Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Standardized Testing/Results
Teachers and Assessment Results
What do teachers need to know about using assessment results to improve their instruction? 
by Megan Rowles
Learning Targets 
Readers will know:
-Definition of assessment
-How to make assessments useful for students
-How to make assessments useful for teachers
-The decisions teachers make to enhance instruction
-The criteria assessments should meet if they are to inform instructional decisions
Assessment is defined "as the process of obtaining information that is used to make educational decisions about students, to give feedback to the student about his or her progress, strengths, and weaknesses, to judge instructional effectiveness and curricular adequacy, and to inform policy (Buros, 1990)." There are various techniques used for assessment: formal and informal observation, qualitative analysis of pupil performance and products, paper-and-pencil tests, oral questioning, and analysis of student records (Buros, 1990). Teachers are left to decide how to make use of the assessment results, and which technique will be employed.
Despite the importance of assessment in today's education, formal training in assessment design and analysis seems to lacking. "A recent survey showed, for example, that fewer than half the states require competence in assessment for licensure as a teacher (Guskey, 2003). Teachers who lack the specific training rely heavily on the assessment methods of the textbook or instructional materials. "They treat assessments as evaluation devices to administer when instructional activities are completed and to use primarily for assigning students' grades (Guskey, 2003)."
Make Assessments Useful 
According to Guskey, to use assessments to improve instruction and student learning, teachers need to change their approach to assessments.
First, make assessments useful for students. "Classroom assessments that serve as meaningful sources of information don't surprise students. Instead, these assessments reflect the concepts and skills that the teacher emphasized in class, along with the teacher's clear criteria for judging students' performance (Guskey, 2003)." These concepts, skills, and criteria align with the teacher's instructional activities, which also align with state or district standards. "The students see these assessments as fair measures of important learning goals (Guskey, 2003)." Students further their learning when teachers provide them with important feedback on their learning progress.
Second, make assessments useful for teachers. The most useful classroom assessments also serve a purpose for teachers: helping them identify what they taught well and what they need to work on. Retrieving this information does not have to be painful. Teachers can simply take note which students failed to meet criteria or missed specific items. When reviewing the results, teachers must consider the quality of the item or criteria; then determine whether these items adequately address the knowledge, understanding, or skill that they were intended to measure (Guskey, 2003). If no problems are found with the criteria, teachers must take their teaching into consideration. Guskey says analyzing assessment results in this way means setting aside some powerful ego issues. Many teachers may initially say, "I taught them. They just didn't learn it!" But on reflection, most recognize that their effectiveness is not defined on the basis of what they do as teachers but rather on what their students are able to do. Can effective teaching take place in the absence of learning? Certainly not. However, teachers and students share responsibility in the learning process. In some cases, even with great teaching, some students may not learn perfectly. But, if a teacher is reaching fewer than half the class, the teacher's method of instruction needs to improve . This kind of evidence is what teachers need to help target their instructional improvement efforts (Guskey, 2003).
Enhancing Instruction 
When teachers are better informed of the learning progress and difficulties of their students, they can make better decisions about what a student needs to learn next and how to teach that material in a manner that will maximize the student’s learning (Fuchs 1996). According to Fuchs, teachers make three types of decisions using assessment results:
1. Instructional placement decisions—what the student knows and where he or she should be in the instructional sequence.
2. Formative evaluation decisions—information to monitor a student’s learning while an instructional program is underway—how quickly progress is being made, whether the instructional program is effective, and whether a change in instructional program is needed to promote the student’s learning.
3. Diagnostic decisions—which specific difficulties account for the student’s inadequate progress so the teacher can remediate learning progress and design more effective instructional plans.
Illustrating the Topic 
This is an example of an assessment program for Missouri students. According to the project, "the major goals of the Assessment Section are to oversee the development and implementation of the statewide performance assessments consistent with the 1993 Outstanding Schools Act and, through the Missouri Assessment Project (MAP), maintain the state assessment system through teacher-developed assessment items and teacher scoring of annual assessments. Additionally, the Assessment Section provides assistance to teachers and administrators in using assessment results to improve instruction and to provide useful data about education in Missouri."
On the page, if you click the left link to success stories, you can read examples. Below is an example from 2000, where one school went the extra mile to improve assessment strategies:
"Glasgow Has A Lock-In :
The fifth and eighth grade teachers at Glasgow Schools were looking for something special to do in order to help improve test scores on the state assessments taken each spring in Missouri. After much thought, it was decided that the school would sponsor a lock-in. On Friday, April 9, 1999 Glasgow Schools sponsored a lock-in targeted at all students in fifth and eighth grade. The idea was to allow for additional review time that is sometimes hard to come by during a regular school day when teachers are still working to cover all required objectives. The teachers wanted to make the review an appealing choice for the students in order to achieve a big turnout.
