The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 produced an explosion of interest in the use of assessment to measure and improve student learning. Educators learned that results from annual state tests—summative assessments—came too little and too late to support student learning. Evidence from the other end of the assessment spectrum—classroom level assessments—was clear. Teachers’ on-going use of assessment to guide and inform instruction—formative assessment–effectively supports student learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998, 2001, 2004). Benchmark assessment, located between the two ends of the assessment spectrum, is another type of assessment. It provides school administrators and teachers with important information about student learning relative to short- and long-term learning goals.
Benchmark assessments are common assessments given periodically throughout the school year, at specified times during a curriculum sequence. The assessments evaluate students’ knowledge and skills relative to an explicit set of longer-term learning goals. The design and choice of benchmark assessments is driven by the purpose, intended users, and uses of the instruments. Benchmark assessment can inform policy, instructional planning, and decision-making at the classroom, school, and district levels.
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