Classroom assessment is the process of gaining information about students’ learning, and judging the quality of their learning. It can be used either to enhance students’ learning (assessment for learning) or to verify the extent of students’ learning (assessment of learning). Essential steps of assessment for learning include 1) communicating instructional goals clearly; 2) selecting appropriate, high quality assessments that match the instructional goals and students’ backgrounds; 3) using assessments that enhance student motivation and confidence; 4) adjusting instruction based on results of assessment; and 5) communicating assessment results to students, parents, and guardians. Different types of test questions and assessment practices affect the success of each of these steps. Action research can help teachers understand and improve their teaching. A number of questions are important to consider when devising grading systems.
Standardized tests are assessments developed by a team of experts and administered in consistent ways. They are used primarily to insure accountability about students’ education—to provide evidence that students are learning desired skills and knowledge. Most elementary and middle school teachers are likely to be responsible for helping students attain state content standards and achieve proficiency on criterion-referenced achievement tests. In order to interpret test scores and communicate that information to students and parents, teachers have to understand basic information about measures of central tendency and variability, the normal distribution, and several kinds of test scores. Current evidence suggests that standardized tests can be biased against certain groups and that many teachers tailor their curriculum and classroom tests to match the standardized tests. A few educators have even been caught cheating—falsifying or “fudging” test results.