Establishing a School Assessment System

A powerful foundational term in education at this moment is COMMON. It was referenced with the advent of COMMON CORE LEARNING STANDARDS, and it must be instituted in any system of measurement to make it meaningful and systemic.

Existence of a school’s comprehensive assessment system establishes the manner and process on which the measurement of teaching and learning is based. Such a system is not merely grounded in the traditional. It needs to embrace both data and observational perspectives. Moving into the future further intensifies the importance of this system to understand the degree of pandemic’s negative impact on teaching and learning, as well as determining what to do.

Comprehensive Assessment Linkages

State Learning                   Dynamic                     Comprehensive                     Reporting, Analysis
Standards                     Curriculum                   Assessment System                         & Action

The power of the linkages rests squarely when all are in place. Elimination of one inhibits the effectiveness of the others.


Student learning expectations are contained within the standards. They are common as they apply to all students to form the basis for skill development as well as task assignments. Standards contribute to the movement into performance assessment, a major topic for advancing the nature and purpose of assessment to be reality-centered. However, standards may only be implemented effectively with careful selection of content. Common core made this clear from the moment of its implementation.

Dynamic Curriculum

It is the function of a common curriculum to bring together both standards and content for the acquisition of content knowledge and display or demonstration of that knowledge. In fact, selection of content is a key factor for engaging particular standards and driven by the notion: Content determines process. It is the demands of content selection for a curriculum that is the greatest challenge for school staff, and it begins with the determination of what students are expected to know. With an agreement of what students are to know which may be informed by content standards, the next step is the organization of learning. Typically, that is done by chunking out meaningful bits of the learning/knowledge arc into instructional units with a timeframe that for each that covers the school year, allowing for other education-related events.

Comprehensive Assessment System

With the organization of learning completed, the measurement of student learning takes form. It begins with the understanding that learning is firmly based on performance. The act of demonstrating understanding of a knowledge base can only be determined by doing something with it to exhibit the degree of understanding. Doing may be designed in numerous ways from traditional measures to projects, much of it with the assistance of technology. But it needs to be COMMON for staff to examine assessment results for a specific grade in which they all benefit from what is learned.

Reporting, Analysis & Action

Reporting is critical phase to support analysis with codified information and data. A reporting system such as EdVistas DataMate provides a reporting dimension from individual student perspectives on learning to group and class. Insight into student acquisition of standards to distractor analysis display deep understanding of the learning status of a school.

A comprehensive assessment system is the path to continued improvement of teaching and learning.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at