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בס"ד. Some Basics of Assessment. Rabbi Shmuel Jablon Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia. From Our Strategic Plan….

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some basics of assessment


Some Basics of Assessment

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon

Torah Academy

of Greater Philadelphia

from our strategic plan
From Our Strategic Plan…

Our strategic vision is that over the next five years Torah Academy will build on its rich tradition and recent improvements to achieve the reality and perception of providing academic excellence in both Judaic and General Studies in a child-centered environment to the diverse student body in its target market.

torah academy will further increase academic excellence by
Torah Academy will further increase academic excellence by:

Developing a Formal System

of Assessment of Academic Achievement

By a “formal system” we mean that the assessments become part of our written curriculum.

They are, therefore, required (regardless of the individual teacher) and happen on a yearly basis for all children at that grade level (unless they are on a modified program).

The standardized tests that we give are part of this formal system. But other assessments are also part of the formal system.

For example, all middle school students are required to do a social studies term paper every year. This is part of our curriculum and an “anchor assessment.” Thus it is part of our “formal system of academic achievement.”



    • 2009-10 School Year
  • Select curricular based “anchor assessments” in both Judaic and General Studies.
  • Continue to give the CTP IV standardized tests (from the Education Records Bureau).
  • Provide a specialized test taking course from the Princeton Review to Middle School Students.
  • Give the Yediot Klaliyot (Basic Jewish Knowledge) graduation test.
  • Assign in Grades 4-8 the written Dvar Torah project that demonstrates both mastery of a concept or event as well as the ability to apply this to a practical lesson for their lives.
  • Pilot a Chumash achievement test in the Middle School.
    • 2010-11 School Year
  • Investigate possible existing Judaic and Ivrit Studies assessment tools.
  • Create and pilot needed Judaic and Ivrit Studies assessment tools to match the Torah Academy curriculum. Assessments should be curricular based and be consistent in evaluating both content and skills (textual and higher order thinking).

2011-12 School Year

    • Continue to create and pilot needed Judaic and Ivrit Studies assessment tools to match the Torah Academy curriculum. Assessments should be curricular based and be consistent in evaluating both content and skills (textual and higher order thinking).
  • 2012-13 School Year
    • Implement the Torah Academy Judaic and Ivrit Studies assessment tools. Assessments should be curricular based and be consistent in evaluating both content and skills (textual and higher order thinking).
what is assessment
What is Assessment?
  • As a school, assessment is how we determine if students have learned what is in our curriculum.
  • As a school, assessment is how we determine

if students, classes and we as a whole meet


  • As teachers, assessment is how we determine if students have learned what we say that we have taught.

"Assessment should be deliberately designed to improve and educate student performance, not merely to audit it as most school tests currently do."

- Dr. Grant Wiggins, preface to Educative Assessment

what are good assessments
What are GOOD Assessments?
  • Assessments are good when they

accurately show whether or not students

have learned the areas being assessed.

  • A system of assessment is good if it measures achievement in all areas we care about…with extra weight given to what we care MOST about.
what is a lousy assessment
What is a lousy assessment?

A lousy assessment tests only one easily

assessed area without showing real mastery

over what’s really important.

what is a poor assessment system
What is a Poor Assessment System?

A poor assessment system is one that

focuses only (or primarily) on one area of the


  • For example, a language arts class that has only spelling, vocabulary and grammar tests has a poor assessment system.
  • A Chumash class that has only vocabulary tests and fill in the blank content worksheets has a poor assessment system.

Tests are part of a balanced assessment system.

But remember to not simply test what is easy to grade.

Tests should include (on an age appropriate level) questions that reflect multiple levels on Bloom’s taxonomy. Thus, they shouldn’t be just recall of content. They need to include application, analysis and synthesis questions.

for example
For Example….

Rabbi Silver taught a unit on אונאת דברים- oppression through speech.

He then gave a test to assess student understanding and achievement.

The test included some short answers that tested recall of principles taught.


1) Where in the Torah is the source for אונאת דברים- oppression through speech? (3 pts)

2) Which is considered worse: oppression through speech-אונאת דברים or oppression through money-אונאת ממון? Give two reasons for your answer. (7 pts)

3) To which people do we need to be extra sensitive about אונאת דברים- oppression through speech? Explain why. (4 pts)


But the test ALSO had short essays to test

whether they could apply what they learned

to new situations.


1) Shira walks into Macy’s with $5 in her purse. She spends her time walking from one clothing rack to another. After twenty minutes go by a salesclerk comes and offers to help her. What should Shira’s response be so that she does not commit the sin of אונאת דברים- oppression through speech? Explain why your solution would be correct.


