Create or obtain assessments [P-1]

Start with the end in mind

Adopt or develop tools to gauge mastery

The Three Types of Assessments

assess students’ prior knowledge and skills before a unit or year

assess student progress toward mastery during a unit or near the end of a lesson

assess the sum of student mastery at the end of a unit or year

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Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.

We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.


Creating a test with only one question that aligns to a particular learning goal or objective. When students only have one chance to show that they have mastered something, we may not get an accurate idea of whether they really know what we’re testing.


When you design a test, create multiple opportunities to assess whether students have mastered a learning goal or objective. Write multiple questions that align to individual learning goals. Then you will get a more accurate picture of how well students have mastered what they need to.

Be mindful, though, of how easy your test is to give and grade. When a test covers a lot of material (or if you need to administer the assessment in a short amount of time), it might not be feasible to give students multiple opportunities to show what they know on every topic, because it will make your test too long.


Very often beginning teachers jump right in to teaching and then haphazardly make a test to cover what they taught after a few weeks. Doing this prevents your instruction from being purposeful, strategic, and goal-driven. It’s hard to make your instruction meaningful when you don’t really know what you’re striving for.


Always create your assessment before you teach or plan (a lesson or a unit). Then you will know exactly what you want your kids to do at the end of your instruction (and what it will look like for them to do it). Starting with the “end” in mind is the essence of backwards-planning and the only way to make your teaching focused on getting your students to where they need to be.


Creating a test can be time consuming, so you might feel you don’t want to worry about how to grade before you give a test. When you don’t have a grading system, though, you won’t know exactly what it will look like for students to show mastery of your learning goals. Then when it comes time to grade, you are susceptible to lowering your expectations for student performance (or grading with bias)


Always create a grading system as you develop your assessment, not after you give it. This will help you know exactly what you want students to know or do as you teach. Remember, there are plenty of great grading systems (like rubrics and anchor papers) that already exist – you don’t necessarily have to make a system from scratch. Review different sources for finding grading systems and tips for how to design your own.


We may be tempted to create our own assessment (or grading and tracking system) without the help of other resources because we do don’t know what is out there or we’ve looked, but haven’t really found full plans that fit our needs.

It’s hard to make all of our assessments (or any instructional tool) by ourselves. Plus we may not be spending our time and energy wisely if we try to go it alone when there are lots of assessment items made by others that can work for you.


Always consider what existing resources are out there before you design your own assessment, grading, or tracking tools. Use different sources to find what you need. Remember, using existing resources isn’t an all or nothing deal – you can pick and choose different questions or parts of an assessment to fit your needs. Lastly, if you do have to create your own assessment, don’t forget to share it with others on the Resource Exchange (Login required, TFANet is only available to Teach For America corps members, alumni, and staff.)

Be careful, though, when using pre-made assessment tools. Don’t blindly pick an assessment without carefully evaluating its quality and whether it fits the needs of your class.