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Assessment is central to the success of the educational system, but assessment and accountability are complex processes and can lead to unintended negative consequences if not well-planned and understood. In addition, understanding assessment and accountability means understanding how they are different at the different levels of schooling. (For example, classroom assessment processes need to be designed to align with teachers’ key instructional goals and not just mimic the format of state tests.) To help educators and the public understand the current issues and possible solutions to problems in assessment, this topic area is dividing into four subtopics as described below.

1) At the classroom level, you will find definitions for what it means for a teacher to be “assessment literate,” an introduction to a formative classroom assessment cycle, principles defining a quality classroom assessment system, and resources to help teachers develop their skills in assessment. SERVE has supported teachers’ needs in improving classroom assessment since 1990 and has a variety of resources to offer.

2) At the school level, SERVE has worked at the high school level on the idea of a graduation exhibition as a way of raising standards. The program that has been implemented in over 100 high schools in the Southeast is called Senior Project. At the other end of the continuum, SERVE has worked with elementary schools on issues of readiness assessment. At the upper elementary and middle school level, SERVE has developed a professional development program (and other resources) to help teachers become better assessors of reading so that they may differentiate instruction. This resource is called the Competent Assessment of Reading Professional Development program and is intended for use by literacy coaches as they work with teachers to improve their assessment skills.

3) At the state level, to help educators, parents, and community members wade through the complexities of state-level accountability systems, SERVE staff offers information and links on interpreting state test score results. Furthermore, in response to state departments’ needs, SERVE has conducted a number of studies on various topics related to state standards and assessment. Recently, a national study on early childhood standards and assessment has been completed. Another recent report describes educators’ responses to various state test score reporting strategies. See Products and Publications to download these reports.

4) Finally, one aspect of accountability that often gets overlooked in all the attention on Adequate Yearly Progress (state test scores as the central indicator of school effectiveness) is that of accountability for the quality of the instructional program itself. For over five years, SERVE has worked with a consortium of districts on improving the quality of assignments, assessments, and units as an approach to holding districts more accountable for the overall quality of learning opportunities provided to students. In Accountability for Instructional Quality, you will find a wealth of tools, resources, articles, information, and contact information emerging from the work of these districts.