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Assessments are excellent tools in the classroom.

Used properly, they provide invaluable information about student knowledge and progress. However, if misused, assessments can misrepresent the actual knowledge and learning taking place in the classroom. This lesson will discuss the use and misuse of standardized assessments.

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Defining Assessment

The school principal says: Many of you and your parents have asked about the use of assessments in our school. I wanted to share with you today a little information about the use and occasional misuse of assessments in the classroom and schools.As a review, let’s define the term assessment. Assessment is the process of observing a sample of a student’s behavior and drawing inferences about the student’s knowledge and abilities.

Today we will focus on standardized assessments.Standardized assessments are defined as assessments constructed by experts and published for use in many different schools and classrooms. These assessments are used in various contexts and serve multiple purposes, as we will discuss next.

Use of Standardized Assessments

Standardized assessments serve multiple purposes in the classroom, including:Showing educational accomplishments – Educators are able to track individual student and group progress year-to-year. Standardized assessments allow educators to compare groups of students by reporting results by student populations, such as grade levels, ethnic groups, and gender. These results allow educators to note areas of accomplishment by groups and subgroups and quickly identify any potential area of concern or weakness.Standardized assessments serve as motivational tools.

Research shows that students study and learn more material when they are told they will be tested on it or held accountable for the material.They also serve as mechanisms for review. Assessments serve to promote constant review of material, which aids in moving the material from short-term to long-term memory in order to be accessed in the future.

Standardized assessments also serve as feedback. Assessments provide opportunities for both the teacher and the student to receive feedback. Assessments provide feedback to a teacher about the student’s general subject knowledge. For students, assessments provide feedback about areas they may need to focus on or areas in which they are proficient.

Misuse of Standardized Assessments

Unfortunately, standardized assessment results are misused. I want to make you aware of how these results are commonly misused in the classroom and by schools.

First, evaluating schools based solely on standardized scores is a misuse of the assessment. It is common for standardized assessment results to be used by state and federal governing agencies to assess the quality and performance of schools. However, we should keep in mind that standardized assessments assess general concepts based on a common national curriculum. These assessments don’t necessarily provide reliable data on what is taught in the individual classroom. Student achievement should be assessed in order to hold a school accountable, but there are many ways of assessing achievement, and standardized assessments are only one way to do that.

Therefore, the use of standardized assessments as the only evaluation criteria of a school is a misuse.The evaluation of individual teachers based off of standardized assessments results is also considered a misuse by many researchers and educators. The students in a classroom for any given year are very diverse. Evaluating teachers based on the year-to-year progress of their classes, which change students each year, yields unreliable information about that teacher’s ability to impart knowledge to her students.Giving students a grade based on the results of standardized assessments is considered a misuse. Standardized assessments test the general knowledge and skills of the students based on a generic curriculum. These results do not provide adequate information on the knowledge and skills the student has actually learned in the classroom, where the curriculum is defined by different objectives and standards.

Standardized assessment publishers even point out this fact and note that standardized tests should not replace end-of-the-course assessments.Finally, using standardized assessment results to form classroom instructional decisions and modify curriculum is also considered a misuse. As stated above, standardized assessments test only a sample of knowledge and skills expected to be learned in each grade. Instructional objectives and decisions should be based off performance and non-standardized assessments in which students are assessed on specific objectives.

Lesson Summary

I’ll conclude by summarizing what we have discussed. First, assessments allow us to draw inferences about students’ knowledge and abilities.

Standardized assessments afford the same opportunities but are created by experts based on a more general curriculum. Because of the way standardized assessments are created, the results should not serve as the sole evaluation of a school or a teacher. The use of standardized assessment results to dictate instructional practices and for grading are also considered misuses.Fortunately, standardized assessments serve multiple purposes when used appropriately. They provide valuable information on longitudinal progress of students and student groups, they serve to motivate students to learn, they provide feedback to students, teachers, and parents, and they also serve as review mechanisms. Keeping what we have learned today in mind, standardized assessments are a valuable tool and should be used in combination with our other measures of student performance.

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