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Standards-based assessment

Standards-based assessment relies on teachers making qualitative judgments about student’s learning.

Each standard has a number of components that students need to bring together to achieve. Teachers’ judgments are based on the work as a whole. The consistency of teacher judgments is improved through moderation. Moderation supports teachers to develop a shared understanding of the meaning of standards and how to apply them in a range of cases.

Differences between norm-referenced assessment, criterion-referenced assessment and standards-based assessment

Standards-based assessment shows what a student can do in relation to broad descriptions, supported by exemplars of expected achievement. The descriptions are broader than criteria. Each standard has a number of components that students need to bring together to achieve the standard.

Norm-referenced assessment shows how students are achieving compared with a statistical sample of others of an equivalent group at a given point in time. Such tests often provide results in percentiles or stanines.

Criterion-referenced assessment shows what students can or can’t do in relation to a specific list of tasks or skills. Teachers’ judgments are about whether the student has achieved each individual skill or task. When writing, for example, a student may be able to succeed at each task or skill but still not be able to write a compelling piece that meets the needs of an audience.

Standards-based assessment is consistent with the New Zealand educational emphasis on assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning (New Zealand Curriculum, 2007; Absolum et al, Directions for Assessment in New Zealand, 2009). The student takes a more active role in the learning, teaching and assessment cycle, creating a partnership between student and teacher. The clarity and transparency of assessment standards help teachers provide students with information of what they know and can do and, more importantly, a clear picture of what they need to do to improve so they can take charge of their own learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Crooks, 1988).


Further reading