Benchmark Assessment for Improved Learning
This policy brief addressed three major questions that education leaders should consider in establishing a benchmark assessment system:
What purposes are the benchmark assessments intended to serve?
What criteria should be used to select or create the benchmark system?
What organizational capacity is needed to support effective use for improvement.
Among the benchmark testing purposes are communicating expectations, instructional and curriculum planning, monitor and evaluate student learning outcomes, and predict future performance. Selection criteria include validity, alignment, reliability, fairness and accessibility, instructional sensitivity, utility, and reporting. The piece also includes recommendations for building schools’ and districts’ capacity to use benchmark assessments to improve learning.
The brief clearly defines each selection criterion and shares concrete advice on what evidence users should look for in evaluating the criterion. The alignment criterion considers alignment of the tests with standards in both content and cognitive demand (depth of knowledge) and alignment with intended purpose. If for example, the assessment are intended to be used for instructional planning or diagnosing individual student needs, it should have an explicit plan for providing reliable, diagnostic feedback.
The brief lays out four major purposes for benchmark assessment: communicating expectations (which includes signaling to educators what is important to teach and learn; focusing curriculum; instructional and curriculum planning (which include providing feedback on students’ learning strengths and weakness for purposes of subsequent instruction); monitor and evaluate student learning outcomes (which includes purposes of evaluating and improving instructional programs, identifying and supporting struggling teachers and/or school); and predicting future performance (for purposes of identifying and responding to students who are struggling).