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The market for classroom-based assessments is booming, but what does that mean for student learning?

Classroom assessments represented a nearly $1.6 billion market in 2017, and that market is expected to grow by 30 percent through 2020. In fact, classroom assessment now makes up a majority of the testing market, surpassing state testing.

The benefit of formative assessments

Formative assessments are one of the most widely used types of classroom assessments. A key benefit is that formative assessment practices have the potential to increase student learning. With formative assessments, teachers check for students’ understanding during instruction—rather than at the end of a unit or course—and then adjust their instruction accordingly.

Digital assessments, which are quickly replacing print, are making the process even richer. Students can access a variety of item types that can make the assessment process more engaging—and more informative for teachers. Further, the technology can save teachers’ time by doing the number crunching and organizing the data to help them identify students in need of intervention.

But is all that formative assessment data actually being used to close the gap between a student’s current level of learning and the learning goal? Many times, it’s not. A report by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing at the University of California, Los Angeles found that “teachers are better at drawing reasonable inferences about student levels of understanding from assessment information than they are in deciding the next instructional steps.”

In other words, while teachers are able to effectively interpret what the data is telling them about their students’ learning, they often have difficulty translating that evidence into action and taking the next appropriate instructional step to close learning gaps.

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