The Core Commitments Balanced Assessment System

Assessment is an integral part of instruction, providing information about how well students are progressing toward state standards. Standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment are interwoven in the learning process, and each informs the others. Standards are the what – they define what we expect students to know and be able to do. Curriculum is the how – it defines a body of learning experiences that are designed to reach the standards. Instruction is the in what ways – it provides the specific learning experiences and ways of differentiating those experiences to scaffold student learning. Assessment is the how well – it gauges the attainment of learning to inform instructional practices and curriculum. A balanced approach to assessment includes a continuum of strategies within a range of frequency and purpose.

Formative assessment occurs continuously in the classroom, both within and between lessons. Information is used to adjust teaching strategies. Students receive frequent and meaningful feedback on their performances. Examples of formative assessment strategies include teacher observation, discussion, questioning, and non-graded class work. The focus of formative assessment is to determine what learning comes next for a student.

Benchmark assessment occurs within, between, and among instructional units. Information is used to identify strengths and gaps in curriculum and instruction. Grade-level curriculum may be refined, and teachers may modify instruction for student groups based on their progress. These assessments might be teacher-developed or district-developed products, or they may be purchased commercially. When using a commercial product, it is important to examine the types of questions used and the links to state standards. Examples of benchmark assessments include midterm and end-of-unit assessments, district-wide assessments such as 6-Trait® writing, specific reading inventories, or products such as MAP®, SCANTRON®, or ThinkLink™. The focus of benchmark assessment is to determine how student groups are progressing or how well a program is working.

Large-scale assessment occurs annually or less frequently. Information is used to develop strategic, long-term evaluation of curriculum and programming based on trends over time, and to monitor state, district, and school progress. Assessment instruments and procedures are standardized so that comparisons can be made across student groups. Examples of large-scale assessment include the WKCE©, WAA-SwD©, ACT®, SAT®, NAEP™, and AP® exams. The focus of large-scale assessment is to determine how schools, districts, and states are progressing.

These assessment strategies provide information at differing intervals and for different purposes. Each one provides a different perspective, and one cannot take the place of another. Together, they provide a balanced approach to assessment that informs decisions at the classroom, school, district, state, and national levels.

Attributes of Effective Formative Assessment

Learning Progressions/Targets
Learning progressions/targets should clearly articulate the subgoals of the ultimate learning goal. They enable teachers and students to use formative assessment to locate the students' current learning on the continuum and to identify the next steps.

Learning Goals
Learning goals and criteria for success should be clearly identified and communicated to students. This involves discussing the goals and criteria for success with students using terms they can understand and providing examples of how the criteria for success can be met.  

Embedded in Instruction
Teachers should evoke evidence about learning during instruction using a variety of methods that result in adjustments to teaching and learning.

Descriptive Feedback
Students should be provided with specific feedback that is linked to the intended instructional outcomes and criteria for success.
   -This feedback identifies the gap between current learning status and desired goals at a level of detail to stimulate action by teachers and students for improvements in learning.
   -Descriptive feedback should focus on enhancing student learning without assigning grades or scores.

A classroom culture in which teachers and students are partners in learning should be established.
   -This involves ongoing interactions between teachers and students regarding learning goals, outcomes, achievements, and adjustments in learning      activities.
   -Students engage in self-assessment about how their learning is progressing toward desired goals. They are active agents in learning, working with teachers to close the gap between current learning status and desired goal.

Self- and Peer-Assessment
Both self- and peer-assessment are important.
   -In self-assessment, students monitor their own learning using established criteria that indicate what a successful performance looks like, and they adapt their learning in order to achieve success.
   -In peer-assessment, students analyze each other's performance using established criteria and provide descriptive feedback to each other for continued improvement.

Balanced Assessment System Resources

Building Balanced Assessment Systems to Guide Educational Improvement:
Developing an Internationally Comparable Balanced Assessment System That Supports High-Quality Learning:

Balanced Assessment System: A Quick Graphic View

Assessment Manifesto: A Call for the Development of Balanced Assessment Systems:

Bangert-Drowns, R., Kulik, J., & Morgan, M. (1991). The Instructional Effect of Feedback in Test-Like Events. Review of Educational Research, 61, 213-238. This article reports results of a meta-analysis of 58 effect sizes from 40 reports of research on feedback. It addresses the impact on achievement of such factors as the nature of feedback, timing of feedback, and type of instruction with which feedback was associated. Among other findings, it concludes immediate feedback and feedback that is more than “right-wrong” are associated with larger gains.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7-74. In recent years, when people refer to the research that revealed the significant impact of good formative assessment practices on student learning, it’s the research summarized in this article to which those people are referring. The article also presents a more detailed and theoretical analysis of the nature of feedback, which provides a basis for a discussion of the development of theoretical models for formative assessment and of the prospects for the improvement of practice.

