Like most teachers, I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of assessment that needs to be done in my classroom. Some assessments are mandated at the local or state level, and others I choose to do in order to plan and respond to kids over the course of a day. Some assessing that I do is intrusive--instruction needs to be set aside or suspended so it can be completed. Some assessment is done while instruction is happening or while the kids are engaged in their normal day to day activities.
I could rant about the cost to instructional time when we over-assess.
I could lament that much assessment data is never used--a loss of vital information about our kids.
Or...I could think about how I'll make use of the assessments I must do as well as the ones I chose to do.
I find that it helps to remind myself what different assessments tell me about my kids and their progress and consider why and when and how I use them. Of course, most assessments can be used in several ways, and I believe it's important to keep this in mind too.
At my school, we just finished the first semester, and the final days seemed to include several assessments designed to tell us which concepts or skills kids had mastered. Reading levels were also checked and compared to the benchmarks for the current grading period. Much of this information will be used to report to parents and administrators, but we'll also use it for classroom-level planning. During a planning session with some of my colleagues this week, each of us talked about plans for reteaching or moving forward based on what we had learned about our classes when reviewing the assessment results. I find that if I don't take time to review formal assessment results, I may lose sight of how my kids--as individuals and as a group--are progressing in relation to curricular expectations.
We also used this type of data along with observational assessment (anecdotal notes) to form small groups for guided reading and for intervention groups across classrooms. Starting with reading levels, we grouped kids loosely and then took at closer look. Using running records and our notes from observing the kids as participated in reading groups/conferences, we identified kids with very similar strengths and needs as readers, grouped them, and carefully planned the instructional focus for each intervention group.We found it important to use multiple forms of assessment in our decision making. Some kids appeared to be doing quite well when we looked at informal assessments, but did not do well at all on more formal assessments. Others were the opposite.. To get the most accurate understanding of the strengths and needs of the kids, we needed to look across assessments.
I also use a lot of in-the-moment assessment. While this consists mostly of jotting observations on sticky notes, in the margins of my lesson plans, or on record sheets created for this purpose, it also includes the use of things like checklists. I find checklists really helpful when I need to make sure to watch for specific things, while using observation notes ensures that I take time to learn from my kids what they can do and what they need. These assessments are often the most valuable in terms of day to day planning. They also play a critical role in my ability to respond to kids during teaching/learning interactions, whether it be a whole group or small group lesson or a one-on-one interaction.
Of course, this is a pretty brief reflection on how I use assessment--and there is definitely a lot more that could be discussed! But for now, as we start a new semester, I want to keep in mind the role each type of assessment plays in my classroom and helps me meet the needs of my kids.