Category: Eduction

Formal assessments give teachers insight to the academic strength and weakness of each student and dictate what actions to take for any needed intervention. The data gathered from a formal assessment will reveal whether low scores are exclusive to the student or class — or whether they affect the entire school population.


Accountability is the new buzzword for education policymakers, and formal assessments are tools that will be used to gauge if schools are operating with a high level of accountability. Formal assessments answer the accountability question with concrete data. These assessments are valuable tools that educators can use to evaluate the progress of a student on a particular subject. The use of formal assessments aligns with the new education reform mandates to use data-driven instruction because of its ability reveal proficiency levels. They are an indication of how a student is doing and how well a teacher is performing. Data obtained from formal assessments allow teachers to see how well a student is progressing and target specific areas.

Response to Intervention

Systematic use of formal assessments will significantly impact the response to intervention timeframe and help to ensure that all students attain a proficient rating in academics. A formal assessment will give insight on the level of intervention needed for a struggling student. Plan RTI using the data from the formal assessments for a comparative analysis of grade, school, district and national levels. The RTI can be adjusted after a formal assessment based on the results of the data. The formal assessments data reveal the needs of students from the national level down to the individual classroom.

Staying on Top

Analysis of systematic formal assessments answers pertinent questions like, “How am I doing as a teacher? How am I doing as a student? How am I doing as a class? How are my students performing compared to their own personal growth, compared to others in the class and compared to grade level, school, district and state?” The answers will reveal whether any low scores are exclusive to the targeted audience or whether the entire school population needs an overhaul. This process will allow teachers, schools and districts to stay on top of gains and set finish line goals.

Assessment Formats

Many forms of formal assessments are available such as the essay, selected-response tests and constructed responses. The essay is an excellent opportunity to integrate Bloom’s taxonomy skills in the curriculum. It allows students to summarize and synthesize a topic and to develop thinking — or intellectual — skills. A constructed response test tells how well a student can organize, recall, recognize and clearly communicate previously learned information. Constructed responses require students to use higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. An example of this type of test is a fill-in-the-blank exam. Selected response assessments, on the other hand, tell if the student has the basic factual information and age-appropriate cognitive skills by offering multiple-choice answers.

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Aptitude tests have been used since the early 20th century to measure a person’s abilities, talents, motor coordination, reasoning skills, and even artistic ability. Schools use aptitude tests for a number of reasons. Because children’s abilities change as they mature, aptitude tests change with the ages of the students being tested.

What are Aptitude Tests?

According to Macklem, an aptitude test measures the ability of a student to acquire a set of skills or training by measuring the student’s natural talents. Aptitude tests may also measure the future potential of a student, or what a student may choose to do for a career. Because aptitude tests do not measure subject areas in school, they are not tests that students can study for. Instead, aptitude tests are used to measure potential ability to learn, rather than what the student has learned in school during the year. In addition, Macklem states that aptitude tests cover a broad area, and look at a wide range of experiences.

Elementary School Students

For young elementary school students, there are several aptitude tests that measure abilities. Often, aptitude tests are used to test students for special programs, such as gifted education or special education. An example of an aptitude test used in elementary schools is the Modern Language Aptitude Test. This test is used to determine whether a student has a talent for foreign languages. There is also an aptitude test to measure mathematical talent: the Stanford Educational Mathematics Aptitude Test. The Woodcock-Johnson is a test that can be used for both academic achievement and aptitude, according to the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

Middle School Students

The aptitude test for middle school students measures abilities such as short-term memory, visual processing, long-term storage and retrieval, processing speed, reaction time, and psycho-motor abilities. Aptitude tests in middle school, like elementary school, are used to determine qualification for special programs, such as gifted or special education. One example of a career aptitude test available to adolescents is the Differential Aptitude Test, which tests students on verbal reasoning, numerical ability, clerical speed and accuracy, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning, space relations, spelling and language usage. Another aptitude test that can be used in middle school is the OASIS-3: Occupational Aptitude Survey and Interest Schedule.

High School Students

High school students may take aptitude tests to qualify for gifted or special education services. High school students also take aptitude tests to determine career interests and possible career paths for post-secondary education. Examples of aptitude tests available to high school students include the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test and the Differential Aptitude Test.

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