What is the purpose of assessment?

The purpose of assessment depends on a range of factors, of course. Broadly speaking, the purpose can be whatever the teacher wants it to be. Like pacing guides, apps, books, and more, an assessment is a tool a teacher uses to help students learn.

There are other forms (e.g., multiple-choice, performance-based, etc.) and types of assessment–benchmark, criterion-based, and norm-referenced assessments like the ACT and SAT, for example–whose purpose is often beyond the classroom. Many of these forms communicate to the families of students how that student compares to other students. These are usually age-based in K-12, so all third-graders can be compared. The utility of this form of assessment is fairly limited, useful primarily as a general ‘sense’ of how that student’s development compares to ‘what should be expected’–the expectation (or ‘standard’) being the performance of other children.

The trouble with these forms

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After I earned my PhD, I bought a job as an academic evaluator for a large, urban school district, as a result of analysis and evaluation had been so much fun. That job actually helped me strengthen my skills, confidence and values as a researcher; enough to want to depart the place and consult in analysis alone. So my specialty within education psychology is analysis. I do all parts of … Read more

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