A reader asks the following questions.


I’m currently a teacher working in an LYS school district. I have a question regarding Common Assessments, specifically addressing questions on “reviewing for common assessments”. As an educator, I’m looking for my students to be successful on their assessments, so I’m wondering if we should review the covered content prior to the Common Assessments?

There seems to be confusion with what the best practices are for this. I understand we must keep from teaching or reviewing from the common assessment itself, in order to maintain the fidelity of the test. However, the question still stands, are we able to review for the common assessments, but doing so from the scope and sequence? If so, are we able to review the day of the test or should it be done a few days before the test?  

Thank you for your time.   

SC Response Great questions.  First, you have to decide why you are administering the assessment.  For grades or information? If it is just for grades, honestly the common assessment process is too much of a hassle. So just stick with using statistically invalid teacher made tests. But if you are administering the assessment for information then an entirely new world opens up in front of you. One where field practice can actually inform and improve the profession.  It is in this world where I endeavor to spend my time and energy.  For me there is nothing more exciting.

All of that to say this, “I believe that reviewing for a common assessment is a waste of instructional time and effectively invalidates the assessment for data analysis, problem solving and system level decision-making.” 

What you want to do is teach the curriculum to the best of your ability up to the assessment administration.  If you do this, over time the data will reveal the following:

A. Am I (or, are we) staying on pace with the scope and sequence

B. Am I (or, are we) using more effective or less effective practices, in terms of student retaining, processing and using the delivered content.

If I review for the assessment, what the data primarily tells me is how effective my review sessions are. Now some will say, “If I don’t review, my students will get lower grades.”

To which I respond, “The purpose of the assessment is not to collect grades but to generate instructional data that informs our next instructional decisions.”

Others will say, “If I don’t review, it will look like I’m less of a teacher than my peers who are providing a review.”

To which I respond, “The purpose of the assessment is not to collect grades but to generate instructional data that informs our next instructional decisions. If you can suffer through a couple of assessment cycles, you will soon leave the reviewers in the dust.  Because you will soon be teaching better and those using the crutch of review won’t be able to keep up with you and your class.”

Now, that does mean that I never review for a common assessment.  It is my hope that based on your embedded formative assessment and how students respond to the closing question in each lesson that there is a constant cycle of review of prior knowledge, introduction of new material, practice, demonstrated understanding, repeat.  That is solid instruction.  And good assessment data puts you in a position to get even better at it.

I hope this helps and if you have any other questions, you know how to find me.

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