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Retool Assessment and Accountability

Guiding Principles

A good accountability system communicates learning progress.

  • Assessment can improve learning when it is individualized and identifies a child’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Assessment improves learning when it is authentic (based on real world experiences), identifies a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, is integrated with instruction and testing, and provides timely, meaningful feedback.
  • Assessment literacy and the effective use of data from assessments are key professional skills for educators. Assessment results can and should inform instruction, helping teachers to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be taught differently.
  • Assessment should be ongoing and the learning progress should be reported frequently and analyzed by learners and educators over time.
  • Assessment should provide as broad a view of student’s knowledge, skills, and understanding as possible.
  • Accountability in a learning system provides useful, timely, actionable feedback regarding both the individual student’s progress and the system’s ability to achieve its goals of high quality education for all children.
  • Students do not all learn at the same rate and thus should have multiple opportunities and varied measures to demonstrate mastery of standards when they are ready. When students actively participate in their learning by making choices about how they demonstrate mastery of the standards, they are highly engaged and take tremendous pride in their work. Their voice and choice are critical components of a successful mastery system.
  • Good accountability systems are transparent, clear, and tailored to different uses.
  • Mastery of learning objectives and not seat time (i.e., the amount of time spent in class) should be the major criterion for success in school.
  • Children learn at different rates and thus require different amounts of time to achieve the same learning objectives.
  • Significant learning can and does occur outside of school and outside of the school day and year.
  • To meet the needs of and be appropriate for all students and all communities, we will need to develop multiple organizational models for schools. These models include data-driven supports for students.

Key Issue 1

Assessment should be ongoing to provide relevant information about what a student has and has not yet mastered. With this information, a teacher can modify instruction and a student can focus on the appropriate learning targets. However, assessment results have often been reported with a single letter or number grade that does not provide the feedback that will result in improved understanding and ultimately, mastery. Extraneous factors (e.g., attendance, class participation and effort) are often included in grades. Also, classroom formative and summative assessments have traditionally consisted of selected response questions (e.g., multiple choice, true/false, etc.), which usually measure lower-level thinking. Assessment usually occurs at the end of a unit of instruction rather than throughout the instruction. We must now view assessments as a tool that gives students and teachers a deeper and clearer understanding of exactly what a student knows and is able to do at any given time in his or her work toward mastery.


41.  Multiple and varied assessments embedded in curriculum should be used throughout a students’ schooling experience to measure the variety of ways children learn.
42.  Formative assessment should be used for informing learners of their progress on an ongoing basis during the learning process so that they can have the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate their own work and then to manage and adjust their own learning. Formative assessment also provides teachers with the information needed to monitor and adjust their instruction as necessary and desirable.
43.  Performance assessment must be part of a system of assessments to determine a learner’s progress.
44.  State assessment should occur when each learner is ready. Assessments would roll up into an aggregate score, but testing would occur when the student is ready.
45.  Technology-based classroom assessments should be readily available to provide quicker, if not immediate, results for children.

Key Issue 2

Standards-based grading will provide specific information on a learner’s progress toward a number of learning targets that are aligned with established curriculum standards. Teachers will be able to use this information to adjust instruction to respond to a learner’s weakness in learning, and the learners will know where they need to focus their study in order to achieve understanding and mastery. The current grading system does not reflect what a learner knows and is able to do.


46.  There must be an extensive use of appropriate, meaningful formative assessments to gauge student progress toward competencies in all classrooms.

Key Issue 3

Professional learning in developing and interpreting scoring effective assessments should be ongoing.


47.  Assessment should be a major, ongoing focus of teacher professional learning activities with extended time provided for teachers to work together to develop formative and summative assessments, establish consistency in the evaluation of assessments, interpret assessment results and use assessment results to inform instruction.

48.  The state should offer school districts an effective and easy-to-use assessment data system that would provide teachers with timely access to assessment results, assistance in analyzing such data, and opportunity to communicate the meaning of the data to children and parents. Such a data system should establish basic, uniform data elements and should allow districts to enhance the system by adding data elements. School districts should be in an advisory capacity in selecting and implementing such a system.

Key Issue 4

Meaningful learning for all students must be the focus of our assessment and accountability systems. Therefore, assessments should be used to improve, rather than limit, educational opportunities for all students. Large-scale assessments provide information to students, their families, school and district staff, and the state about student performance and school-wide challenges. Typically these assessments are administered for every student at that grade or course level at a predetermined time of the year. In a mastery-based learning system, a student takes a large-scale assessment when he or she is ready, not on a pre-determined time schedule. These criterion-referenced large-scale tests can become more innovative, using advances in assessment technology to address different contexts of the learning. Since more and more districts are using assessment software that provides options for students based on their readiness to master a competency, these programs should also offer students an opportunity to express their voice and choice.


49.  Learners’ and teachers’ work should be focused on the kinds of knowledge and skills that will contribute to student success after graduation and establish college-, career-, and citizenship-ready standards anchored in core academic knowledge and skills that recognize competencies that are critical to success.

50.  Develop a system of assessment that is based on multiple measures, which include robust local assessments that can evaluate deeper learning skills as well as state standardized assessments of student performance to verify the results of local assessments.

51.  An option for interested districts should have state assessments used to validate local assessments and should be given at points in a learner’s schooling that represent critical developmental junctures. Three or four times during a learner’s school experience there will also be locally written measurements to note critical developmental achievements.

52.  State tests should be primarily performance-based tasks to measure acquisition, conceptual understanding, and application.

53.  Accountability is grounded in rigorous assessments that both measure and promote student learning. Accountability can be used as a meaningful feedback loop in which learners, teachers, and family members check progress toward competency targets. At the local level, school staff can use data regularly to make sure all learners are on track. At the state level, policy makers and education officials can support continuous improvement of the local education systems.

54.  In collaboration with stakeholders, the state should develop and adopt a comprehensive statewide accountability system based on clearly established goals for a transformed public education.

55.  Academic accountability on state tests should be based on a variety of indicators that represent a balanced education, including the four core disciplines—language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.

56.  School accountability should be based on longitudinal assessment results of learner cohorts more than on a year-to-year comparison of different cohorts. Accountability should also be based partially on success of students at the next level. Therefore, elementary school accountability should be based partially on student success at the middle school. Middle school accountability should be based partially on student success at the high school. High school accountability should be based partially on student success in college, career and citizenship.

57.  The state accountability system should include rewards for schools based on increases in student performance and reductions in the achievement gap.

58.  School districts should develop and implement an accountability system based on district education goals that are aligned with state education goals and a state accountability system, and that include clearly defined measures of school district, school, and student success.