Our answer was a lock-in that would last all of a Friday night. Students left school at the end of the day and returned with all of their things at 6:00 P.M. The students were divided into their appropriate grade levels and the reviewing began.
Teachers spent time before the lock-in creating games to review previously taught skills. Review Twister and Jeopardy were the big hits. School administrators and our school counselor spent the night with the teachers and students to show their support for a strong testing week. Students also practiced performance tasks throughout the evening.
Each grade level worked until we ate at 7:00 P.M. The school provided sub sandwiches and drinks for the group, and students brought along plenty of other snacks to share. After supper, we continued to review until around 9:00 P.M.
Following the review section of the evening, we played relay games (3 legged race, mini John Deere tractor pull, tug-of-war, etc.) Businesses from our community donated prizes for the games. We encouraged the students to bring in their favorite CDs for the dance we had that began at 10:00 P.M. At midnight we started movies and played board games. Some of the children drifted off to sleep and others stayed up all night. We had donuts at 5:15 A.M. and sent the students home at 6:00 A.M.
In addition to our lock-in, numerous activities were implemented to encourage success on the assessment. In the fifth grade class, the teacher talked with the students extensively about good test taking skills.
The class formed study teams and created special names for their teams. Within these teams, the students listed all of the strategies that make test taking a more positive experience. The teams also created an inspirational chant that they performed before each test taking session. Before each testing session, the teams met to read over the strategy list they had created, eat a simple snack and provide support to each team member. These meetings really set a tone for success in the classroom before the actual testing began.
Students spent time talking about the stress involved in test taking. Each child used a slip of construction paper to write down what he or she found most stressing concerning the upcoming test. The fifth grade class used these slips of paper to create a long class "stress chain." This chain was put up across the classroom door during each testing session in order to "lock all stress outside."
A very special book was used during the lock-in and the week of testing called "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!". This book addressed the importance of doing well on school assessments in a fun and encouraging way. The students requested that "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" be read every day of testing. They really enjoyed this book by Dr. Seuss.
It is really difficult to describe the excitement and eagerness that the students had towards the assessments after our night together. The children really understood the importance of these tests and they wanted to show everyone how well they could do. Our test scores improved dramatically, and the children felt a tremendous amount of success. We are very proud of their efforts!" <<http://www.oseda.missouri.edu/SUCCESS/glasgow.htm>
The above example really demonstrates the willingness of the teachers to encourage success on assessment. Not only were the "typical" assessment strategies covered, but these strategies were taken to the next level. A job well done!
1. The process of obtaining information that is used to make educational decisions about students, to give feedback to the student about his or her progress, strengths, and weaknesses, to judge instructional effectiveness and curricular adequacy, and to inform policy is known as:
D. Enhancing Student Performance
2. Teachers make three types of decisions when using assessment results. These include all except:
A. Instructional Placement Decisions
B. Formative Evaluation Decisions
C. Diagnostic Decisions
D. Progressive Decisions
3. Mary's teacher, Mrs. Bryant, discusses Mary's progress with math. Mary seems to be behind the rest of the class. Mrs. Bryant is left to decide whether or not Mary needs special instruction/change in instructional program. What type of decision is this?
A. Instruction Placement Decision
B. Formative Evaluation Decision
C. Diagnostic Decision
D. Progressive Decision
4. Mrs. Bryant is reviewing the class's science quizzes. Every student seems to have missed #5. She assumes that the class just wasn't paying attention. Mrs Bryant should:
A. Criticize her class for not paying attention.
B. Give a re-take.
C. Double the value of the next quiz in hopes of higher grades.
D. Reconsider her teaching method before jumping to conclusions.
Buros Institute for Mental Measurements. (1990). "Standards for Teacher Competence in Educational Assessment of Students." Retrieved October 27, 2008 from <http://www.unl.edu/buros/bimm/html/article3.html>
Fuchs, Lynn S. (1996). "Connecting Performance Assessment to Instruction: A Comparison of Behavioral Assessment, Mastery Learning, Curriculum-Based Measurement, and Performance Assessment."
Guskey, Thomas R. (2003). "How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning." Educational Leadership 60(5) 6-11. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from <http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/teachbehave2/el200302_guskey.html>