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The New Art and Science of Classroom Assessment

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Part of The New Art and Science of Teaching series

Shift to a new paradigm of classroom assessment that is more accurate, meaningful, and authentic. The New Art and Science of Classroom Assessment explores the inadequacies of traditional assessment methods and details how to use classroom assessment to its full potential. Step by step, the authors outline a clear path for transitioning to more holistic assessment methods that truly reflect course curriculum and student progress.

Learn how you can develop authentic assessment for learning in the classroom:

  • Explore a new perspective on effective assessment for learning, including classroom, interim, and year-end assessments (from formative assessment to summative assessment).
  • Learn how to create a curriculum that provides clear guidance as to what should be assessed.
  • Acquire strategies for assessing four general types of skills: (1) cognitive skills, (2) knowledge-application skills, (3) metacognitive skills, and (4) general behavior skills.
  • Develop expertise with classroom assessment tools, such as the types of declarative content, selected response items, and short constructed response questions.
  • Download free reproducible tables and checklists to assist in implementing new methods of assessment design.

A joint publication of ASCD and Solution Tree

Chapter 1: The Assessment-Friendly Curriculum
Chapter 2: Proficiency Scales
Chapter 3: Parallel Assessments
Chapter 4: The Measurement Process and Different Types of Assessment
Chapter 5: Summative Scores
Chapter 6: Non-Subject-Specific Skills
Chapter 7: Record Keeping and Reporting
Appendix A: Types of Declarative Content
Appendix B: Types of Test Response Items
References and Resources

Books in The New Art and Science of Teaching series:

  • The New Art and Science of Teaching
  • The Handbook for the New Art and Science of Teaching
  • The New Art and Science of Teaching Reading
  • The New Art and Science of Teaching Writing
  • The New Art and Science of Classroom Assessment

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10 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

Chapter 1



The Assessment-Friendly Curriculum

The starting place for a new assessment paradigm is a curriculum that provides teachers with clear guidance in terms of what they should assess and how they should assess it. At first, this might sound like a very simple undertaking. After all, don’t schools and districts already have standards that teachers are supposed to follow when designing assessments? While the answer to this question is yes, the standards themselves do not provide much assessment guidance. That is one of the primary messages of this chapter. In fact, national, provincial, state, and local standards as currently written actually muddy the waters in terms of classroom assessments.

More pointedly, we believe that the standards movement has unwittingly hurt classroom assessment practices as much as it has helped.

In this chapter, we discuss the problem with standards and practices that render them inconsequential. We describe the limited assessment focus of standards and the need to create supplemental measurement topics.


Chapter 2



Proficiency Scales

In the introductory chapter, we discuss parallel assessments as an aspect of the new paradigm for classroom assessments. We also discuss how proficiency scales are foundational to designing parallel assessments. There are a variety of ways teachers can design proficiency scales, but in this book, we propose a specific format.

Figure 2.1 depicts the generic version for our recommended format for proficiency scales.

Score 4.0

Understands the advanced content

Score 3.0

Understands the target content

Score 2.0

Requires simpler content for proficiency

Score 1.0

With help, partial success with score 2.0 content and score 3.0 content

Score 0.0

Even with help, no success

Figure 2.1: Generic form of the proficiency scale.

The scale in figure 2.1 has five score values: 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, 1.0, and 0.0. The fulcrum for the proficiency scale is the score 3.0 level. It typically contains the focus statement that a teacher generates from rewritten standards statements. When students demonstrate competence at the score 3.0 level, we say they are proficient.


Chapter 3



Parallel Assessments

As we describe in the introduction, a critical aspect of the new paradigm for classroom assessment is parallel assessments. Without parallel assessments, K–12 educators are stuck in the old paradigm that treats each assessment as an independent event. Conversely, thinking of classroom tests in terms of sets of related assessments on a specific topic is a virtual breakthrough in classroom assessment that opens new opportunities for teachers and students alike. The concept of parallel assessments, however, is not unique to the new paradigm of classroom assessment.

In this chapter we provide a brief history of parallel assessments; introduce taxonomies; discuss proficiency scales for scoring traditional tests, essays, and performance assessments; and explore the role of collaborative teams in designing parallel assessments.

A Brief History of Parallel Assessments

It is important to note that parallel assessments have always been central to assessment theory but mostly from a theoretical perspective. (In the book Making Classroom Assessments Reliable and Valid, Marzano [2018] chronicles the history of parallel assessments back to the early part of the twentieth century.) In fact, the idea of multiple parallel assessments administered to an individual student was used to define the concept of a true score. As we discuss in the introduction, the basic equation for an observed score includes two elements: (1) the true score and (2) an error score. By definition, then, a teacher cannot observe a student’s true score on a test about a given topic with any certainty because observed scores always contain error. How then does a teacher define a student’s true score on a topic if he or she can’t directly observe it?


Chapter 4



The Measurement Process and

Different Types of Assessments

With parallel assessments designed from proficiency scales in place, teachers can engage in the measurement process. The measurement process is not so much a new set of steps teachers have to employ as it is a new way of thinking about classroom assessment. In fact, it is the new paradigm for classroom assessment, and we have been laying the foundation for this process throughout the previous chapters. Figure 4.1 shows a diagram of the measurement process.


Format-Specific Score

Score on Proficiency Scale

Figure 4.1: The measurement process.

The measurement process involves continually translating a score on a specific assessment to a score on its related proficiency scale. In the previous chapter, we point out that teachers could score traditional tests, essays, and performance tasks using points or response codes. These are format-specific scores. But within the measurement process, the teacher always translates the format-specific scores into scores on a proficiency scale. The proficiency scale, then, is always the frame of reference for an assessment. The measurement process also takes the perspective that teachers should always consider assessments on a specific measurement topic as a related set of data.


