How Can Assessment Help Learning?

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Standardized testing did not bother me too much when I was growing up. It was just something that everyone had to do, and we did it once a year. I actually enjoyed getting my results at the end, because I cared about how I performed on the test even though the tests were hard and stressful. Nowadays, I see so much more testing. Elementary students at my school have benchmarks and district progress monitoring tests frequently. They are long and tough. Especially for my deaf education students. They are in no way modified and the only accommodation that they get is a sign language interpreter signing only the questions and answers, not the text, and extended time. This frustrates me to no end, because many of these students also have learning dis/abilities and can not read on grade level. How are students who read on a Kindergarten/1st grade level supposed to understand and read a 3rd grade level test?

Another situation- I have a new student who just arrived to America in late December and has only been in school since February. He is twelve years old, profoundly deaf, and had no language prior to his arrival at our school other than knowing the alphabet and how to spell his name. He was enrolled as a 5th grader to give him some time to adjust to being in school and to learn some language before being placed in 6th grade, despite his age. Guess what? He was/is required to take three STAAR tests this month and next month. THREE! He had to test for 5th grade Math, Science, and Reading. He knows maybe 200 words currently. Can you imagine him sitting there for four hours, attempting to read a long and difficult test when he has absolutely no idea why he has to take it and what is on it. Needless to say, my heart broke for him.

With that said,  I believe that assessments can help with learning. I think that students need it in order to gauge their understanding of content, and to hold teachers accountable for teaching.  However, assessments should not be the only form of determining whether a student is learning or not. All students are different and many struggle with taking high stakes tests as they are under pressure and are not good test takers. Children with dis/abilities should have modified tests and it is not fair to assess those students in the same way that general education students with no dis/abilities are. Standardized assessment should be combined with practice based learning.

“Alfie Kohn is a fierce critic of not only standardized testing, but also grades and homework. Kohn believes that learning comes from instrinsic motivation — or the internal desire to learn. He also believes that extrinsic motivation from external rewards actually distorts learning”, (Krutka, 2015).  Extrinsic motivation could be prizes or rewards from teachers. As a teacher for Life Skills/Resources Deaf Education at the elementary level, I will say that extrinsic motivation goes a long way. Deaf children are highly visual and when they see the rewards they are so much more motivated. Especially because many of them are often frustrated and struggle with classwork and don’t have that confidence that they are doing good enough. These prizes mean so much to them and they enjoy reaping the benefits of such rewards. I have one student who will only work for goldfish. Daily. I have another student who has trouble completing homework at home, but if given a sticker for each assignment completed, she is excited because that means she is that much closer to earning her weekly prize.

High Leverage Practice #15 – Checking student understanding during and at the conclusion of lessons is super important. When students’ understanding is checked regularly, they are less likely to fall behind and get frustrated. It is good to check their understanding as they go through each lesson because if they do not understand the current lesson, they may not understand the next one.


Krutka, D. (2015). Week 11: Assessment. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from





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