Coaching Teachers to Create Meaningful Assessments

Header - Ceresani - Meaningful Assessments

Crystal Ceresani, elementary/middle school instructional coach in Georgia, covers her step-by-step process to help teachers create and rate timeless assessments. 📝


s coaches, we guide our teachers through many important concepts and processes to ensure student success. One crucial process we need to make sure we are focusing on is creating solid assessments that provide more than just a grade in a gradebook.

Assessments should be created with intention, meaning they should help truly assess standard mastery, plan instruction, and allow the teacher to reflect on the students' learning and their teaching. Here's how you can support your teachers through this process!

Lay the groundwork

The goal here is to have a solid plan before introducing the process to the teachers. As always, you need to start with the why. If teachers do not buy into what you are trying to do as a school, it will not matter how much time, effort, and planning you put into it.

You need to share why you will be creating meaningful assessments, what the benefits will be, and how it will positively impact student learning. As a leadership team, it's also worth thinking about ways to minimize the stress of this process for teachers.

It's essential to plan with the end in mind. This process is more than simply creating an assessment; it has to align with the school's curriculum development process to be meaningful. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • Is your curriculum developed in a way that lends itself to meaningful assessments?
  • How will your teachers use this assessment data?
  • What does student mastery look like? Is it a particular score or something else?
  • Will you require a remediation/acceleration plan after the assessment?
  • Will teachers turn in some form of data analysis following the benchmarks?
  • Will teachers be allowed to make individual changes to the assessment? Or are no changes allowed?

Audit the curriculum with your teachers

During this phase, I guide my teachers through a simple curriculum audit. We start with a brief standards analysis and unit breakdown, then determine the domain weights and rigor of the units. We work together to determine which standards to teach during which term. These should flow in a logical sequence of learning targets, and it's worth bearing in mind that there can be multiple learning targets per standard.

From there, we determine the Power Standards for each term: which standards should be taught more heavily and assessed for mastery. Lastly, we determine the rigor of the standards. When students are learning the standards, which level of thinking should they understand the standards? (It's a common misconception that all standards need to be taught at the highest level!)

Develop and analyze the assessment

Now we're ready to develop the assessments! When creating assessment questions, we want to have a variety of rigor levels, always making sure that the rigor matches the standard. If the rigor does not match the standard, then we won't get an accurate picture of the students' mastery level. I guide teachers to follow the unit breakdown for the current term to determine standards for assessment.

Once we've got a first draft of the assessment, we take some time to analyze and evaluate it. A good place to start is to check the rigor of the questions and of the test overall. Are there enough higher-level questions, or is it mostly level one? A quick tally like the one below can help:

Ceresani - Tally Totals

I'd also recommend using an Assessment Analysis Tool, like the one below, to ensure that all standards from the current quarter are covered and that the rigor of the question matches the level of the standard it should. Be sure that there are enough questions to show mastery of your power standards!

Ceresani - Assessment Audit

Bonus: Check out my bundle of tools that help you set benchmarks with intention and to align to the pacing guide and rigor of the standards

Things to think about as the coach

As you start this process as the coach, there are many questions to think about during the planning phase.

How are you going to guide your teachers through this assessment process? Think about what you want your process to look like. Be sure to include the why to gain the teachers' buy-in.

What will the timeline be for creating these assessments? Consider when the teachers will have ample time to go through this process.

How will you guide teachers through this process? What other PL is needed to help guide teachers? Will you need to have another PL before starting this process? For example, could your teachers use refreshers on DOK levels or writing higher-level questions?

Will teachers be able to complete these sessions before each term? If you have quarterly or end-of-unit assessments throughout the year, how will you complete this process for each assessment? Will you guide teachers through them all or let them complete it as a team after the first one?

What tools will teachers need in order to create strong assessments? What platform will they use (if appropriate)? Plan these things ahead of time to help the flow of the assessment planning process

After the test is ready to give

Once the assessments are designed and ready to go, there are a few questions to think about prior to starting your testing sessions. Will the assessment be given during homeroom time like the EOYT, or will teachers give it in their own classrooms? Do teachers need to be trained on the assessment platform being used? Are there grading weights for questions and domains? Do you have a plan for testing accommodations?

By asking these questions and having a plan ahead of time, it'll help your teachers and school to all be on the same page for testing. It'll help with consistency and make your data more powerful when digging into the assessment data. If all teachers have used the same platform and given the test in the same manner, it’ll make the data more comparable.

Final note

There are a whole host of benefits to creating intentional assessments. Firstly, teachers can use the data provided from assessments to plan whether students can move on, dig deeper in the standards, need remediation, or if the concepts need reteaching altogether.

The data from the assessments also leads to richer data discussions; Data Team Meetings that fully cover standard mastery, what is working, and what needs rethinking. Even better, quality assessments can be reused! Once strong assessments are created, they can be used for years to come—as long as the standards remain the same. They're well worth the time and effort they take to create!

About our Guest Blogger

Mrs. Crystal Ceresani is an elementary/middle school instructional coach in a rural school system in South Georgia. Over the last 4 years, she's researched and supported deeper learning for all students by helping teachers dig into data and its uses, implement new strategies, and promote differentiation as a norm in the classroom. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Middle School Education: Math and Language Arts, a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction: Accomplished Teaching, and Instructional Coach and Leadership certifications.

Crystal aspires to make an impact in education that ultimately benefits student achievement, and she knows the best way to create a change in how students learn is by changing how educators learn. It is her goal to continue to help teachers grow and to share ways to use data in the school and classroom to best know where students are and how to best reach them.

Be sure to check out her blog, connect on Instagram, or reach out via email!

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