Chapter 5



Summative Scores

The concepts of summative and formative assessments have received a great deal of attention since Paul

Black and Dylan Wiliam’s (1998a, 1998b) publications. While there are certainly many manifestations of the distinctions between formative and summative assessments, the following is one of the most common: teachers administer a number of formative assessments they consider to be for practice purposes only.

Teachers discuss the scores on these assessments in class but do not record them because they do not use the scores to grade students.

In the previous chapter, we note that we refer to this type of practice as instructional feedback. When students have had enough practice and seem ready for the real test, they take a summative assessment. If the score on this assessment is above a predetermined cut score, then the teacher considers the student to have reached the requisite level of proficiency. We believe this particular manifestation of the distinction between formative and summative assessments is ill advised at best and harmful to students at worst.


Chapter 6



Non-Subject-Specific Skills

In addition to traditional academic subject-specific content like mathematics and science, there are a number of other areas for which teachers commonly collect and report assessment data. These areas usually deal with very generalizable skills in that they apply to multiple subject areas and even situations outside of school. In this chapter, we present four types of skills: (1) cognitive analysis skills, (2) knowledge-application skills, (3) metacognitive skills, and (4) general behavior skills.

Cognitive Analysis Skills

In chapter 2 (page 25), we introduce the notion of standards that focus on cognitive analysis relationships.

In chapter 2, we also discuss these relationships in terms of mental skills that teachers can use in taxonomies for both declarative and procedural knowledge. Here we take the discussion one step further by considering these skills as a type of curriculum in themselves.

During the 1980s in the United States, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development led an effort to encourage K–12 educators to place great emphasis on these skills and others as explicit components of the curriculum (Marzano et al., 1988). Educators should explicitly teach these skills and provide practice and feedback for students. As such, these skills should have their own proficiency scales and qualify as their own measurement topics. In previous chapters, we consider a set of five cognitive analysis skills: (1) comparison, (2) classification, (3) elaboration, (4) error analysis, and (5) constructing support. Figure 6.1 depicts a proficiency scale with content for comparison at scores 3.0 and 2.0.


Chapter 7



Record Keeping and Reporting

In previous chapters, we consider the specifics of a new paradigm for classroom assessment. That paradigm involves new ways of viewing, designing, and interpreting assessments, all of which combine to form the measurement process. Of course, that new paradigm must exist within the context of traditional systems for record keeping and reporting. In this chapter, we examine the new paradigm within both systems, including record keeping using technology and reporting overall grades.

Keeping a Record

Traditionally, record keeping is one of a teacher’s most important jobs. In the current system, a teacher typically records scores for the following: quizzes, tests, homework assignments, and extra-credit points, to name a few. Let’s assume that in a nine-week period, a middle school teacher averages two homework assignments per week. This represents eighteen scores per student. Also, let’s assume the teacher averages a quiz every other week starting with the first. This represents another five entries per student. The teacher has a midterm test and a final test. This represents two more entries per student. Finally, the teacher averages an extra-credit entry or loss-of-credit entry about every other week for each student, which amounts to yet another five entries per student. In general, then, the teacher is making thirty entries per student per grading period.





School Change and Classroom Change

We begin this book by stating that its purpose is to create a new paradigm for classroom assessment that would render it not only the most frequent type of assessment but the most useful and precise in terms of scores for individual students. We believe the previous chapters present the necessary guidance to accomplish these lofty goals on individual topics. We also believe that the changes in classroom assessment we describe in this book will precipitate other changes within the classroom, some of which can extend beyond school boundaries. If classroom assessments are more precise and more focused than other types of assessments (for example, interim and year-end), then they might become the primary data with which to make high-stakes decisions about individual students. If classroom assessments employ student-directed assessments, then students will not only feel like they have more agency and self-determination, but will, in fact, have more concrete input into and control over their academic futures.


Appendix A


Appendix A

Types of Declarative Content

Chapter 3 (page 43) introduces the idea that content standards involve two basic types of knowledge: (1) declarative and (2) procedural. Of the two, standards statements more commonly focus on declarative knowledge. There are many types of declarative content, and teachers should tailor assessment items to the defining characteristics of these various types.

This appendix addresses ten types of declarative content and the assessment questions that emphasize the defining characteristics of each type.

Specific People or Types of People

Some standards focus on specific people or types of people. Figure A.1 provides some examples of this category of declarative content.

Sample Target Learning Goal

History (grades 3–4): Understands how historians learn about the past if there are no written records

(standard 7, McREL, 2014a)

Mathematics (grades 9–12): Understands that mathematicians commonly operate by choosing an interesting set of rules and then playing according to those rules; the only limit to those rules is that they should not contradict each other (standard 9, McREL, 2014a)


Appendix B


Appendix B

Types of Test-Response Items

This appendix provides explanations and examples of two types of test-response items: selected response and constructed response.

Selected-Response Items

Selected-response items ask learners to respond to a prompt or question by making an appropriate selection, usually from a number of answers that the test maker has provided. Typically, teachers use selected-response items to gather information in a limited time frame, such as a class period, and usually score them using an answer key.

Selected-response items include:

• Multiple choice

• Alternative choice

• Multiple selection

• Matching

• Fill in the blank

• True or false

The following sections include examples of selected-response items by subject area.

Mathematics Examples

Multiple Choice

A pizza is divided into 12 slices. If there are 8 slices left, what fraction of the pizza is remaining? a. 3/4 b. 2/3



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