work), regular self-reflection and peer assessment, assessment conversations, journals, projects, class discussions, performances, well-planned quizzes and tests—any combination of these assessment activities—can support improved science learning. In many classrooms, teachers are engaged in powerful teaching practices where assessment and learning work in concert toward creating a meaningful learning environment that benefits all students. However, another message that comes across in DarlingHammond's case-study work is that many other teachers face school, district, or state policies that thwart attempts to move toward the vision of assessment and learning set forth in the Standards. Therefore, ensuring that assessment supports student learning requires support throughout the entire educational system. The system level is the topic of Chapter 6.


A major impetus behind the standards movement is the expectation that all students are to achieve the high standards. To reach that goal, greater attention to classroom assessment that supports learning becomes particularly compelling, and teachers and researchers need to focus attention on how classroom assessment can be used as a means to this end. Assessment tools that calculate solely how well student achievement measures up to the standards, however reliable, will not suffice. Table 2-1 outlines the changes that are relevant to formative assessment as stated in the Standards (p. 100). Assessment also must serve as a vehicle for improving the quality of learning for every student. There is a clear and indivisible connection among assessment, curriculum, and teaching. Although the availability and intelligent use of curriculum and materials is essential, as Darling-Hammond (1994) suggests, “[e]fforts to raise standards of learning and performance must rest in part on strategies to transform assessment” (p. 6).

TABLE 2-1 Changing Emphases of Assessment

Less Emphasis On

More Emphasis On

Assessing what is easily measured

Assessing what is most highly valued

Assessing discrete knowledge

Assessing rich, well-structured knowledge

Assessing scientific knowledge

Assessing scientific understanding and reasoning

Assessing to learn what students do not know

Assessing to learn what students understand

End-of-term assessments by teachers

Students engaged in ongoing assessment of their work and that of others

Development of external assessments by measurement experts alone

Teachers involved in the development of external assessments

SOURCE: NRC. (1996).

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