Defining, Measuring & Interpreting Educational Achievement

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will dig deeper into academic achievement. By the end of the lesson, you should be able to define achievement and understand how it is measured, as well as how to interpret achievement test scores.

What is Achievement?

As a teacher, you take on the responsibility of educating each one of your students towards mastery of a set of standards and objectives that has been outlined by your state department of education. The degree to which each student is able to meet or exceed the required minimum content standards is the student's achievement. Let's find out more about how to measure academic achievement and interpret results.

Measuring Achievement

How do teachers know if students are meeting their learning goals? Achievement tests measure acquired knowledge or skills. Achievement tests may be diagnostic, formative, or summative.

Diagnostic assessments are pretests given prior to a learning segment to determine what students already know. Diagnostic assessments bring focus to lesson planning by providing guidelines for meeting the students' needs based on where they are.

Formative assessments are informal ways that teachers monitor students throughout a learning experience to make sure students are making the necessary gains. Frequent monitoring and quality feedback from formative assessments are shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement.

Summative achievement assessments are used to determine what students know at the end of a learning experience. The learning experience may take place over any specified unit of time during which a set of learning objectives should have been mastered. Informal achievement tests are used by classroom teachers to evaluate students and assign grades. End-of-unit tests and weekly teacher-created tests are examples of informal summative assessments. Formal achievement tests are used for accountability and for college admissions. Some examples of well-known formal achievement tests include the American College Test (ACT) and the annual state accountability test.

Achievement tests of any kind are only accurate if they are aligned with both the instructional objectives and learning activities. An important part of the lesson planning process is considering how you, as the teacher, will assess student achievement throughout the unit.

Formal achievement tests are useful to provide a snapshot of student performance, but should be considered as only one of multiple measures that indicate the student's attainment of learning goals.

Interpreting Achievement

Formal standardized test results vary based on the way they are scored. Some are norm-referenced, meaning they either rank students in comparison to one another, or provide each student with a grade or age-equivalent score that is calculated in comparison to other students who have taken the exam. Other tests are criterion-referenced and provide scores that are based on mastery of identified objectives without taking other students' scores into account.

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