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Benchmark Assessment: Promise or Peril?. Robert L. Linn. CRESST, University of Colorado at Boulder Paper presented at a symposium with the same title at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, April 10, 2007. Benchmark Assessments.

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Benchmark Assessment:

Promise or Peril?

Robert L. Linn

CRESST, University of Colorado at Boulder

Paper presented at a symposium with the same title at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, April 10, 2007

benchmark assessments
Benchmark Assessments
  • Widely used by school districts
  • 70% of superintendents surveyed in 2005 reported using and another 10% planned to introduce in 2005-06 (Olson, 2005)
  • Recent phenomenon
  • Heavily marketed by test publishers
some questions
Some Questions
  • What is a benchmark assessment?
  • Why are they so popular?
  • What, if any, educational value do they have?
  • What variations would enhance their educational value?
what is a benchmark assessment
What Is a Benchmark Assessment?
  • No widely accepted definition
  • Typically patterned after end-of-year, statewide assessments
  • Selected by districts to administer 2 or 3 times during the school year
  • Typically about an hour to administer
  • Advertised as formative or diagnostic
formative vs benchmark assessments
Formative vs. Benchmark Assessments
  • Formative claim for benchmark assessments capitalizes on Black & Wiliam demonstration of effectiveness of formative assessment
  • CCSSO Definition: “Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of defined instructional outcomes”
formative assessment
Formative Assessment
  • A process - not simply a test
  • Timing under control of teacher not the district
  • Includes feedback and the identification of strategies for learning
why are benchmark assessments so popular
Why Are Benchmark Assessments so Popular?
  • NCLB accountability provisions
  • Benchmark assessments provide early warning by identifying “bubble” students that are at risk of scoring below proficient on the state assessment
  • Identifying a student who is at risk of falling below the proficient is not the same as providing diagnostic information that suggests strategies for improving learning
what is the educational value of benchmark assessments
What is the Educational Value of Benchmark Assessments?
  • Do a good job of predicting performance on state assessment
  • Early warning useful
  • Potential downside: focus on “bubble” students at expense of students predicted to score far below or far above proficient cut on state assessment
what variations of interim assessments would enhance their educational value
What Variations of Interim Assessments Would Enhance Their Educational Value?
  • Powersource middle school mathematics example
  • Focus on “Big Ideas”, e.g.,
    • Distributive property: a(b + c) = ab + ac
    • Multiplicative identity: 125 x 1 = 125
    • Rational number equivalence (b/a)x(a/a) = b/a
  • Assessments tied to professional development and materials to support learning of big ideas
  • Benchmark assessment not equal formative assessment
  • Popularity due to NCLB
  • Can provide good prediction of state assessment results – identify students at risk of scoring below proficient
  • Formative assessments focusing on big ideas have promise