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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Curriculum-Based Assessments vs. Teacher-Made Assessments

Curriculum-Based Assessments vs. Teacher-Made Assessments

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Over the last three years in teaching the same reading curriculum, I am finding some of the questions in the curriculum-based assessments as unfair questions that try to trick students and don't assess what they really know. Some of the multiple-choice options have two or even three answers that could be correct, depending on one's level of thinking. I want to be fair to my students while also driving my instruction effectively. Do you tend to use curriculum-based assessments or teacher-made assessments? If you use curriculum-based assessments, have you made any changes? If so, have you changed answer options, re-worded the question or changed grading? For example, allowing two answers to be correct or deleting a question from the assessment altogether.

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Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher


I do this with stunning regularity. We use an excellent reading text by Houghton Mifflin, but the answers to the rather open-endedly worded short essay questions associated with the end-of-unit test seem quite arbitrary. My students perform the task as an open book exercise and we meet in a correcting group to go over the answers. I evaluate each answer individually, but always give full credit if they match the answer key. Often the students give more insightful answers than those in the key.


Natalie's picture
3rd Grade teacher Pinellas County, Fl. Enrolled in the UF Lastinger TLSI

Dear Julie,

Like you, I was frustrated with assessments provided by the book adoption companies. Yes, they are research-bases, but I found the assessments to be disconnected with the content I was intending my students to learn.

As a result, my teammates and I started creating Ongoing Progress Monitoring Math Assessments given each Friday to drive the following week's instruction. We would use the results for small group instruction, differentiated instruction, remediation, and strategy planning.

Since you are talking about reading assessments, I will share that I used rubrics for my students' achievements in reading. Because we are a Reading Units of Study (Lucy Calkins) district, I have utlized rubrics to define if there is evidence of my students retaining a strategy through a skill. For example, "Great Readers Visualize by Making a Picture in their Mind of What is Happening in the Story". There is either Clear Evidence, Some Evidence, or Little Evidence that a student has retained the strategy of visualization through the skill of stopping to make a picture in their mind.

I hope this gave you some ideas to use this year! Good Luck!

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