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5 Keys to Assessment Literacy

At Victory, we have been developing many kinds of assessments. Whether the assessment is high-stakes summative testing, a performance-based task, or formative student self-assessment, assessment has a huge impact on classroom instruction. This means assessment literacy is a critical tool for teachers as they develop curriculum and apply classroom strategies.

What Is Assessment Literacy?

What does assessment literacy mean? It may help to consider other types of literacy. Science literacy, for example, means being prepared to understand and discuss science issues, especially as they impact social and political decisions. Visual literacy involves understanding how people use visual information, and choosing a visual approach that supports your goals. Digital literacy is the ability to use technology tools, and choose which tool is most appropriate for a given purpose. In the same way, assessment literacy is the ability to understand the purpose of each type of assessment and then use this knowledge to make better assessment decisions.

From our experience, these are 5 keys to assessment literacy:

5 Keys to Assessment Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Understanding different kinds of assessments and their purposes
key-flipped-small 2 Recognizing the best assessment to use for a given situation
key-flipped-small 3 Knowing how to prepare students for each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 4 Knowing how to implement each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 5 Getting comfortable with interpreting assessment data

Assessment Literacy 101: Start with Purpose

Yes, traditional assessments still can and should be used to evaluate students’ content understanding. But open-ended assessments also offer insight about students’ critical thinking skills and their learning processes. That’s why teachers use more than one kind of assessment. This table gives the purpose for each major type of assessment that teachers are using today:

Type of Assessment When Used Purpose
Summative (high-stakes) End of year Check students’ knowledge and ability to apply standards; teacher accountability; helps teacher plan for standards-based lessons; data used at federal and state levels
Interim End of instructional period Check students’ content knowledge and critical thinking; data used for instruction planning; data used at district level
Formative Daily Check students’ learning and mastery of specific skills; data used at classroom level
Performance-Based Task During instruction of lesson or end of lesson Shows students’ mastery of task and critical thinking; data used at classroom level

Are We There Yet?


Of course, there is a huge accountability factor. Teachers are accountable for how their students do on the assessments. So the stakes are high for everyone, from creators of the test to teachers to students.

The good news: Teachers are already using specific assessments to gain data that help them better plan lessons, tailor their instruction, prepare standards-based lessons, and scaffold their teaching. Using assessments wisely, teachers are able to monitor students’ progress and plan interventions. They also use assessment data when they share students’ progress with parents. All of these actions provide teachers with ongoing opportunities to develop and apply assessment literacy skills. And that’s why you can be pretty certain that assessment literacy will continue to trend upward.

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