Classroom-based assessment makes preparation for statewide test more instructionally useful

iStock_000016940545XSmallTeachers often complain that preparing students for statewide assessments takes away from instruction time. Classroom-based performance assessments can bridge the gap between learning and the accountability functions of statewide tests, says this study from Educational Assessment.

The study reports on New York’s Early Literacy Profile for K-3 students. Created in the late 1990s as an “instructional assessment” useful for both teaching and reporting, the Early Literacy Profile monitors the progress of K-3 students toward meeting state standards.

Study: “Keeping the Focus on the Child: Supporting and Reporting on Teaching and Learning With a Classroom-Based Performance Assessment System,” by Beverly Falk, Suzanne Wichterle Ort and Katie Moirs, Educational Assessment, 2007, Volume 12, Number 1, pp. 47-75.

Conclusion: In field-testing, the Early Literacy Profile classroom-based assessment was found to be instructionally useful by educators. 98% of survey respondents felt that Profile data provided information about students’ literacy progress that was useful to teaching.

Teachers noted that looking at student work in relation to standards increased their knowledge of individual students and their abilities and guided them in what they needed to do next for those students. Many teachers reported a shift toward relying more on evidence rather than subjective feelings as the basis for instructionaldecisions. 

Method: Technical studies on the Profile were conducted to see if the Profile could (a) measure important literacytraits; (b) be scored reliably; (c) predict student performance on state tests (d) be consistent with state standards (e) provide information useful to teachers, parents and the community. Participants were surveyed to assess theirviews on curriculum validity and on how the Profile impacted their teaching.Participants: 19 schools from 19 New York State school districts, 63 teachers and 1,215 students Grades 1-3 involved in field-testing the Early Literacy Profile.

Main research question: What are the components of a research-based classroom assessment of literacy? What is the reliability and validity of such an assessment? How useful is such an assessment for both teaching and reporting purposes?


• Examining a student’s work in relation to the Profile scales deepens
teachers’ knowledge of literacy development.

•Classroom-based assessments give teachers immediate feedback on student progress.

•Double-scoring of classroom-based assessments is a valuable professional development exercise.

•To be useful, this data must include implications for the classroom and the basis for inferences about educators’ teaching practices.

•Embedding assessment into classroom life and involving teachers in the scoring process can help make statewide testing more instructionally relevant for teachers.

Background: With the Profile, teachers take four early literacy measures of each student:
•reading in use,
•early reading skills,
•student’s writing, and
•oral language development.

Teachers use standardized multiple tasks and gather evidence over time throughout the year. A 10-20 minute “reading interview”, during which the teacher observes the student reading, is a key part of the Profile. Students and teachers also record a list of works that students read independently, and students write a written response to a text as a measure of reading comprehension.

Data is collected and evaluated in the fall and spring of each year in relation to scales that describe key qualities of literacy learning along a developmental continuum. As teachers examine each student’s work in relation to the scales, they select the level of proficiency based on descriptions of skills–emergent, beginning, independent and experienced.

Proficiencies do not fall in one column or scale point, but are spread across the columns Findings: Profile assessments were found to be predictive of performance on the state’s English Language Arts (ELA) exam. Researchers looked at students’ fourth-grade scores on ELA and found “moderately strong” correlations between performance on the ELA and the Profile.

All 63 teachers were surveyed about the curriculum validity of the Profile–98% of respondents said that the ways of collecting evidence for the Profile resembled the kinds of activities they provided for students in their classrooms. Some 98% felt that Profile data provided information about students’ literacy progress that was useful to teaching. “I learn much more about a child from the evidence I collect about his learning in the context of classroom activities than by the score received on the standardized test,” wrote one teacher.

All of the teachers and administrators felt that the Profile was useful in helping parents understand their child’s literacy progress. Among the challenges, according to 20% of field-test teachers, is to do the Profile evaluation of students in a reasonable amount of time.

From Assessment for Learning: 12 recent studies on formative assessment and aligning assessments with learning goals, published by Educational Research Newsletter August 2007

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