Create Balanced Assessments
…assessments will better measure the higher-order thinking skills so vital to success in the global economy of the 21st century and the future of American prosperity. To be on track today for college and careers, students need to show that they can analyze and solve complex problems, communicate clearly, synthesize information, apply knowledge, and generalize learning to other settings. – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, Sept. 2010
Monitoring how well students are learning requires a balanced assessment system – one in which assessments are used not only to measure knowledge at the end of instruction, but also to improve learning during instruction, and one that measures both core subject mastery and 21st century skills.
- Making decisions that are data-driven
- Timely, formative evaluation tools to diagnose and inform instruction—and balance high-stakes tests
- Measuring a broader range of knowledge/skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving
- New interest in longitudinal data systems to measure student performance and trends over time
There is increasing interest – and research and development activity by school districts, higher education and assessment companies – in new kinds of assessments that can fulfill these needs.
A balanced assessment system should include both summative and formative assessments.
Provide valuable information about student understanding of expected outcomes. These assessments should measure more than recall of information and should include assessment of 21st century skills needed in the workplace and college, such as critical thinking and problem solving.
Interim and benchmark assessments and classroom evaluation tools that help educators gauge how well students are progressing toward specific outcomes, and demonstrate students' current knowledge and skills. Formative assessments should balance summative assessments.
These formative interim and benchmark assessments and classroom evaluation tools help educators gauge how well students are progressing toward specific outcomes and demonstrate students' current knowledge and skills.
Formative assessments can be incorporated, for instance, into classroom discussions, teacher-student conferences and student work. These assessments can help teachers
Used appropriately, these assessments can have an immediate impact on daily instruction and learning.
assess critical thinking and problem solving skills
- work ethic, and communication and collaboration skills
- content knowledge
Technology has a role to play in both summative and formative assessments. Technology-based assessments can give teachers and administrators instant diagnostic information they can use to make better decisions and improve instruction.
Action Steps for Superintendents and District Leadership Teams
- Form a leadership task force to investigate new, technology-based assessments that measure core subject mastery and proficiency in 21st century skills.
- Consider a pilot project with a partner in higher education to create technology-based formative assessments.
- Support teachers and administrators in making better use of assessment information to improve instruction and individualize learning for every student.
- Implement an alternative assessment program in your schools.
- Start a professional learning community with your teachers on formative assessments with experts in the field.
- Use technology to create K–12 student portfolios that students can take with them when they graduate.
Getting Up to Speed
Assessment: A 21st Century Skills Implementation Guide. Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009.
Assessment & Teaching of 21st Century Skills, a project of Cisco, Intel and Microsoft
CoSN’s Data-Driven Decision Making Initiative
Darling-Hammond, L. Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High-Quality Learning. Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010.
Rothman, R. Principles for a Comprehensive Assessment System. Alliance for Excellent Education Policy Brief, 2010.
Stiggins, R., and DuFour, R. (2009). Maximizing the Power of Formative Assessments. Phi Delta Kappan.
Stiggins, R., and Chappuis, J. (2008). “Enhancing Student Learning: Create Profound Achievement Gains Through Formative Assessments.” District Administration.
Educational Leadership, Multiple Measures issue, November 2009
Hersh, Richard D. “What Does College Teach?” The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005.
Pinkus, L. M. (Ed.) Meaningful Measurement: The Role of Assessments in Improving High SchoolEducation in the Twenty-First Century. Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009.