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Assessment: A Fundamental Component of Learning

A Statement from the Connected Learning Coalition

The Association for Career and Technical Education, Consortium for School Networking, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and National Science Teachers Association

November 2011

The Connected Learning Coalition, six associations representing over 250,000 educators, affirms that "Assessing progress is part of learning." The CLC Principles for Learning: A Foundation for Transforming K-12 Education emphasize the importance of formative assessment that contributes to teachers' knowledge of student learning, students' awareness of their own progress, and teachers' and students' knowledge of what to maintain or change to foster learning. Multiple ways of reading student progress, done over time and incorporated into the learning process, are essential for an accurate assessment of what students know and are able to do.

Assessment, however, has been sidetracked in recent years by the demands of accountability. Although valid and reliable large-scale assessments can address two of the National Research Council's three purposes of assess­ment, measuring individual achievement and evaluating programs, our associations call on the two federally funded state consortia developing assessments related to the Common Core Standards to include and emphasize the third purpose, to assist learning. We advocate for forma­tive assessments administered when teachers deem useful and added to teacher-generated formative assessments as essential sources of information for teaching and learning. We believe the most important opportunity today for as­sessment is providing immediate formative information to teachers and learners. We believe this broader understand­ing of assessment offers the potential for more effective personalized learning.

Coalition members are deeply concerned that the pressure for a new accountability system by 2013-14 may provoke a rush to a system that reduces time for teaching and learning and homogenizes curricula and teaching methods in order to preserve comparability across school systems. This outcome would have an invidious effect on the very elements, such as differentiated teaching strategies, use of instructional technology to increase learning, and continuous adjustment of methods and curricula to fill learning gaps, that are commonly associated with student gains in successful school systems around the world. We must avoid sacrificing education quality on the altar of high stakes accountability. To effect a transition from the overemphasis on testing to effective assessment practices that support student learning and school improvement, the Connected Learning Coalition recommends that we

1. Highlight the central role of teacher teams in developing and revising curricula, evidence-based teaching strategies, school structures, and assessments designed to advance student learning and to engage them in owning their learning

2. Include the analysis of cumulative information about student learning through examination of authentic student work

3. Generate assessments that no longer silo subject areas but accentuate the cross-disciplinary skills of literacy, habits of inquiry, problem solving, collaboration, and the use of technologies for learning and generating knowledge

4. Support development of the culture, critical technology, and professional learning and support within schools and districts that are necessary to inform instruction and improve learning

The Connected Learning Coalition with its breadth of subject area expertise stands ready to contribute to a practice of assessment that honors teaching and learning and points to continuous improvement of teaching and learning in schools across our country.


Centrality of teacher teams in assessment:

Brookhart, S.; Moss, C., and Long, B. (2010). Teacher inquiry into formative assessment practices in remedial reading classrooms. Assessment in Education. 17(1), 41-58. Direct instruction and inquiry learning of a teaching team yielded documented professional growth and increased reading readiness of at-risk students.

Frey, N., and Fisher, D. (2009). Using common formative assessments as a source of professional development in an urban American elementary school. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 674-680. A teaching team that aligned content standards with assessments and used common formative assessments increased links between instruction and assessment.

William, D., Lee, C., Harrison, C., and Black, P. (2004). Teachers developing assessment for learning: Impact on student achievement. Assessment in Education 11(1), 49-65. The mean effect size of teachers’ use of formative assessments for secondary students was 0.32.

Cumulative information based on authentic student work:

Petrus Zeegers. (2001) Approaches to Learning in Science: A Longitudinal Study. British Journal of Educational Psychology 71 (1), 115-132. A three-year study showed a consistent positive correlation between a deep approach to learning and assessment outcomes.

Gulek, J. C. and Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 3(2). 1-38. A study of 259 middle schoolers showed significantly higher achievement in nearly all measures on laptop students vs. non-laptop students after one year in the program.

Accentuating cross-disciplinary skill and technology:

Carson, J. S., P.G. Wojahn; J. R. Hayes; and T. A. Marshall. (2003). Design, results, and analysis of assessment components in a nine-course CAC program. Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 6.1. Use of student portfolio reviews, course plan analysis, and pre, mid, and post-testing created effective evaluation for a communication-across-the-curriculum program.

Sterling-Deer, Carolyn. (2009). Writing in the disciplines, technology, and disciplinary grounding. Across the Disciplines 06. Using criteria about disciplinary knowledge and making interdisciplinary connections, students provide their own academically and/or professionally focused eportfolios even with general purpose eportfolio templates.

Zawacki, T.M., E. S. Reid, Y, Zhou and S. E. Baker. (2009). Voices at the table: Balancing the needs and wants of program stakeholders to design a value-added writing assessment plan. Across the Disciplines: A Journal of Language, Learning, and Academic Writing. Retrieved 9/16/11 from: An assessment of students’ research-based essays written in discipline-focused and course-embedded contexts. Using well-defined learning outcomes, the authors describe how the overall process helps sustain and enhance workshop-based assessment.

Support of school culture, critical technology and professional learning:

Parr, J., and Limbrick, L. (2010). Contextualising practice: Hallmarks of effective teachers of writing. Teaching and Teacher Education 26, 583-590. Data from multiple collection methods all identified the importance of formative assessment practices and classroom environments supportive of student literacy learning.

Sadler, D. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science. 18(2), 95-168. Direct authentic evaluative experiences help students improve through the ability to monitor the quality of their own work through reference to standards and tactics to modify their work.

Saunders, W.M., C.N. Goldenberg, and R. Gallimore. (2009). Increased achievement by focusing grade-level teams on improving classroom learning: A prospective, quasi-experimental study of Title I schools. American Educational Research Journal, 46 (4), 1006-1033. The findings of the study suggest that stable school-based settings, distributed leadership, and explicit protocols are key to effective teacher teams that improve classroom learning.

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