The Role of Interim Assessments in a Comprehensive Assessment System

This informative brief lays out general questions that districts should consider before making a decision to use interim assessment:

  1. What do we want to learn from this assessment?
  2. Who will use the information gathered from this assessment?
  3. What action steps will be taken as a result of this assessment?
  4. What professional development or support structures should be in place to ensure the action steps are taken and are successful?
  5. How will student learning improve as a result of using this interim assessment system and will it improve more than if the assessment system was not used?

The brief has implications for both selection criteria and decisions, and for the kinds of supports that need to be in place to support the use for interim assessment for its intended purpose.

The authors define Interim assessment as medium scale assessments falling between formative and summative assessment that serve to “(1) evaluate students’ knowledge and skills relative to a specific set of academic goals, typically within a limited time frame, and (2) are designed to inform decisions at both the classroom and beyond the classroom level, such as the school or district level.” (p. 1) 


Content Comments 

The authors also offer advice for purchasing commercial systems, including existing strengths and weaknesses, and offer additional implications for district and state decision-makers, which may be important for supporting use. The authors suggest that state decision-makers consider how they may provide leadership in establishing and maintaining the assessment vision and how state assessment design, accountability, professional development and quality control policies and resources can affect productive use.  

The document defines three general purposes that interim assessment may serve: immediate instructional purposes (including enriching the depth instruction, determining student strengths and/or weaknesses, and providing feedback to students for motivational or metacognitive purposes); evaluative purposes (providing information for teachers or administrators on the strengths and weaknesses of particular programs or instructional choices for the purpose of future improvement); and predictive (providing information to identify and perhaps further assess and take action for students at risk of not passing the end of year test)