George Lucas Educational Foundation

How many assessments?

How many assessments?

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When I compare the trends of assessments as of today with my own schooling years, I find there's a new wave of standard (call it - fancy) assessments. And they are too many... Academic, Application-based, Intelligence tests, Reasoning abilities, plus a plethora of unit tests and weekly assessment... I am left to wonder how much is too much? Where and when should we draw a line? What are the REAL purposes of an assessment? Your answers will help... Thank you, Rohit

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David Wees's picture
David Wees
Formative Assessment Specialist for New Visions for Public Schools

The point of most assessments should be to give feedback to the learner, and to inform their teacher of their progress. A good teacher finds at least an informal way of assessing each child daily, probably multiple times a day. The issue is when too many of these formal assessments outweigh the time that teachers have to work with their students on learning.

In Texas, I've read that students spend 45 of 180 days being assessed for various standardized tests. This is clearly too much time spent on assessment, and not enough on actual learning.

Dorothea Doyle's picture
Dorothea Doyle
third grade teacher

Not only do we spend a HUGE volume of days testing, but we test the same thing in several different tests. At the end and beginning of each quarter, (which means a couple of days apart,) we give two different ELA assessments plus fluency assessments. This is on top of the weekly assessments required for the research-based reading program, the three times-a-year computer-based assessments, and the biggies in April. Of course, for a month before the April assessments, we do nothing but practice tests for the majority of the day. This is an unbelieveable mess!

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

Considering formative assessment is one of the most valuable tools I have in my arsenal...assessment happens quite often for me. Most of it is unplanned, just the nature of asking the class a question helps me to understand if sense making is taking place. Formative data is then to make informed decisions. Using this method has significantly reduced poor performance on summative assessments, reduced the frequency of having to re-teaching, and improved student confidence.

Jessica's picture
Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

Thanks for this post ! I feel that assessments play an important role for any student. Through assessments a teacher gets to know a child's progress. However, i feel giving a lot of assessments can sometimes make a child feel pressurized. Thus, teachers should realize that students should not feel the burden of assessments, rather they should enjoy their learning period.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

I understand what you mean Jessica. If you create an environment where assessment [as it applies to the monitoring of learning] is the norm and not associated with a grade, a mark, or some score-no pressure. Even little things like have a student reflect on their work is powerful. You are the creator of the learning environment.

D. Weeks's picture
D. Weeks
High school CAD teacher just outside of Detroit, MI

Assessments should be short and sweet during a unit, so that they can be given in shorter intervals to allow a teacher to gain usable learning data in a timely fashion. This being said testing at the end of the unit should be more in-depth to assess a students overall understand of material. While the "during" unit assessments are small and agile, assessments that can be changed depending on the needs of the specific class. Assessment can't be standalone from the course material itself, it should ultimately compliment the course materials.

More information on my views on assessment can be found at

Kelsey's picture

I feel the same way. I don't remember taking this many tests when I was in school. When I have my niece (1st grade now) tell me that they are taking too many tests, that is telling me that it is too many! I have struggled with the fact that we race through curriculum just to get to the next test. I would rather focus on the curriculum and put my own spin on it, do something fun and memorable with it, than just teach it and move on. In our district we do a lot of different assessments. Although they all help us place children on our RTI pyramid more effectively, if we don't use them in our own classrooms to reflect and refine our teaching, should we be giving them all? Our new superintendant visited with us at the beginning of the school year and asked us by a show of hands if we are giving assessments and never using the results. Majority of hands went up. He also asked if we were trained in how to read some of the state assessments that we give. Very few hands went up. Why are we giving tests that #1 we don't use as feedback for ourselves and #2 we don't even know how to read the results?

TWood's picture
1st grade teacher

My team has recently been discussing the same issues mentioned by many of you. We know the importance of assessing our students using both formative and summative assessments. However, we definitely over assess! We. too, race through curriculum so we can test and then race through some more curriculum. We are certainly not using all of those assessments to drive our instruction. I would love to find that balance of assessing students adequately so that I know my instruction is effective or reveals areas where I need to provide remediation.

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