A Message from the Superintendent 
 
It is hard to envision a learning environment without some type of feedback that measures students’ proficiency or knowledge and assures us that successful teaching and learning are taking place.
 
The process that gathers the essential information needed to monitor a student’s progress or growth is referred to as an “assessment.”
 
As an educator, I believe the best assessment practices include a variety of measures—some formal and some informal—and tests represent one of the measurement tools available. It is important to use a balanced approach to assessments to monitor or measure student growth, enhance teaching effectiveness, and improve curriculums.
 
Today’s students not only need to know basic reading and arithmetic skills, but they must also possess the skills necessary to compete in a world that is continually changing. They must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences.  
 
Changes in the skills base and knowledge that our students need require us to develop new learning goals. These new learning goals change the relationship between assessment and instruction.
 
Assessment is an integral part of instruction, as it determines whether the goals of education are being met. Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and, in some cases, funding.
 
Assessments also prompt us to ask difficult questions. For example, “Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?” “Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?” “Is there a different way to teach the subject that promotes better learning for our students?”
 
Assessments are today’s means for our teachers to understand how to adjust tomorrow’s instruction. When assessments and instruction are interwoven, both students and teachers benefit. Following are some definitions that you may find useful.
 
Ongoing Assessment describes a diagnostic continuum that includes pre-assessment; formative assessment; and summative assessment.
 
Pre-Assessments are any method, strategy, or process used to determine a student’s current level of readiness in order to plan for the delivery of appropriate instruction. They tell us what a student already knows and understands about the standards, objectives, concepts, and skills and what further instruction is needed to master these things. Pre-assessments also give our teachers information on how to set up flexible groups for small group instruction.
   Examples of pre-assessments include pre-tests, checklists, POE (Predict, Observe, Explain) exercises, self-evaluation, and questioning.
 
Formative Assessments represent both formal and informal checks that allow teachers to make instructional decisions. By gauging student understanding as learning is happening, teachers are able to make instructional adjustments that allow students to build on previous learning experiences. This approach provides both teachers and students with regular feedback. Formative assessments are embedded into the curriculum and provide evidence of student learning as it is happening.
   Examples of formative assessments include quizzes, portfolio checks, questioning, hand signals, journal entries, conferences, and exit cards.
 
Summative Assessments are used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year.
    Examples of summative assessments include mid-term and final exams, or a final project.
 
Assessments are about guiding student learning—not judging them. They are about informing instruction—not filling a grade book. They include the before, during, and after—not just the after. Finally, assessments are about what our students learned—not about what was taught.
 
Sincerely,
Bruce Watson, Superintendent
bwatson@onteora.k12.ny.us
845-657-6383 ext 1010 
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