2) Rivka is walking down the hall when one of her friends, Beth, calls to her and says, “Hey smarty how’d you do on the test?” One of the teachers overhears what Beth said and tells her that it is not permissible to call people names. Beth responds that she was only joking and that Rivka doesn’t mind. The teacher asks Beth how she knows that Rivka does not mind. Beth explains that she calls Rivka “smarty” all the time and Rivka has never said anything. Is Beth correct in assuming that Rivka does not mind? Explain your answer.

here are some of ms afriat s math problems
Here are some of Ms. Afriat’s math problems…
  • ______ + 7 = 11
  • 12 - _____ = 3
  • ( _____ + 1) + 4 = 5 + (1=4)
  • Find each sum using mental math:

54 + 12 = __________

75 + 15 = __________

  • Rahel has $13 dollars to spend. She buys a t-shirt that costs $7. How much does she have left over? Write a number sentence you can use to solve this problem. ______________________________________________
  • Solve the problem. ____________________________________________________________
  • Malka and her Feiga are painting their house. The house has 14 rooms. Malka painted 6 rooms. How many rooms must Feiga paint? Write a number sentence and solve.
what is authentic assessment
What is AUTHENTIC Assessment?
  • Authentic Assessment is when we assess in ways similar to how “real people” show what they know in that particular discipline.
  • This would never include multiple choice, fill in the blank, definitions, etc.
here s an example
Here’s an example…

Mrs. Weinstein’s 2nd grade class read historical fiction. Their choices for projects included projects that tested reading comprehension, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation…


Pretend you are a newspaper reporter and write a detailed newspaper article about an important event in your story. Be sure to include a headline and a subtitle. If you choose to include a picture, be sure to include a caption to the picture. Edit your newspaper article for proper capitalization, spelling, and punctuation.

Create a diary that the main character might have kept about what is happening in his or her life. The diary should have entries from at least five different dates. Be sure to edit your diary entries for proper capitalization, spelling, and punctuation.


Chumash: Write/deliver a Dvar Torah

Gemara: Teach a mini lesson.

Halacha: Write a letter or a teshuvah.

Ivrit: Write stories/letters in Ivrit.

Literature: Write/deliver a book review.

History: Write a research paper.

Current Events: Have a debate.

Science: Write a lab report.

Math: Prepare a Budget

a word of caution
A Word of Caution…

Just because something is fun, creative or neato-keen DOES NOT make it an authentic assessment!


It is only an authentic assessment is you are finding out if the students learned and understood an important part of our curriculum!

for example25
For Example….
  • A mural about the Torah Portion (unless you are assessing their knowledge of Biblical dress)
  • A diorama of the Civil War (unless it’s of battle formations you taught….)
  • A new cover for a book…


test yourself
Test Yourself….

Mrs. Sasson’s class read Across Five Aprils- a work of historical fiction. They then did final projects.

With each project, decide if it is an assessment or activity. Why did you choose your answer?


#1 Write an edition of a newspaper that focuses on a specific battle mentioned in Across Five Aprils. You must include at least the following: (1) a news article about the battle (including quotes from soldiers and/or officers); (2) a human interest story (local or national, not directly tied to the war); (3) an editorial; (4) a letter to the editor from a local resident, who may be for or against the war (politician, freed slave, soldier, wife, businessman, etc); and (5) graphics, such as political cartoons, maps, and/or photographs.  In addition, you may want to include other articles or features (true to the time period!) common to many newspapers: (obituaries, sports, classified ads, etc.). Decide whether you want to be pro-Union or pro-Confederacy, as this will determine the editorial position of your paper.


The students have to show knowledge of historical information.

They have to use their writing skills.

They have to express opinions.

They have to use creativity.

It’s creative…and it’s also a challenging assessment!

here s another
Here’s another….

#2 A painting, sculpture, or other piece of visual art that depicts a major theme of the book. An accompanying 250- word description is necessary.

  • They have to find a way to represent a theme of the book. This assesses reading comprehension.
  • They still have to write an essay (This is, after all, a language arts class!), which assesses their writing ability and- again- their reading comprehension.
and finally
And Finally…

#3 Create a quiz game about the book. Include questions about basic facts of the book (minimum 15), as well as questions that require more thoughtful responses (such as questions about themes, symbolism, and conflict- minimum 10).


Though this isn’t as rich as the others, it does require students to show mastery of material in the book. It also requires them to include questions that require higher level thinking.

Because this doesn’t require an essay, it would be important that students doing this project have other opportunities to have their writing assessed.


Grading then has a rubric that makes clear to students how they are being graded.

It also allows you to make clear that you are assessing multiple areas in your authentic assessment.

for example34
For Example….

Writing Style: /50 points

Supporting an Opinion w/ facts /20 points

Spelling/grammar/usage /20 points

On Time for Deadlines /10 points

Notice that you are grading their spelling and grammar without a spelling test!

a note
A Note….

It is NOT possible to always use authentic assessments.

However it IS ESSENTIAL that a class has plenty of them as part of an overall system of assessment.

This is because they tend to be on the highest cognitive level AND serve as the best preparation for further study and achievement in that area.




notice the middle school chumash achievement test
Notice the Middle School Chumash Achievement Test….

Section I: חומש Fluency(English Questions): Read the psukim and answer the questions that follow. Circle ONLY the BEST answer.

