Our world has become a data-driven society and the education arena is not immune. Educators use a variety of data points to inform their instruction in two ways:
1. To help students learn
2. To improve their own instruction
Summative assessments, such as MCAS, provide parents and educators with a snapshot of what an individual student knows at the micro level up to where a district displays strengths and areas of improvement in comparison to other districts at the macro level. Therefore, districts can look for trends to determine causes for concerns, such as resources, professional development, and staffing.
Benchmark assessment systems, such as Renaissance Learning, provide parents, educators, and students targeted data about student performance on standards for a particular student, class, grade, or school. When administered multiple times in a given school year, this real time data informs educators as to what concepts and skills students have mastered, are ready to learn, and should be learned in the future. Therefore, educators may plan their differentiated instruction based on what students are ready to learn, as opposed to what comes next in a textbook. Additionally, benchmark assessments indicate how much growth students are making over time. This data helps educators determine if students need additional support or resources while learning.
Educators also use a variety of formative assessments throughout the year to gain even further, more discrete information. Formative assessments range from dip-sticking and exit tickets to chapter tests and performance based assessments. Formative assessments help educators learn where each student is at in the understanding of a concept, but is also a great way for educators to use that information to reflect on their own practice.