How to Structure an Effective Assessment Plan

Focus on the questions you need answered, not the assessments

Before selecting or administering an assessment for a school or district, it is absolutely critical to understand the core objective of the test being administered, as well as how reliable and valid the results of the assessment are in terms of decision-making. By carefully considering the purpose of each kind of assessment while an overall assessment plan is designed, testing redundancies may become evident, and the school or district may be able to reduce the number of assessments being given to students. When a cohesive assessment plan exists in a school, district, or state, including a thoughtful professional development component, educators can critically examine why they are utilizing specific tests, and ultimately be more purposeful in their use of the data.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Education & the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, a well-constructed comprehensive assessment system provides continuous, coherent, and high-quality information on student performance that teachers, school leaders, and district and state administrators could use to improve teaching and learning and meet their decision-making needs (Guidance for Developing and Selecting Quality Assessments in the Secondary Classroom, RI DOE, p. 4).

Given the range of assessment tools with various purposes, it is important to answer several questions when building an assessment plan, keeping in mind that although many schools may use assessments in a similar manner, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this process. Students have diverse needs, and in order to develop a comprehensive assessment plan, it is important to think globally about the grades, schools, and districts on which sufficient information exists, where there are gaps in information, and where there are potential redundancies. The most effective and comprehensive assessment plans focus less on the labels of assessments and put more emphasis on identifying what information is needed and finding the most appropriate and valid/reliable methods of gathering that information about student progress to make effective instructional decisions.

To have a purpose-driven, data-driven assessment plan and avoid redundancies, it is important to consider the following questions when developing a comprehensive assessment plan:

  • What assessments are we using to identify which students are at risk for difficulty, determine their profiles of needs, and monitor their progress?

  • How long does administration take and how often do we give the assessments?

  • Are there areas where we are using more than one test to answer these questions? If yes, are the data from both/all reliable and valid for the population we are using them with?

  • Are the measures used sensitive to growth?

  • Are there any measures on this list that are mandated by the state or district? Do we know this is still true? (Some assessments may no longer be required after an initiative ends.)

  • Which skills am I trying to measure and who else is trying to accomplish the same task?

  • Is the assessment data easily understood by teachers and administrators?

A common tendency when implementing an assessment plan is to focus immediate attention on the associated logistics and scheduling of the test administration. However, by focusing first on the assessment objectives and how to achieve them, educators can avoid redundancies and structure an assessment plan resulting in less frustration and greater teacher effectiveness.

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Featured White Paper:

Assessment Competency:
How to Obtain the Right Information to Improve Data­‐Driven Instruction

When assessments are properly administered and integrated into instruction, the resulting data can provide valuable information. To be effective, though, teachers and administrators must first understand the purpose of these assessments since they each yield different kinds of data. Read the white paper by Lexia’s Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Liz Brooke, to learn about the types of assessments and how to create a purpose-driven assessment plan.

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