So You Want To Build An Assessment System? (Part 2)

Two elementary students taking a written test inside a classroom

In the first part of my three-part series, I talked about how a district in my region came to understand the need for a more rigorous assessment system. In this second installment, I plan to examine how this school district evaluated its existing assessment system. When the district administrators set out, they made it a priority to examine all assessments, not just the ones used for struggling learners. The first step they undertook was to take an inventory of all the assessment tools across the district. The results were alarming, and confirmed the importance of the work they were about to undertake.

The assessment inventory was given to all teachers prior to the end of the school year. They were asked to provide the following:

  • The names of the assessment tools they were using
  • Whom it is that administers the tool(s)
  • The literacy construct that they assess
  • The function of the tool(s)
  • The training that has been provided with regards to the tool(s)

From results, they created a district inventory that reflected which assessments were given at each school. In addition, the inventory revealed an unintended source of information. In particular, the items that inquired about the literacy construct and the function of the tool revealed that there wasn’t common knowledge or agreement about either. This caused concern because it appeared that people didn’t know why they used certain tools or what they used them for. What originally started as an issue with struggling learners had now grown into a more systemic question about their entire assessment system.

With the results of the assessment inventory in hand, district leaders began to plan how they would review their assessment system. It seemed prudent to involve stakeholders across the district and job roles. A district-wide assessment team was formed that included classroom teachers from each grade-level, special education teachers, principals, school psychologists, ESL teachers, assistant superintendents, reading specialists, and curriculum coordinators. The group began meeting in October and met monthly for two hours each session. Their mission was to review the district’s formative and summative assessments and structures as part of the Response to Intervention (RtI) framework to ensure a comprehensive diagnostic assessment system as well as instructional guidance for Tier 1 (core instruction), Tier 2 and Tier 3. The group looked at RtI by asking the questions: What? When? Who? By Whom? How often? and Why? And then developed recommendations.

The initial meeting was used to communicate the goals and mission statement and provide basic knowledge of Response to Intervention (RtI) and assessment types. Literature from the professional RtI and reading communities was used in subsequent meetings to help organize conversations and inform decisions. A systematic approach was taken to evaluate the literature about each of the three tiers of RtI instruction/intervention and the district’s assessment audit was used in conjunction to determine if those in place were in-line with best practice. A substantial amount of the meeting time was spent on diagnostic assessments at Tiers 2 and 3. This was the area that had the most inconsistencies on the assessment audit and was targeted as the district’s greatest weakness. Redundancies and gaps on the audit were targeted by members of the team through piloting assessments with students. The results of these efforts were shared with the entire team in an effort to put forth recommendations to district leaders.

In the final part of this three part series, the fulfillment of the balanced assessment plan will be discussed. Discover how everyone was trained on the new plan, and what this new balanced system has created for teachers and students.


If you are interested in exploring further to see what Pearson is doing regarding assessments, here are links to different webpages:

Full report about balanced assessments

Portal to access free assessment resources

Balanced assessments infographic

When is it best to assess infographic



About the Author
Scott Piotrowski

Scott Piotrowski

Scott Piotrowski has over ten years of experience in education. He has been a Certified Aimsweb Trainer (CAT) since 2007 and conducts trainings in both the

United States and Canada. In addition, he has worked as a School Psychologist and currently is a district-level Response to Intervention (RtI) and federal grants coordinator. He has been an aimsweb district and school manager in the districts he has been employed in.

Scott received his Master’s degree (MA) in School Psychology at Northern Illinois University and his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia.

Scott brings with him actual applied experience in Rti and aimsweb, having lead their implementations in his own districts. In addition, he has consulted with numerous other districts across the country, on their own implementations.