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In an educational setting, standards-based assessment [1] is assessment that relies on the evaluation of student understanding with respect to agreed-upon standards, also known as "outcomes". The standards set the criteria for the successful demonstration of the understanding of a concept or skill.[2]

Overview of standards-based assessment

In the standards-based paradigm,[3] students have the freedom to demonstrate understanding in diverse ways, including (but not limited to) selected response (e.g. multiple choice tests), physical constructions, written responses, and performances. Of course, these are not new types of assessments, nor is the concept of differentiated assessment. The teacher uses all available observations and quantitative information to summarize learning with reference to a specific standard. With these data, a teacher can formulate the steps or actions that can be taken to gain mastery of a particular concept. That is, it aids in assessment for learning.

One of the key aspects of standards-based assessment is post-assessment feedback. The feedback a student receives from this type of assessment does not emphasize a score, percentage, or statistical average, but information about the expectations of performance as compared to the standard. A standards-based approach does not necessarily dismiss a summative grade, percentage, or a measure of central tendency (such as a mean, or median). However, an assessment that does not reference or give feedback with respect to a standard would not be standards-based. There is a large body of evidence that points to the effectiveness of appropriate feedback.[4]

Purpose of standards-based assessment

The purpose of standards-based assessment[5] is to connect evidence of learning to learning outcomes (the standards). When standards are explicit and clear, the learner becomes aware of his/her achievement with reference to the standards, and the teacher may use assessment data to give meaningful feedback to students about this progress. The awareness of one's own learning allows students to point to a specific standard of achievement and so strengthens self-regulation and meta-cognition, two skills generally understood to be effective learning strategies.[6]

Framework of the standards-based approach in assessment

A common approach to standards-based assessment (SBA) is:

Example from the British Columbia Grade 3 Curriculum Package (September 2010):

"It is expected that students will view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., cartoons, illustrations, diagrams, posters)"[7]

Example from the New Zealand curriculum document Mathematics Standards for Years 1-8, by the end of year 5:

"In contexts that require them to solve problems or model situations, students will be able to create, continue, and predict further members of sequential patterns with two variables"[8]

Respectively to the example from the British Columbia Grade 3 Curriculum Package:

"describe key messages and images and relevant details in response to questions or activities"[7]

Hallmarks of standards-based assessment

Geographical Distinctions

United States

A standards-based test is an assessment based on the outcome-based education or performance-based education philosophy.[11] Assessment is a key part of the standards reform movement. The first part is to set new, higher standards to be expected of every student. Then the curriculum must be aligned to the new standards. Finally, the student must be assessed if they meet these standards of what every student "must know and be able to do". In the United States, a high school diploma which is given on passing a high school graduation examination[12] or Certificate of Initial Mastery is awarded only when these standards are achieved. It is fully expected that every child will become proficient in all areas of academic skills by the end of a period, typically 10 years in the United States, but sometimes longer, after the passing of education reform bill by a state legislature. The United States federal government, under No Child Left Behind can further require that all schools must demonstrate improvement among all students, even if they are already all over proficient.

Holistic grading

Rather than using computers to log responses to multiple choice tests, rubrics for state assessments such as in North Carolina [13] ask scorers to look at the entire paper and make judgments. Scorers are not allowed to count errors, and rubrics do not contain numeric measurements of how many spelling or grammar error constitute a "1" or "2". The Analytical Writing section of the GRE test is scored using a six-point holistic scale in half-point increments.[14] Holistic grading is one of the main reason for disagreement between scorers, but for this reason some tests are scored more than once to check for agreement.

Advantages of Standards-based Assessment


Compared to a multiple-choice, norm-referenced test, a standards-based test can be recognized by:

See also


  1. ^ Partnership, Great Schools (2014-01-30). "Standards-Based Definition". The Glossary of Education Reform. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  2. ^ Standards-Based Assessment, retrieved February 20, 2016
  3. ^ "Leaders of Their Own Learning: Chapter 8: Standards-Based Grading | EL Education". Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  4. ^ a b John Hattie, Power of Feedback (PDF), retrieved February 20, 2016
  5. ^ Glavin, Chris (2014-02-06). "Standards-based Assessment | K12 Academics". Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  6. ^ Emily R. Lai, Metacognition: A Literature Review (PDF), retrieved February 20, 2016
  7. ^ a b British Columbia Ministry of Education, Grade 3 Curriculum Package (PDF), Ministry of Education, British Columbia, retrieved February 21, 2016
  8. ^ New Zealand Ministry of Education, "Mathematics Standards for Years 1-8" (PDF), New Zealand Curriculum Online, Ministry of Education, retrieved February 21, 2016
  9. ^ Carol Dwyer, "Using Praise to Enhance Student Resilience and Learning Outcomes", American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, retrieved March 21, 2016
  10. ^ Susan M. Brookhart, How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading, retrieved February 20, 2016
  11. ^ [1] January 18, 2006 Standards- Based Test draws plan for awareness Jackie Schlotfeldt News-Bulletin Staff Writer Valencia County News-Bulletin "With the New Mexico Standards Based Assessments just a little over a month away"
  12. ^ Glavin, Chris (2014-02-06). "High School Graduation Examination | K12 Academics". Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  13. ^ AFT - Hot Topics - Standards-Based Reform North Carolina Focused Holistic Scoring Guide: The Expository Composition Grade 7, [2]
  14. ^ GRE Update - March 2006 The Analytical Writing section of the General Test will continue to be scored using the six-point holistic scale in half-point increments [3]
  15. ^ 1997 WASL math released problems
  16. ^ testimony of Maureen DiMarco to Washington State legislators
  17. ^ At a grading session in Auburn in 2004, no graders could identify some of the words used in some papers
  18. ^ Rand study of Kentucky KIRIS