Brookhart, S. M. (2005, April). Research on Formative Classroom Assessment. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal. This is a comprehensive review of the research literature on formative assessment that begins with an interesting historical perspective on the expanding concepts in the definition of formative assessment. The review of research is organized by four topics in the current expanded definition: the nature of classroom assessments and teachers’ assessment practices, teachers’ use of formative assessment (feedback and instructional decisions), student self assessment, and the relationship between classroom assessments and student motivation. The final section of the review addresses the effects of formative classroom assessment on learning.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms.

Shute, V.J. (2007). Focus on Formative Assessment. (ETS Report No. RR-07-11). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. This paper reviews the corpus of research on feedback, with a particular focus on formative feedback—defined as information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify the learner’s thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning. The nature of feedback, timing of feedback, learner characteristics and a variety of other factors are considered. Of particular interest is a set of guidelines for generating formative feedback that appears near the end of the report. (available online at

Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 9-21.This is a report on one study that has attempted to put formative assessment concepts into practice with 24 secondary school mathematics and science teachers in England. Through the use of improved questioning techniques, feedback focusing on how to improve rather than grading, and involving students in peer-assessment and self-assessment, teachers found that the motivation and attitudes of their students improved, and the students achieved higher scores on externally set tests and examinations than other students at the same schools.

Heritage, M. (2007). Formative assessment: What Do Teachers Need to Know and Do? Phi Delta Kappan,89(2). Formative assessment practices, if implemented effectively, can provide teachers and their students with the information they need to move learning forward. This article discusses the core elements of formative assessment, conceptualizes their integration, and considers the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that teachers need in order to implement formative assessment practices effectively.

GRREC Assessment Communication Toolkit

Join the Private GRREC Districts Only Discussion Board - contact Terri Stice for access.



GRREC Communication Toolbox (download resources here)

Kentucky Department of Education’s Open House

Unbridled Learning  - Links to the following:

     Message to Parents About Test Scores

     Webcast on New Assessment and Acountability Model

     Materials from the webcast – PowerPoint, Q&A, FAQ from Parents

     Frequently Asked Questions about Kentucky’s New Assessment and Accountability System for Public Schools

     A Parent’s Guide to Testing

     A Parent’s Guide to Accountability

     Summary and Complete versions of Senate Bill 1

     Highlights of Senate Bill 1

     Unbridled Learning School/District Accountability Model

     Comparison Chart – NCLB and Kentucky’s Requirement      

     Race to the Top Applications:  Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3

     NCLB Flexibility:  Waiver Request, Appendix 1, Appendix 2

     Unbridled Learning Summary

     Brochure produced by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce providing an overview of the new standards and testing.

     Commissioner Holliday’s Blogs on Unbridled Learning

     Commissioner Holliday’s videotaped presentation explaining the Unbridled learning accountability model.

     All Eyes on Kentucky, a video related to the Common Core Academic Standards and produced by the School Improvement Network.

     Series of Video vignettes that explain the Common Core State Standards developed by The Hunt Institute and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).


Comprehensive Improvement Planning for Schools and Districts – Links to the following:

     ASSIST Overview Presentation, August 1, 2012

     Integrated Overview of CIITS, ASSIST and PGES WebEx and Presentation, June 8, 2012

     Archived ASSEST WebEx Trainings

     Frequently Asked Questions

     Timeline for School Improvement Planning

     Building Comprehensive School and District Plans

     Priority and Focus Schools Check Needs Assessment Strategies

     Guidance on 30, 60, 90 Day Plan

     ASSIST and Kentucky Continuous Progress Monitoring

     ASSEST  Special Education Guidance Document

     2012 ASSIST Special Education Data

     ASSIST KBE – K-PREP Scores, Freshman Graduation Rate, CCR Students, Achievement Gap

     KDE Technology Platforms Glossary

     A Guide for Using the Data Questions

     ASSIST District Technology Webcast Presentations

Raise the Bar Louisville

Kentucky School Boards Association video –“Talking to media about test scores”   

Unbridled Learning Summary, Leslie Peek, Bowling Green -   

Ready Kentucky – Prichard Committee

Hardin County Website Information -



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