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Can Interim Assessments Be Used for Instructional Change

December 1, 2009

The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the use of interim assessments and the policy supports that promote their use to change instruction, focusing on elementary school mathematics. The study looked at how 45 elementary school teachers in a purposive sample of 9 schools in 2 districts used interim assessments in mathematics in 2006-07. The study focused on teachers' use of data in a cycle of instructional improvement; that is, how teachers gather or access evidence about student learning; analyze and interpret that evidence; use evidence to plan instruction; and carry out improved instruction. Authors conclude that interim assessments that are designed for instructional purposes are helpful but not sufficient to inform instructional change.

From Testing to Teaching: The Use of Interim Assessments in Classroom Instruction

December 1, 2009

The past ten years have witnessed an explosion in the use of interim assessments by school districts across the country. A primary reason for this rapid growth is the assumption that interim assessments can inform and improve instructional practice and thereby contribute to increased student achievement. Testing companies, states, and districts have become invested in selling or creating interim assessments and data management systems designed to help teachers, principals, and district leaders make sense of student data, identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, identify instructional strategies for targeted students, and much more. Districts are keeping their interim tests even under pressure to cut budgets (Sawchuk, 2009). The U.S. Department of Education is using its Race to the Top program to encourage school districts to develop formative or interim assessments as part of comprehensive state assessment systems. Much of the rhetoric around interim assessments paints a rosy picture, often with the ultimate claim that such measures will lead to increased student achievement. Much of the belief in the potential of interim assessments to improve student learning comes from the growing body of research on formative assessment. However, the majority of this research has not focused on interim assessments themselves, but rather practices that are embedded within classroom instruction. Very few studies exist on how interim assessments are actually used, by individual teachers in classrooms, by principals, and by districts. Furthermore, we know little about how teachers and other educators use the results from such assessments, the conditions that support their ability to use these data to improve instruction, or the interaction of interim assessments with other classroom assessment practices. Our study begins to fill that vacuum.