Why is assessment important in the classroom?
Principals for Literacy Assessment by Johnson and Costello
Johnston and Costello (2005) argue that “It is not just what gets assessed, but how it is assessed that has implications for what is learned” (p. 256). Literacy is not only the skills and strategies required for reading print but also the social skills necessary in a literate society. Students must become resilient, self-regulated learners. Likewise, assessment “has to be grounded in processes that reflect current understandings of learning, literacy, and society” (p. 267). The authors emphasize the importance of the teacher in daily, formative assessment that provides teachable moments within instruction. It requires the teacher to be able to observe strengths and weaknesses and to use this information to change and adapt instruction accordingly. Johnston and Costello stress that “high-stakes accountability testing has consistently been demonstrated to undermine teaching and learning particularly for lower achieving students. It restricts the literacy curriculum, thus defeating the original intention to improve literacy learning” (p. 258). It is important to look at the context in which the test was given and to note how different children perform within different contexts.
Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing
- Assessments must encourage students to become engaged learners.
- Teachers must use formative and summative assessments.
- Assessment must inform instruction and improve teaching and learning.
- Assessments must cover a full representation of literacy.
- Assessments must recognize that literacy is complex, social, and changing.
- Assessments must be free of biases.
- Assessments must be considered within the context of their use.
- Assessments must include multiple sources of data.
- Assessments must be based in the local school learning community.
- All members of the educational community must take part in the development, interpretation, and reporting of assessments.
- Family involvement is essential.
Afflerbach discusses his concern that there are too many people that don’t understand how a single test cannot measure the accomplishments of a student or teacher. He feels that schools should strive to help children develop critical literacy. Students need to learn to be literal comprehenders, inferencial comprehenders, and critical or evaluative comprehenders. State tests are falling short at evaluating critical thinking. It’s the daily formative assessment that informs teaching and creates teachable moments. Schools need to use multiple measures of assessment including formative and summative assessments.
Important Issues and Concepts in Reading Assessment by Afflerbach
In Important Issues and Concepts in Reading Assessment (2012), Afflerbach discusses the importance of the informed use of reading assessments. He suggests asking the following questions:
Why do we assess reading? Reading assessments show strengths and weaknesses in students’ reading. They are used to show accountability of the teacher, school and district. They are also used to inform parents of their child’s reading level.
What do we assess? Most assessment focus narrowly on reading skills and strategies without taking into account the students’ “motivation to read or the range of students’ social uses of reading” (p. 8). Afflerbach suggests using a reading assessment inventory to compare the assessments used in the classroom.
How do we assess reading? We need to make informed decisions about how to assess our students’ reading development. Performance assessments help us observe specific areas of strengths and weaknesses that can be used to adjust instruction. “In contrast, inappropriate assessments take away valuable class time from teaching of reading without yielding valuable information” (p. 19).
Literacy Assessment is important in the classroom for many reasons. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of skills and strategies is crucial to the learning process. Teachers must be able to evaluate whether the goals and standards of their lessons are being met. However students must also be able to demonstrate critical thinking and the social aspects of literacy. To do this, teachers must use both formative and summative assessments throughout the year. As Afflerbach states in the Podcast, a single text cannot measure the accomplishments of a student. As a special education teacher this is imperative. Many students can demonstrate understanding through performance assessments within instruction but may not be able to perform on state achievement tests or classroom summative assessments. This is noted in Principals for Literacy Assessment by Johnston and Costello (2005) who argue that it is important to look at the context in which the test was given and to note how different children perform within different contexts. In the PowerPoint Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing, standard six states that “Assessment must be as free as possible of biases based on ethnic group, gender, nationality, religion, socioeconomic condition, sexual orientation, or disability” (slide 9). It's very important that special education students receive the accommodations stated within their IEP so that they can demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter rather than how they perform on a test. In Important Issues and Concepts in Reading Assessment (2012), Afflerbach asks us to think about how we assess reading. I often use performance assessments with my students to help me observe specific areas of strengths and weaknesses that I can use to adjust my instruction. Johnston and Costello emphasize the importance of the teacher in daily, formative assessment that provides teachable moments within instruction. I rely on these teachable moments every day to individualize instruction to my students’ needs.
Afflerbach, P. (2012). Important issues and concepts in reading assessment. In Understanding and using reading assessment, K-12 (2nd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Afflerbach, P. Podcast link: http://www.reading.org/downloads/podcasts/II-Afflerbach.mp3
Johnston, P. & Costello, P. (2005). Principles for Literacy Assessment. Reading Research Quarterly, 40(2), 256-267.
Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing. Powerpoint link: http://stream.une.edu/hosted/mse/edu741Mod1_Powerpoint/edu741Mod1_StandardsfortheAssessmentofReadingandWriting.htm