There are two levels of assessments. There are district wide assessments which measure individual, classroom, building, and district growth over time. It is the board and superintendent who must budget for and hire an assessment director--or in smaller districts, clarify exactly who has this major responsibility. An excellent and economical test bank is available from Northwest Evaluation Association [ www.nwea.org ].
The second level of assessment is diagnostic testing to tailor specific remedial classroom instruction. Developing building level assessments must have board support as well. An extended example of how the two systems work together can be found in Annual Growth, Catch-Up Growth. The example features Washington Elementary, (Kennewick, Washington) a school with 50% free and reduced lunch count and a 21% minority, where 94% of their 3rd grade population in spring of 2000 read at or above the reading standard.
By the second year of assessment, principals and teachers have enough data to see what is working and what is not. Assessment not only creates significant realignment in curriculum and use of time, assessment also eliminates "trying hard" as a major criterion in evaluating effectiveness. Without assessments, conscientious teachers who prepare thoroughly and execute their lesson plans carefully assume that what they are doing is effective because they are working so hard. With assessment, these same conscientious teachers and principals begin to realize that what they have done for decades may not be working for a significant number of their students.
The continued use of assessment indicates that the answer is not a different "silver bullet" curriculum. The answer is diagnosing specific reading problems and expanding the teacher's repertoire of interventionscommencing as early as the second semester of kindergarten. The results of the diagnostic testing should result in an immediate change of program to address that student's needs.
Effective K-3 testing and intervention in reading used in an elementary school with 50% free and reduced lunch rates follows: