National Task Force on Assessment Education Introduces Assessment Literacy Definition for States and Districts Creating New Assessment Systems

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Definition Identifies Traits of an Assessment Literate Person

As states and districts begin to construct new, coherent assessment systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) incorporating multiple measures of student learning, it is crucial that educators at all levels understand how to appropriately select, use, analyze, and communicate about the results of those assessments. In short, educators will need to be assessment literate.

In order for schools to achieve their goal of closing persistent achievement gaps, thus ensuring success of all students, every school needs teachers who can interpret assessment results and take action based on accurate data. Despite the need for teachers who are assessment literate, few colleges of education or K-12 school districts provide adequate hands-on training on the use of assessments in teaching.

The National Task Force on Assessment Education, convened and supported by the not-for-profit assessment developer NWEA, has embarked on a multi-year effort to address critical gaps in teacher preparation to use assessment effectively. Among the first deliverables of the Task Force is a foundational definition of Assessment Literacy. It can be used to guide development of systems that use assessments appropriately and equitably to support teaching and learning.

The definition states:

“Assessment is the process of gathering information about student learning to inform education-related decisions. One becomes Assessment Literate by mastering basic principles of sound assessment practice, coming to believe strongly in their consistent, high-quality application in order to meet the diverse needs of all students, and acting assertively based on those values.”

Further, the definition identifies traits of an assessment literate person. He or she:

  •     Understands the purpose of the assessment and how the results will be used
  •     Uses the learning targets to dictate the appropriate assessments
  •     Recognizes that valid results only come from quality assessments
  •     Communicates clearly about assessment results to parents, students, and others
  •     Creates an assessment process that motivates students and supports learning

"Those who face the challenges of developing and implementing state, local or classroom assessment systems are far better prepared to succeed if they bring to the task a foundation of understanding of the basic principles of sound assessment practice; that is, if they are assessment literate,” said Rick Stiggins, advisor to the Task Force and retired founder and CEO of the Assessment Training Institute. “Our Task Force has defined this to mean that they always are clear about why and what they will assess, how to assess it well, how to share results effectively, and how to use assessment to support and promote student learning success."

The National Task Force is building tools and programs to prepare teachers to use assessment and better connect pre-service and in-service teachers for mutual learning. Members include pre‐service and in‐service educators, assessment experts, and thought leaders. Starting this winter, the group will start publishing a series of reports and guidance documents for states and schools of education in support of assessment education in their states.

The Task Force is part the Assessment Literacy initiative from not-for-profit education services provider NWEA. The initiative includes the website, a destination for resources to foster understanding of the role of assessment in learning.

“If assessments are to have true value in the teaching and learning process, educators need preparation and support to use them most effectively,” noted Matt Chapman, CEO of NWEA. “We appreciate the work of the Task Force in advancing this mission. Helping educators use assessment as a positive teaching and learning tool is a central component of NWEA’s national agenda and our mission of partnering to help all kids learn.”

About NWEA
NWEA, which pioneered both growth and computer adaptive assessments, was started nearly 40 years ago by educators and researchers to build a new kind of testing system. Today it is a global not-for-profit educational services organization. More than 8,500 schools, districts, education agencies in the U.S. and around the world trust us to offer PreK-12 assessments that accurately measure student growth and mastery and inform instruction; professional development that fosters educators' ability to accelerate student learning; and research that supports assessment validity and data interpretation. Educators currently use NWEA assessments with over nine million students. Learn more at


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Jessica Schwartz Hahn
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