Understanding Assessment Administration

What Is the Administration of Assessment?

Administration of assessment includes the policies and procedures that govern how standardized assessments are distributed, proctored, and administered. Often, these guidelines are created to increase consistency and safeguard test results.

Sometimes, the administration of assessment has “high stakes”–meaning that decisions about students, teachers, schools, or districts are based on their scores and can result in punishments (sanctions, reduced funding, negative publicity) or accolades (grade promotion, diplomas). This type of assessment is called a high-stakes assessment.


Pre-assessment occurs at the beginning of a lesson, unit or introduction to a new topic. It reveals students’ incoming knowledge, recognizes misconceptions about a subject or topic and is used to inform instruction.

Teachers can administer pre-assessments using a variety of formats. For example, a survey at the start of a year can help identify students learning styles, multiple intelligences and interests. This information can then be used when planning lessons and grouping students for future projects.

A quick pre-assessment can save time in class by providing the teacher with essential data to guide their lesson planning. It can also help the teacher understand the students’ confidence levels in relation to a new subject. This allows the teacher to identify students who may need extra support and to address any concerns or barriers early on. In this way the teacher can ensure all students are positioned for success. This approach is consistent with differentiated instruction as described by Amy Benjamin.

Interim Assessment

Interim assessments help educators paint a portrait of student understanding and identify topics students may be struggling with. They are a type of pre-assessment used for instructional decision making and often administered in place of traditional benchmark assessments.

For example, teachers can use a Smarter Balanced interim that matches the scope and sequence of their teaching to provide data on student progress throughout the year. The NGSS interims are designed to focus on discrete blocks of content aligned to the NGSS performance expectations, and they provide educators with raw scores and percent correct for each item cluster in an assessment.

MAP Growth offers both ELA and math interims that meet the needs of classrooms across a range of learning levels. These assessments are given periodically over a period of time that allows for enough instructional time to measure student growth with confidence, including learners who perform at, above, or below grade level. These reports give educators insight into student achievement patterns and support their growth plans for their students.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is a human-centered process that helps educators and students engage in responsive teaching and learning. It involves ongoing, low- or no-stakes assessments conducted during instruction that help identify misconceptions and gaps in understanding. It is a collaborative learning process and it should be integrated into the classroom curriculum.

Formative assessments can include open-ended discussions, debates, concept maps, or even peer evaluations. The key is to use multiple methods of assessment, as these will allow instructors to get a more accurate picture of student learning levels.

Effective formative assessment requires teachers to have four basic skills: domain knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, understanding of students, and an ability to assess their own teaching. The process also involves matching instruction to the gap between what students are currently learning and the desired learning goal. If the next instructional steps are too hard for students, frustration will result; if they are too easy, boredom or disaffection will set in.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment occurs at the end of an instructional period and evaluates student learning based on what has been taught. It is often associated with final projects, standardized tests or district benchmarks. Teachers use this method of evaluation to determine whether or not students have mastered the content, compare their grades to those of their peers, make course placement decisions, or assess their educational programs.

The challenge of this type of evaluation is to ensure that it is valid, reliable and manageable for both faculty and students. It is important to create a variety of assessments that measure different aspects of learning and engage students with multiple formats and question types. This helps prevent the competition that can develop between students and reduces the stress that comes from a single exam or assignment. Instructors can also improve the manageability of summative assessment by providing feedback without or before grading, as well as by creating rubrics that clearly outline the criteria and expectations for each project.

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