Standards Supporting Assessment and Assessment Literacy
Standards are important in many professions. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards keep people safe in different working conditions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards guide the production of medicine, the ingredients in our food and medical devices. Educational content standards state what students will know and be able to do, guiding teachers to design instruction and assessment so students can meet those standards. Content standards are available from multiple sources with various states opting to write their own (often a mix of national, international and state standards). However, when it comes to standards to guide assessment practices, the options are fewer. Let’s highlight three.
- In 2014, the new edition of The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing was released by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). Used to guide testing in the United States and other countries, these standards were written from the psychometric frame of reference for “the professional and for the educated layperson” (AERA, 2022). In Classroom Assessment and Educational Measurement (Brookhart and MacMillan, 2020), Ferrara, Maxey-Moore and Brookhart discuss the call for translating these AERA standards to better incorporate classroom assessment practice, which would make them more useful for teachers.
- The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE) published Classroom Assessment Standards for PreK-12 Teachers in 2015. Written for educators, these standards include research-based practice ranging from formative to summative assessment for K-12. The guidance focuses on supporting classroom teachers, administrators and those providing professional development. What's not included is the discussion of any assessment beyond the control of the classroom teacher.
- The Michigan Assessment Consortium led the development of Assessment Literacy Standards in 2016. This effort focused on helping educators, students, families, and policymakers in becoming more knowledgeable about assessment – its purpose and uses.
The ideas in the Ferrara et al chapter of Classroom Assessment and Educational Measurement resonated with me. Translating and reconceptualizing the AERA standards makes sense if we want to support educators (and researchers) in seeing classroom assessment’s place in the assessment spectrum and assisting teachers in improving their practice. The examples of converted standards provided in the book are useful. To me, however, what was even more powerful were the questions that came with the converted standards. Here are a few examples:
- Do I pose questions or assign work to students that require knowledge and thinking skills I’ve not covered in instruction?
- Do the items on this assessment cover all learning outcomes adequately?
- Are the item response demands consistent with the content standards targeted during the period of instruction prior to test administration?
(Brookhart and MacMillan, 2020)
While Ferrara, Maxey-Moore and Brookhart left it to the reader to decide how successful the translation of the standards was, I would say more than the standards, the questions for teachers to consider were worth the translation exercise.
The JCSEE’s Classroom Assessment Standards is physically a small book packed with useful information for assessing where one’s current assessment practice is and where it can grow. Organized in three sections (Foundations, Use and Quality), the authors took care to offer a resource for individual teachers, professional learning teams, and professional learning focused on using assessment to support continuous improvement at all levels and for all stakeholders. These standards are easy to understand and lend themselves to collaborative learning group discussions to share ideas about assessment and design plans for getting better at assessment.
One of the aspects of the Michigan Assessment Consortium’s Assessment Literacy Standards that is useful in expanding educators’ thinking about assessment is that four major stakeholder groups are included in the beliefs, knowledge and activities associated with assessment – teachers, students, families, and policymakers. Whereas this set of standards describes what groups should know and do, the JCSEE set provides the how.
It really doesn't matter which set of assessment or assessment literacy standards you choose to use, the point is that getting better at and maintaining the quality of assessment means meeting standards, just like in other industries.