About Lori H Rice

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade since 1996. She has a passion for creativity, learning, questioning and the whole child. Her classroom is a place of acceptance and celebrating differences.

testingTesting has been around forever and strikes fear in the hearts of American school children (and teachers for that matter).  Standardized testing has been around since the IQ test was structured in 1905.   Today in education there are many forms of testing.  It is important to understand the types of tests, their purposes and how to report the results.  Using assessments help you know where your students are in order to move them to where you want them to be.  We use information, observation and assessment constantly in the classroom.  While the word “TEST” brings fear to the hearts of many, think about switching your ideas of testing to embracing it as it helps you in the classroom.

Diagnostic Assessments: The beginning of the year and when new students arrive are the times we break out the diagnostic assessments.  These tests provide us with information for students to see their learning needs.  We use them to place students into tiered reading and mathematic instruction and support.  We also use them to find holes in learning and then provide some specific direct instruction.  This testing should NEVER be put into the grade book.  Results are shared individually with parents (in situations of placement into special education services) or with teacher teams to help students.  The information is to provide educators with knowledge of how to help a child reach their potential.  Our district also benchmarks students in December and May to continue to look for areas of need.  Most students are at their grade level (or within a healthy range).  This diagnostic assessment is looking for students who have fallen 1-2 years below grade level.  It is a screen to provide students with what they need and provide support for them to find success.

Pretest: Many units of instruction start with a pretest.  This type of formative assessment provides you with what students know.  We determine what students know so we can develop meaningful lessons covering information that is needed instead of just teaching through a  unit.  This is powerful information in forming lessons.  There is power in knowing what skills and content are missing so individual lessons within a unit can cover the objectives and standards you need without wasting time reviewing information students have already gained.   I find it especially useful to know the vocabulary my students have mastered and identify the vocabulary instruction our games and learning should focus on from missed pretest items.  I often put these pretest in the grade book (not for a grade) to show growth and development in student learning.  The information is to understand where your students are and what they are bringing to the unit or class.  A quick pretest can provide you with information to focus and guide your teaching.

Formative Assessment: Throughout a unit, however, it is just as important to continue to use formative assessment.  With Thanksgiving passing and the Holidays approaching, many of us are using formative assessment each day.  We slip into our favorite jeans and immediately know how they “fit”.  We step on that scale and have a number.  These quick assessments help us make decisions.  Dessert?  Work out?  Walk during lunch?  Salad instead of baked potato?  The information gained from a quick zip of the pants or step on the scale determines where we are and we compare it to where we want to be. This is just like formative assessment in the classroom.  Teachers make observations, use sticky notes for a ticket out, read journal responses and then USE THIS INFORMATION to guide teaching.  (For more ideas check out this link.) You are already doing this in your classrooms, most likely, but be sure you are thoughtfully using the information to make decisions about your lessons and how you group your students for instruction.

Being a mom of 3 and full-time teacher of 24 students I find there is never enough time.  I like using quick and easy strategies for formative assessment.  Sticky notes are my favorite.  Each year we ask students to bring  4 X 4 square sticky notes with their school supplies.  Students can answer a math question, summarize a lesson, give a written example or write a “tweet” that gives a shout out about our lesson on their sticky note.  A friend of mine created a numbered poster with a square for each student.  They park their sticky note on their square at the end of class and  a quick glance can determine  how the information has been processed.  I love being able to immediately see if re-teaching needs to occur or if we are ready to move on ahead in our learning.  And this quick activity does not take time, this type of assessment is FOR learning (FORmative) and therefore does not need to go into the grade book.  I use the information to guide lessons and it does not need to be reported out.  A quick conference with a student to re-teach or compliment them on their knowledge is all the reporting that needs to occur.

Summative Assessment: Socrates used conversation to assess his students.  Their “answers” then lead to more dialog.  At the end of a unit it is important to understand how students have mastered the knowledge presented and practiced.  There are many types of summative assessments including written assessment, performance assessment, oral assessment, and standardized testing; although education often focuses on the written test.  Here are some ideas to move you away from the unit written test into allowing students to show you their learning from a unit or topic in many other ways.  This will then provide you with a comparison of the learning accomplished from your pretest scores.  Putting the summative assessment into the grade book is a quick way to report.  These are the grades parents understand best; it’s the way we have been reporting learning for centuries.

There are places in the classroom for all types of assessments.  Our goal is to teach students; using formative and summative assessments throughout your units moves everyone towards this goal.  Where are you with assessments?  How do you report and communicate feedback with students?  Select one area you would like to improve and let us know what you need for support as well as how you are doing.  Learning is a process and testing is just a reflection of the journey.



” Summative Assessment.” Summative Assessment. Best of Bilash, May 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. .

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