Journey to Excellence

Glossary of Assessment Terminology

The demand by a community (public officials, employers, and taxpayers) for school officials to prove that money invested in education has led to measurable learning. ďAccountability testingĒ is an attempt to sample what students have learned, or how well teachers have taught, and/or the effectiveness of a schools principalís performance as an instructional leader. School budgets and personnel promotions, compensation, and awards may be affected. Most school districts make this kind of assessment public; it can affect policy and public perception of the effectiveness of taxpayer-supported schools and be the basis for comparison among schools.

Accountability is often viewed as an important factor in educational reform. An assessment system connected to accountability can help identify the needs of schools so the resources can be equitably distributed. In this context, accountability assessment can include such indicators as equity, competency of teaching staff, physical infrastructure, curriculum, class size, instructional methods, and existence of tracking, number of higher cost students, dropout rates, and parental involvement as well as student test scores. It has been suggested that test scores analyzed in a disaggregated format can help identify instructional problems and point to potential solutions.
Alternative Assessment
Many educators prefer the description ďassessment alternativesĒ to describe alternatives to traditional, standardized, norm- or criterion-referenced traditional paper and pencil testing. An alternative assessment might require students to answer an open-ended question, work out a solution to a problem, perform a demonstration of a skill, or in some way produce work rather than select an answer from choices on a sheet of paper. Portfolios and instructor observation of students are also alternative forms of assessment.
Analytic Scoring
A type of rubric scoring that separates the whole into categories of criteria that are examined one at a time. Student writing, for example, might be scored on the basis of grammar, organization, and clarity of ideas. As a diagnostic tool, an analytic scale is useful when there are several dimensions on which the piece of work will be evaluated. (See Rubric.)
Assessment Task
An illustrative task or performance opportunity that closely targets defined instructional aims, allowing students to demonstrate their progress and capabilities.
Authentic Assessment

Evaluation by asking for the behavior the learning is intended to produce. The concept of model, practice, feedback in which students know what excellent performance is and are guided to practice an entire concept rather then bits and pieces in preparation for eventual understanding. A variety of techniques can be employed in authentic assessment.

The goal of j2e authentic assessment is to gather evidence that students can use knowledge effectively and be able to critique their own efforts. Authentic tests can be viewed as ďassessments of enablement,Ē in William Glasserís words, ideally mirroring and measuring.

Both qualitative descriptions of pupil behavior plus value judgments concerning the desirability of that behavior. Using collected information (assessments) to make informed decisions about continued instruction, programs, and activities.
Formative Assessment
Observations which allow one to determine the degree to which students know or are able to do a given learning task, and which identifies the part of the task that the student does not know or is unable to do. Outcomes suggest future steps for teaching and learning. (See Summative Assessment.)
High Stakes
Any testing program whose results have important consequences for students, teachers, schools, and/or districts. Such stakes may include promotion, certification, graduation, or denial/approval of services and opportunity. High stakes testing can corrupt the evaluation process when pressure to produce rising test scores results in ďteaching to the testĒ or making tests less complex.
Holistic Method
In assessment, assigning a single score based on an overall assessment of performance rather than by scoring or analyzing dimensions individually. The product is considered to be more than the sum of its parts and so the quality of a final product or performance is evaluated rather than the process or dimension of performance. A holistic scoring rubric might combine a number of elements on a single scale. Focused holistic scoring may be used to evaluate a limited portion of a learnerís performance.
The knowledge of oneís own thinking processes and strategies, and the ability to consciously reflect and act on the knowledge of cognition to modify those processes and strategies.
Multi-Dimensional Assessment
Assessment that gathers information about a broad spectrum of abilities and skills (as in Howard Gardnerís theory of Multiple Intelligences).
An operationally defined educational goal, usually a culminating activity, product, or performance that can be measured.
Performance-Based Assessment
Direct, systematic observation and rating of student performance of an educational objective, often an ongoing observation over a period of time and typically involving the creation of products. The assessment may be a continuing interaction between teacher and student and should ideally be a part of the learning process. The assessment should be a real-world performance with relevance to the student and learning community. Assessment of the performance is done using a rubric, or analytic scoring guide to aid in objectivity. Performance-based assessment is a test of the ability to apply knowledge in a real-life setting. Performance of exemplary tasks is the demonstration of intellectual ability.
Performance Criteria
The standard by which student performance is evaluated. Performance criteria help assessors maintain objectivity and provide students with important information about expectations, giving them a target or goal to strive for.
A systematic and organized collection of a studentís work that exhibits to others the direct. evidence of a studentís efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. The collection should involve the student in selection of its contents, and should include information about the performance criteria, the rubric or criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection or evaluation. It should include representative work, providing a documentation of the learnerís performance and a basis for evaluation of the studentís progress. Portfolios may include a variety of demonstrations of learning and have been gathered in the form of a physical collection of materials, videos, CD-ROMS, reflective journals, etc.
Portfolio Assessment
Portfolios may be assessed in a variety of ways. Each piece may be individually scored, or the portfolio might be assessed merely for the presence of required pieces, or a holistic scoring process might be used and an evaluation made on the basis of an overall impression of the studentís collected work. It is common that assessors work together to establish consensus of standards or to ensure greater reliability in evaluation of student work. Established criteria are often used by reviewers and students involved in the process of evaluating progress and achievement of objectives.
A method of doing something, generally involving steps or operations which are usually ordered and/or interdependent. Process can be evaluated as part of an assessment, as in the example of evaluating studentís performance during pre-writing exercises leading up to the final production of an essay or paper.
The tangible and stable result of a performance or task. An assessment is made of student performance-based on evaluation of the product of a demonstration of learning.
A complex assignment involving more than one type of activity and production. Projects can take a variety of forms. Some examples are a mural construction, a shared service project, or other collaborative or individual effort.
Rating Scale
A scale based on descriptive words or phrases that indicate performance levels. Qualities of a performance are described (e.g., advanced, intermediate, novice) in order to designate a level of achievement. The scale may be used with rubrics or descriptions of each level of performance.
Some of the definitions of rubric are contradictory. In general, a rubric is a scoring guide used in subjective assessments. A rubric implies that a rule defining the criteria of an assessment system is followed in evaluation. A rubric can be an explicit description of performance characteristics corresponding to a point on a rating scale. A scoring rubric makes explicit expected qualities of performance on a rating scale or the definition of a single point on a scale.
Scoring Criteria
Rules for assigning a score or the dimensions of proficiency in performance used to describe a studentís response to a task. May include rating scales, checklists, answer keys, and other scoring tools in a subjective assessment situation, a rubric.
Scoring Guide
A package of guidelines intended for people scoring performance. May include instructions for rating, rating scales, and samples of student work illustrating performance levels.
A process in which a student engages in a systematic review of a performance, usually for the purpose of improvement. May involve comparison with standard, established criteria, critiquing oneís own work, or a description of the performance. Reflection, self-evaluation, and metacognition are related terms.
Senior Project
Extensive projects planned and carried out during the senior year of high school as the culmination of the secondary school experience. Senior projects require higher-level thinking skills, problem-solving, and creative thinking. They are often interdisciplinary and may require extensive re-search. Projects culminate in a presentation of the project to a panel of people, usually faculty and community mentors, sometimes students, who evaluate the studentís work at the end of the year.
Summative Assessment
Evaluation at the conclusion of a unit or units of instruction or an activity or plan to determine or judge student skills and knowledge or effectiveness of a plan or activity. Outcomes are the culmination of a teaching/learning process for a unit, subject, or yearís study. (See Formative Assessment.)

