibition of student learning.
Systemic approaches that utilize diverse evaluations allow all stakeholders a better opportunity to make decisions based on holistic data. Diverse data analysis offers the opportunity to more reliably monitor and adjust plans for student, classroom, and school-wide improvement. This systemic approach provides an opportunity that is not reliably possible through analysis of a solitary, end-of-year test. The latter “simply cannot provide sufficient formative information to guide teaching and learning throughout the year (Herman, 2010, p 3).
As noted by Herman, the National Research Council (NRC, 2001), advocates for coherence that begins “with a clear specification of the goal(s) to be measured. Next, assessment tasks are specially designed or selected to reflect the learning goal(s). Finally, an appropriate interpretation framework is applied to student responses to reach valid conclusions about student learning—for example, a score of “proficient” on a state test or an inference about the source of a student’s misunderstandings in teachers’ formative practice” (2010, p. 3).
A systemic approach promotes coherence. Through-course exams complement end-of-year assessments. “More extended, performance-oriented assessments conducted during the course of instruction provide rich opportunities to assess students’ thinking and reasoning as well as their ability to apply and communicate their knowledge and skills in solving complex problems” (Herman, 2010, p. 6). Models of effective teaching utilize performance assessments to support authentic instruction and student learning.
An assessment system promoting a coherent network provides the opportunity to develop, implement, and utilize a data-based accountability system that supports educational reform. Holistic data-based analysis monitors instruction, identifies areas for improvement, and adjusts implementation to optimize learning for all students. Therefore, every student becomes prepared for post-secondary education or training that can result in a successful life. Learning for all must be the mission. A coherent, data-based accountability system is identified as a correlate of Effective Schools Research (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011). Therefore, any educator that supports learning for all willingly embraces the concept of a coherent system of student assessment.
Anderson, C.J. (October 30, 2016) A coherent network of student assessment contributes to attaining the mission of learning for all. [Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
Herman, J. L. (2010). Coherence: Key to next generation assessment success (AACC Report). Los Angeles, CA: University of California.
Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the correlates. Bloomington, IN:Solution Tree Press.