Making the Most of Assessments


When it comes to assessments, I’m the scared to death overachiever. I can feel the blood rush from my face as I turn ashen gray at the mention of a test. You know, the student who has to have the A++. I remember one graduate course when the professor said you don’t need to take the final exam unless you want an A. You guessed it. I was one of four who took the final. Knowing this about myself and being a teacher has given me a different approach to student assessments.

What is the purpose of assessing students?  I want to use this information to know what skills the student has mastered and which ones need to be taught. I also want to use assessments as a tool to show student growth or when it is necessary to reteach the information in a new format. So my assessments need to be ongoing. I cannot wait until the end of a unit to assess the student’s knowledge if I want to ensure mastery of the concept.

Conferring is one of the best ways to really get to know your students and assist you in setting goals. Whether it’s math, writing, or reading this is a perfect vehicle for assessment. Meeting with a student one-on-one in a nonthreatening environment and asking the right questions builds a trusting and open relationship. Through observation and note- taking the teacher is able to build an instructional plan tailored to this student’s continued success. Students requiring more intervention meet more frequently than students displaying more strengths. Regularly scheduled times for student conferences provide a safety net so that no student fall through the cracks and there are no surprise results on cumulative tests. Teachers can spend as little as five minutes conferring with a student.

Exit Tickets provide follow-up to a lesson. With just a posted note and a short time allotted before class dismisses, a student can send an insight into his or her understanding of the material. A chart divided into three sections and labeled: I’ve got it, Almost there but, and Need help with gives a quick assessment of class comprehension. Students write a comment or question and put the posted note under the category that best reflect their level of understanding.

Interactive Notebooks and Journals are another assessment tool. By providing guidelines and expectations to students, these tools can show a student’s comprehension, analysis, and application. The teacher can create a rubric to measure the level of mastery.

Choice of which assessment a student would prefer can also enable students to perform at their best. A teacher could ask the student how can you show me what you have learned? Some student may choose a project based assessment. Others may choose to write a report or essay. Even an assessment test with a variety of questions could be offered.

This list could grow and grow as it should. Teachers should not just rely on the test provided by the publisher. Yes, we need to teach students test taking skills to meet the rigor of standardized test. However, let’s not forget that the goal is to internalize and apply the material learned. We want students to become lifetime learners, not just good test takers.



I graduated with an MS degree in Elementary Education from SIUE. I have endorsements for Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Middle School. I am certified to teach K-9 and Gifted Education. Over the years I have taught Kindergarten - Fifth Grade. Now I am currently a Literacy Coach, who works with a wonderful group of teachers.

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