בראשית פרק יב

א וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל-אַבְרָם לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָ

ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה

ג וַאֲבָרְכָה מְבָרֲכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה

ד וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו ה' וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ לוֹט וְאַבְרָם בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה בְּצֵאתוֹ מֵחָרָן

ה וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם אֶת-שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-אָחִיו וְאֶת-כָּל-רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכָשׁוּ וְאֶת-הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר-עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן וַיֵּצְאוּ לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן

Hashem is speaking to:

a) Avraham b) Avram c) Lot d) Sarah e) all of the above

What is included in the pasuk’s list of where he must leave?

a) Haran b) Mitzrayim c) His birth place d)His work place e) His mother’s home

According to the pasuk, Hashem tells him he must go to:

a) Haran b) Eretz Yisrael c) Eretz Canaan d) The place Hashem will show him e)None of the above


Section II: חומש Fluency (Ivrit Questions)

Read the psukim and answer the questions that follow. Circle ONLY the BEST answer. Your teacher may NOT translate the questions or answers.

דברים פרק א

טו וָאֶקַּח אֶת-רָאשֵׁי שִׁבְטֵיכֶם, אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וִידֻעִים, וָאֶתֵּן אוֹתָם רָאשִׁים, עֲלֵיכֶם:  שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים וְשָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת, וְשָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹת, וְשֹׁטְרִים, לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם.

מה עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה עִם הָאֲנָשִׁים הַ"חֲכָמִים וִידֻעִים"? 1 )

2)נָתַן לָהֶם אֶת הַכְּהוּנָה

3 )מִנָּה (appointed) אוֹתָם לְשָׂרִים עַל הָעָם

4) שָׁלַח אוֹתָם לַמִּלְחָמָה

5)שָׁלַח אוֹתָם לַחְפֹּר אֶת הָאָרֶץ

Section IV: vocabulary- content

לְתַרְגֵּם לְאַנְגְּלִית אוֹ עִבְרִית קַלָּה….Translate to English or easy Hebrew.


Section V: Vocabulary- Skills

לְתַרְגֵּם לְאַנְגְּלִית אוֹ עִבְרִית קַלָּה……Translate the words to English or easy Hebrew.

אֶל_______ עַל_______ עִם_______ אִם_______ עַל_______


Section VI: Translations

לְתַרְגֵּם לְאַנְגְּלִית אוֹ עִבְרִית קַלָּה.

Translate the verses and Rashi to English or easy Hebrew.

דברים פרק לד

ד וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֵלָיו זֹאת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה הֶרְאִיתִיךָ בְעֵינֶיךָ וְשָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲבֹר

ה וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד- ה' בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב עַל-פִּי ה'.

ו וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בַגַּי בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר וְלֹא-יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת-קְבֻרָתוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.



Section VII: קריאהFluency and Comprehension

You will read ONE of the following sections to a teacher. The teacher will check how clearly and accurately you read. They will then ask you to summarize what you read. They may not help you.

ויקרא פרק א

במדבר פרק יב

test yourself40
Test Yourself

If this test were the ONLY part of our Chumash assessment system what would be missing?

What would we need to add to make this a more complete Chumash assessment system?

the dvar torah notebook
The Dvar Torah Notebook

Students are taken step by step to write a Dvar Torah (mini-sermon).

  • Students identify some verses to discuss.
  • They identify a question or issue in the text.
  • They show how one or more commentator answers.
  • They discuss what this means in their life.
  • The final product is a written and/or oral Dvar Torah.
  • The amount of Hebrew depends on the level of the student.

How do the Dvar Torah notebook and the Chumash Achievement Test COMBINE to become a balanced assessment system?

can your prove it to the parents and students
Can your Prove it to the Parents…and Students???

It is very important that parents and students receive regular, meaningful feedback as to progress.

One of the best ways to do this is by collecting work samples. This is particularly important when using non-standardized assessments. Everything we do, other than the ERB’s or DIEBELS screens, are not standardized and have no national norms.


Consider using portfolios to show progress in various domains over a semester and year.

This is particularly important in Early Childhood classes as we don’t have tests or homework. Yet, a great deal of learning and growth is taking place. We need to PROVE it to our parents!

how does quality assessment raise student achievement
How does quality assessmentraise student achievement?

Answer #1

When you regularly assess, you are able to see if students learned what was taught. You can then- when necessary- review essential skills and knowledge.

This allows the student to achieve more not only in the area you are reviewing, but also in more advanced areas.


For example…

If you discover children don’t know subtraction, reviewing it will raise achievement in both subtraction and in division- as well as in word problems requiring these skills.

If you discover a child cannot correctly read from the Chumash, reviewing reading skills will improve skills in Chumash and later when reading Rashi without vowels.


Answer #2

When assessments require higher level thinking and higher level performance, this raises the bar for our students!

These assessments are more challenging and require deeper thinking. This means that to succeed the students need to achieve at a higher level.

the million dollar question
The Million Dollar Question…

What can we do to make our school’s assessment system even more comprehensive and more authentic (in short---better!)?

  • Dr. Jay McTighe and Dr. Grant Wiggins, Understanding by Design (ASCD)
  • Dr. Grant Wiggins, Assessing Student Performance (Jossey-Bass)
  • Dr. Grant Wiggins, Educative Assessment (Jossey-Bass)