One of the most frequent email questions I get is – “What is your favorite assessment?” It’s a tricky question to answer because the needs of our students are so broad. It’s like asking me to pick my favorite pair of shoes. I would have a lot of follow up questions. Where am I going? What season is it? Is it dressy? I don’t want to be picking my favorite pair of Tory Burch sandals for a blustery Chicago day in January. Assessments are all about the students. You need to figure out not only what assessments your students can appropriately participate in but also why/how that assessment will be helpful to you in their curricular planning.

This month we’ve talked about my love of the ABLLS and my favorite ways to conduct informal assessments. But I have some more assessment advice that you may not have anticipated. Try to use your school’s assessments whenever possible. Yes, they may not be perfect. They also may not be completely applicable or appropriate. But for some students and some assessments, I think this is a good route to take.

You have a basis for comparison.

Even if it is comparing apples and oranges, it is still helpful to have some frame of reference of where your students compare to the rest of their grade level peers. Often times these assessments may identify areas we hadn’t thought to work on or shown us areas of strengths that we hadn’t fully identified. The comparison will help you identify what areas of your instruction you need to put into high gear.

It gives you a closer link to the rest of the school community.

This will probably surprise you as well but you need to go to grade level meetings. Go to all the meetings. Every meeting you can. Even if it doesn’t totally apply to your class – go. I used (okay I still do…) hate going to any meetings. Especially meetings that literally had nothing to do with my classroom. I was bored out of my mind at grade level meetings. I would sit there completely irritated thinking of all of the other things I could be doing as the other teachers discussed standardized assessment results that my students didn’t take. But guess what happened once I stopped going to those meetings? Me (and my class) got left out. We got left out of the Christmas concert, the junior high field trip, and student council elections. Why? Because I wasn’t at grade level meetings. So grab yourself a big ole’ coffee from the teachers lounge and suck it up and go those meetings. Make sure nobody forgets about your class. If your students are taking some of the assessments that are often discussed at these types of meetings – it suddenly won’t be so boring any more. You now have a connection and commonality between your class and the rest of the school.

It makes inclusion easier.

Just how the grade level meeting is the secret key to your class being part of the school community, partaking in some of the school’s assessments is the link to better inclusion opportunities for your students. Often times the biggest obstacle in inclusion is lack of awareness and knowledge. Those amazing teachers down the hallway aren’t jumping for joy at the idea of more inclusion opportunities because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what amazing things your student can do. They don’t know how they should differentiate their instruction. People get nervous about things they don’t know. If your students are taking similar assessments, it will break down some of those barriers because those teachers now have a frame of reference. “Ohhh he is a level G on the Founts and Pinnell Reading Assessment? So is Tara in my class. Maybe they can work together.” Ahhhh perfection. Don’t get annoyed at the lack of openness – take it as an opportunity for a little teaching 😉

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