Taken from several sources including:

  • Assessment: How Do We Know What They Know? ASCD.
  • Dickinson, Dee. Dissolving the Boundaries: Assessment that Enhances Learning.
  • Performance-Based Assessment. The ERIC Review. Winter, 1994.
  • SCASS Arts and Assessment Project Glossary of Assessment Terms.
  • Wiggins, Grant. Glossary of Useful Terms Related to Authentic and Performance Assessments.
  • A True Test: Toward a More Authentic and Equitable Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 5/89. 703-713.
  • Wolf, Dennis Palmer. Assessment as an Episode of Learning.
  • Working Definitions for Assessment Technology.

Assessment References

  • Adler, Mortimer J. The Paideia Program. New York: MacMillan, 1984.
  • Adler, Mortimer J. The Paideia Proposal. New York: MacMillan, 1982.
  • Burke, Jim. The English Teacherís Companion: A Complete Guide to Classroom, Curriculum, and the Profession. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999.
  • Burke, Kay, Robin Fogarty, and Susan Belgrad. The Mindful School: The Portfolio Connection. The Mindful School. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight, 1994. (
  • Burke, Kay. How to Assess Authentic Learning. 3rd ed. The Mindful School. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight, 1999.
  • Burz, Helen L., and Kit Marshall. Performance-Based Curriculum for Language Arts: From Knowing to Showing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 1997. Chase, Clinton I. Contemporary Assessment for Educators. New York: Longman, 1999.
  • Costa, Arthur L., and Bena Kallick, eds. Assessment in the Learning Organization: Shifting the Paradigm. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), 1998.
  • Educators in Connecticutís Pomperaug Regional School District 15. Performance-Based Learning and Assessment. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1996.
  • Freed, Shirley. Active Teaching and Learning. 1996. Glatthorn, Allan A. Performance Assessment and Standards-Based Curricula: The Achievement Cycle. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 1998.
  • Herman, Joan L., Pamela Aschbacher, and Lynn Winters. A Practical Guide to Alternative Assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1992.
  • Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment K-12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1997.
  • Johnson, Bill. The Performance Assessment Handbook: Portfolios and Socratic Seminars Volume 2. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 1999.
  • Johnson, Bill. Performance Assessment Handbook: Performances and Exhibitions Volume 2. Princeton, NJ: Eye on Education, 1996.
  • Marzano, Robert J., et al. Assessing Student Outcomes: Performance Assessment Using the Dimensions of Learning Model. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1993.
  • Marzano, Robert, and John S. Kendall. A Comprehensive Guide to Designing Standards-Based Districts, Schools, and Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, and Aurora, CO: Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, 1996.
  • Marzano, Robert, and John S. Kendall. Designing Standard-Based Districts, Schools, and Classrooms. Aurora, CO: Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, 1996.
  • Marzano, Robert J. A Different Kind of Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1992.
  • McConnell, G. Robert, and Rosemarie Giroux. Passage 3: Teachers Resource. Don Mills, Ontario: Addison Wesley, 1992.
  • McDonald, Joseph, et al. Graduation by Exhibition: Assessing Genuine Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1993.
  • Mitchell, Ruth. Testing for Learning: How New Approaches to Evaluation Can Improve American Schools. New York: Free, 1992.
  • Newmann, F., W. Secada, and G. Wehlage. A Guide to Authentic Instruction and Assessment. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin, 1995.
  • OíConnor, Ken. How to Grade for Learning. The Mindful School. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight, 1999. Email: (
  • Perlaman, C. The Chicago Public Schools Performance Assessment Idea Book. Chicago: Chicago Public Schools, 1994.
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