As a result of No Child Left Behind, there is now an abundance of student achievement data that result from common assessments. Common assessments are those that are given in a routine, consistent manner by the state, school district, or school to measure students’ academic achievement. Examples of these assessments include annual statewide tests, commercially produced tests (e.g., interim assessments, early-grade reading assessments) that are given periodically throughout the school year, end-of-course tests administered across schools or districts, and interim tests developed by districts or schools (e.g. quarterly writing or math prompts).

I. Suggested Uses of Common Assessments:

  • To monitor student progress 
  • To tailor instruction to meet individual needs of students 
  • To make instructional changes designed to improve student achievement
  • To measure the effectiveness of classroom lessons

II. Limitations of Common Assessments:

  • Annual and interim assessments vary widely in their reliability and level of detail
  • No single assessment provides all necessary information to make informed instructional decisions
  • There is no conclusive evidence that using common assessment data improves student achievement

III. Common Assessment Development and Administration:

  • Many schools are currently administering either state or commercially developed common assessments. Therefore, no new assessment development or administration actions are needed. School, classroom, and individual student assessment data are frequently available to schools through databases developed on the state, district, or school level.
  • In other cases, schools may want to develop their own common assessments. Steps in the process for designing your own assessments are included below.

IV. Analysis of Assessment Data:

Frequently, items are grouped according to what they measure. Then, a report should be created that is easy to read and reflect on.

Design and Develop Assessment

If developing and administering an additional, school-level common assessment is the goal, steps in this process follow:


  • Identify priority standards using state and district standards and school curricula to plan what students should know and be able to do
  • Design questions, tasks, or problems that will measure student knowledge and ability on standards/outcomes
  • Develop a scoring guide or rubric that includes indicators of student success for each standard/outcome
  • Schedule collaborative time for teachers to use the data from each periodic assessment for determining future instruction/intervention
  • Review and experience sample periodic assessments by having teachers take assessments collaboratively in order to map the concepts/skills students are expected to demonstrate. Teachers should either collaboratively take the assessment they plan to give or collaboratively analyze the assessment on a question-by-question basis to determine what concepts and skills the assessment measures
  • In planning to administer the periodic assessment, also plan for the use of any necessary support materials and resources


  • Administer school/classroom measures as scheduled by the school/district
  • Score student work on Common Assessment. Some parts of the assessment may be scored centrally (e.g. multiple choice) while other parts are best scored by teachers (e.g., performance/constructed response/writing sample)
  • Evaluate data reports and provide timely feedback to students

V. Use Data:

Common assessment data is used to inform instruction. Follow the steps below to use the common assessment data. Individually or as a group, conduct an analysis of individual test items that answers the following questions:

  • Are there skills and content that our textbooks, curriculum, or instruction did not adequately cover?
  • What skills or content needs to be re-taught differently?
  • Was there a common, incorrect student response to one or more questions?
  • As an individual teacher, what can I learn from other team members who may have experienced greater instructional success on a tested concept?
  • Are there common skills/concepts that should be retested in an upcoming formative assessment?



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