In response to the 9/21/11 post, “Assessment vs. Benchmark,” a reader writes:
I disagree. A benchmark test on what has been taught to a certain point is a diagnostic test. Correct me if I am wrong.
SC Response It’s a matter of definition.
LYS defines an “Assessment” as a test of content that has been previously been covered. The appropriate (though exceedingly rare) use of an assessment is to determine how much of the covered material was effectively taught.
LYS defines a “Benchmark” as a test of the entire course curriculum. Benchmarks are often (inappropriately) administered prior to the entire curriculum being covered.
The problem with administering an early benchmark as a diagnostic instrument is that I have yet to witness any school that actually accelerated instruction due to students demonstrating mastery of material that had yet to be covered. Instead, the pace of instruction slows because based on the benchmark results the campus has already “arrived.” As for identifying students that need support and instruction, the benchmark only confirms what classroom teachers could already predict with near perfect accuracy. Thus, the benchmark is an unnecessary and irrelevant encroachment on already limited instructional time.
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