Policy Paper: Comprehensive and Balanced Assessment Systems

“Most district assessment systems are neither comprehensive nor balanced,” say four of the world’s top assessment experts: Susan Brookhart, Jay McTighe, Rick Stiggins, and Dylan Wiliam.

By that, they mean that assessment systems in most American schools are doing students a disservice—even hindering their progress—by failing to provide meaningful, relevant, sufficient information to learners and their teachers. They’re preventing educators from eliciting, gathering, and interpreting the real-time evidence they need to make minute-to-minute instructional decisions that, research shows, are key to improving learning.

But school districts have the power to move forward with a bold vision for the future of assessment—a vision of systems that assess a wide array of valued learning outcomes, not just those that are easy to test. That improve student learning and document the learning for a variety of stakeholders. That measure learning not just for students, but also for classrooms, schools, and districts. It goes far beyond standardized testing, giving everyone the information they need to make a lasting and significant difference for students:

  • Classroom formative assessment takes place within and between lessons
  • Medium-cycle formative assessment occurs within and between instructional units
  • Classroom summative assessment addresses grading policies and practices
  • Long-cycle formative assessment happens several times during the school year
  • District and state-level accountability assessment provide an overview

Brookhart, McTighe, Stiggins, and Wiliam aim to disrupt the way assessment is currently being handled in almost every school in the United States. They know it won’t happen overnight, but for forward-thinking assessment leaders striving to do what’s best for learners, reading this policy paper is an excellent first step.

Download the Paper