Helping your students become ready for deeper skills assessment isn’t as hard as you think


Facing the reality of state requirements and standardized tests is causing many educators to reshape the curriculum they’ve spent years developing. We have 3 million teachers who need to prepare 55 million students for the Common Core, so it’s no surprise that alarm bells are ringing.

How can busy teachers adjust old approaches to a new modality? The answer is surprisingly straightforward. Teachers can meet the challenges of new assessments with a simple formative assessment framework, called CERCA.

Learning and employing that framework, online or off, is the best way to prepare your students for not just standardized testing, but for their lives and careers after college.

Ultimately, kids need to be able to make a claim, support it with evidence, explain their reasoning clearly, address counterarguments, and use audience-appropriate language. Applying the CERCA framework as a formative assessment practice across subjects is the best way to know whether or not kids are learning what we’re teaching. The framework also works as a lens for analyzing texts and can be found in nearly every assessment item on new high-stakes tests. These are the most important skills for kids to practice every day.

Despite the new challenges, in many ways, it has never been easier to be a great teacher. Advancements in education technology have made it easy for teachers to adopt a common language, differentiate instruction, track progress of students individually across subject areas, and share information on a school-wide level.

Here are five things you can do right now to prepare your students for deeper-level assessment:

1. Develop common vocabularies in schools.

A critical component of assessment preparation is getting entire schools on the same page. Principals, teachers, and administrators need to be unified in the language they use to describe requirements, goals, and teaching methodologies. It is largely up to principals to define this language, but by following the CERCA framework, they can keep it straightforward. Put simply, making claims in math shouldn’t seem like a separate skill than making claims about a character, and neither should seem separate from the assessments kids are taking. Claim, evidence, reasoning, counterarguments, and audience are words we see throughout high-quality assessment.