State Tests, Percentile Ranks, District Benchmarks, Giftedness screeners, Curriculum-based Measures, Progress Monitoring Probes, Formative Assessments, Summative Assessments…..and the list goes on……
All of these terms, and all of this testing, but what does it all mean, and why do we do it? We understand in Marinette that we have a great responsibility to ensure that our students are college ready, career ready and life ready. Assessments of learning in the form of standardized tests, have traditionally been used as the primary readiness indicator for college, career and life readiness. However, these standardized test scores do not always provide an accurate representation of our students’ potential, and they reflect very little about the overall health of our district. Like the world's economy, today’s students are driven by ideas, innovations, experiences. They should not be reduced down to, or defined by, a single test score. Nor should the overall performance of a school district.
While it is our mission in the Marinette School District to be data-based decision makers. We know that a single “test score” does not even begin to tell the story of a student, staff member, or school building. We understand in Marinette that one piece of data isn’t a story - it’s an anecdote. But with multiple pieces of data - collected and aggregated through a strategic system of assessment - we trade anecdote for autobiography. Assumption for evidence. Just like doctors need information in order to plan effective treatments, effective school systems rely on data to understand how to best support the learning of their students and the instruction provided by their staff.
All of this data is collected through a system of balanced assessment, which can be broken into two main categories:
1. Assessments of Learning
2. Assessments for Learning
Assessments of learning are those more infrequent assessments that we use after some type of learning is supposed to have occured. A student’s year in school is a nine-month educational journey; assessments of learning inform us if we have arrived at the intended destination. Those tests used to apply for college, state tests taken each spring, and standards-based summative assessments are just a few examples of assessments of learning we provide here in Marinette.
Assessment for learning happens while learning is ongoing. These assessments are occurring throughout a student’s educational journey, informing us whether students are on track to reaching that end of the year destination. Assessments for learning provide teachers with feedback that helps plan next steps of instruction, inform students about the quality of their work, and help to keep us as a school system accountable for each and every student’s rate of learning. As a district the assessments of learning we provide are wide ranging: from frequent formative assessment in the classroom, to our STAR Reading and Math assessments provided three times annually, to name just a few examples.
Our system of assessment in Marinette is best described as a balanced, whole-child approach. While assessment is most definitely a thing, it is most definitely not every-thing.