An educational assessment is defined as gathering information in order to make informed instructional decisions. When done well, I believe an assessment can provide invaluable information to parents and educators about how children grow and develop.
Developmentally appropriate assessment systems, such as those we use at Detroit Achievement Academy will provide information that highlights what our children know and are able to do.
At DAA, we use two types of assessments regularly in our classrooms—formative and summative. Formative assessments monitor student learning and help inform our teaching. They reflect progress toward important learning targets.We are able to notice where a student is struggling and address the problem immediately. These assessments happen daily. Because our class sizes are so small, we are really able to notice students’ strengths and weaknesses and target our instruction. Summative assessments also evaluate student learning. These assessments usually take place at the end of a unit and compare what students know to a standard.
In addition to our own lesson-based assessments, three times a year students are given a national computer-based assessment called the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress). This assessment helps inform teachers how each student performs comparatively to other students in the same grade throughout the country. The MAP test is an adaptive test—meaning as a student answers a question correctly, the subsequent question will become more difficult. If the student answers the question incorrectly, the questions become easier. The results of the MAP test allow teachers to see student’s academic growth from test to test. Aside from learning how our students are performing nationally, these results help inform instruction and allow for differentiated teaching. These results do not affect students’ progress reports.
I love the way we assess students at DAA. Not only are students assessed on their academics—whether they are meeting long-term learning targets and their supporting learning targets, but also, students are separately assessed on their character learning targets—whether they are becoming good citizens in our classroom community. Our academic reports communicate how a student has performed in relation to their own academic learning targets, NOT whether they completed their classwork and homework, displayed appropriate behavior, or showed effort. The extent a student displays those qualities will be recognized in their character reports.
We constantly communicate long-term and supporting learning targets with our students. Students interact with their learning targets daily. This makes them aware of what is expected of them and the kind of work they need to produce. By using assessments for planning and monitoring what our children are learning, we help their learning be realized.