The only way for teachers and schools to identify which students can demonstrate proficiency on state content standards is to continuously assess and monitor students as part of their classroom instruction. Teachers must know on a day to day basis where their students are in relation to the content standards to have the necessary information to inform instruction. Schools have to identify the student achievement data they need to collect to determine if they are making progress toward the attainment of their priority goals.
Both research and common sense support the notion that we need to monitor student performance on an ongoing basis. If we are ever to know how we are doing, we will need to know where our students are. But that is exactly what we don't know. Try asking school staff where each of their students is on the reading comprehension indicator "drawing inferences." Which students are proficient? What evidence do they have that those students are proficient? What data do they have to identify what students who are not proficient still need to learn? Educators who don't know where their students are do not have enough information to know how best to use their instructional time or which students need specific instructional interventions.
Annual data from the state assessments only gives schools a snapshot of where students are at a single point in time. Daily instruction continues between when the tests are given and when the results are returned to schools. The results are dated, and provide only a snapshot of where students were when they took the test. Teachers must know on a day to day basis where their students are in relation to the content standards to have the necessary information to inform instruction.
In a 1998 Phi Delta Kappan article entitled, "Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment," authors Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam summarize their review of the research that would help answer the question, “Would improved formative classroom assessments yield higher student achievement as reflected in summative assessments?” They assert, "There is a body of firm evidence that formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work and that its development can raise standards of achievement. We know of no other way of raising standards for which such a strong prima facie case can be made."
Rick Stiggins in his article, "Assessment Crisis: The Absence Of Assessment FOR Learning," says that "Assessment for learning is about far more than testing more frequently or providing teachers with evidence so that they can revise instruction, although these steps are part of it. In addition, we now understand that assessment for learning must involve students in the process."
"When they assess for learning, teachers use the classroom assessment process and the continuous flow of information about student achievement that it provides in order to advance, not merely check on, student learning. They do this by:
"In short, the effect of assessment for learning, as it plays out in the classroom, is that students keep learning and remain confident that they can continue to learn at productive levels if they keep trying to learn. In other words, students don't give up in frustration or hopelessness."