Assessment Story Project

This spring the NCTE Task Force on Assessment invited educators to complete a 5-question survey so we could learn from teachers

  1. about their uses of literacy assessment(s) and
  2. about the impact of assessment on them and their students.

The survey closed in July and we are now compiling the results into a variety of resources so we can share the views of educators with legislators, the media, school administrators, education reformers, and other teachers.

If you took the survey, thank you very much for your help!

Here is a sample of things people had to say: 

C.assessment literacy C.auditculture C.groundedinlocalC.nonteachingpublicC.scrutiny C.teachingsince2000 E.communityjob E.Finland

E.gotintoteaching H.authenticlearning H.burnedout H.highqualityed H.ourkidsareincredible kmpanswersheet2015

M.forgottenchildren M.learnerjourney M.lumbermill M.reallife

Summer Reflection: Remodeling Your Approach to Assessment
Watch this NCTE on Air event recorded in June where we highlight innovative approaches to assessment from the stories we’ve collected all spring. Guests Kathryn Mitchell Pierce and Rosario Ordonez-Jasis share concrete activities you can take on to rethink your instructional approach this fall.

Other Media:

Kathryn Mitchell Pierce describes what we’re learning so far in this post on The Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss.

Here is a write-up of this project from Catherine Gewertz at ED Week.

Blog posts about the stories:

4 thoughts on “Assessment Story Project

  1. My focus is on personal, introspective, reflective writing. I specialize in the writing of memoirs. Assessment of earnest, unmasked writing is comparable to assessment of the writer’s soul. I consider writing that explores one’s values and utmost experiences to be spiritual in nature; to assess this writing without assessing the essence of the person requires forethought and extraordinary sensitivity.

    I require that my students follow the steps of the writing process, and I give class time for the interactive steps. To assure that the reading/response groups are positive and constructive, I provide response guidelines. So that proofreaders know what to consider, I provide a proofreader’s check sheet. When all the writing process steps are followed, the mechanics of the resulting writings are acceptable.

    I speculate on assessment in an essay on my website,, in the second entry under “Tips for Instructors.” I will paste in here part of my conclusion:
    My written responses to the assigned papers are personal, for the
    student has revealed deep parts of himself to me. I begin by pointing out
    whatever I find the greatest strength of the paper to be. We all need
    reassurance and learn from becoming aware of our strengths, as well as
    our mistakes. I praise aspects I find admirable. I point out an image or
    anything else I like. I point to what I see as key sentences; and if I reacted
    to some part of the composition, I mention what I experienced. I ask
    about aspects that perplexed me and may encourage the student to write
    more about passages not fully explored. I tell what didn’t work for me. If
    a detail intrigued me, I might suggest opening the paper with it.
    Toward the end of the course, I ask my students to assess
    themselves. They first reread all their papers and report on what themes
    emerged. They tell which paper was most difficult to write and why.
    Where do the writings lead? What important subject lurks, waiting to be
    written? What insight has the student gained about herself? Which
    learned skills will she employ in her ongoing writing? What writing
    habits and idiosyncrasies has she observed in herself?
    Finally, you and I have to face the question of how we are to grade
    our students’ spiritual writing. Standard scales for grading essays don’t
    apply and shouldn’t be applied. Content and construction can’t be
    separated, and introspective, emotional writing is too personal to evaluate.
    In this instance, the person cannot be separated from the product. To give
    a letter grade would be to grade a soul. We must shelter and support
    students who diligently follow all the instructions and participate in
    response groups. Explain to your department head and dean that your
    course is rigorous and that because of its extraordinarily personal nature
    must be offered pass/no pass–but, if in spite of your request you must give
    a letter grade, be grateful that those students who do work through all the
    steps of the assignments and thoughtfully respond and edit with their
    classmates usually do write acceptable to excellent compositions.
    We must keep in mind the maturity of our students. Are clichés,
    heard for the second time, clichés? Ideas exhausted by centuries of
    philosophical examination may be as fresh as a still-warm egg to a new
    inquirer and so can be appreciated as growth-producing steps. A sincere
    search by means of writing is part of what we teach and must be valued.
    Assessment includes the process as well as the product.
    Our role as assessors would be easier if we were infallible.
    Edmund Wilson wrote of W. H. Auden, “Mr. Auden himself has presented
    the curious case of a poet who writes an original poetic language in the
    most robust English tradition but who seems to have been arrested in the
    mentality of an adolescent schoolboy.” A New Statesman review of The
    Fall, by Albert Camus, judged, “The style is unattractive if apt, being the
    oblique and stilted flow of a man working his way round to asking for a
    To evoke writing that probes values and seeks ultimate meanings
    and to assess it both sensitively and responsibly, guide students first to
    subject areas where they’ll tap into the very quick of their core values and
    longings. Go to the places in their own lives where they catch their breath,
    get goose bumps, or sweat. There, encourage impulsive, even effusive
    writing so individuals’ voices will form. Spiritual writing emerges from
    the first gush of emotion in authentic voice, usually free from contrived
    You and I give ourselves, as well as our students, a tough
    assignment; and yet, if the students’ initial drafts spring from powerful
    feelings, and if those drafts are heard and examined for both
    insufficiencies and excesses by peer editors, the final drafts can usually be
    assessed as satisfactory and may even reach into a realm that causes us to
    catch our breath, look up, and ponder.

  2. I will soon be teaching high school English and choosing how to fulfill assessment criteria that is beneficial to myself and my students and their families. I cannot thank the contributors to the Assessment Story Project enough for their contributions and best practices. I often worry that as a first year teacher I will not know how to assess my students in a meaningful manner.

    The OnAir event “Remodeling Your Approach to Assessment” made me stop and think of the importance of knowing the families and the community that you are in. I really enjoyed Rosario Ordonez-Jasis’ view of referring to teachers as ethnographers. I plan to utilize community mapping as a means to bridge the gap between myself and the community prior to beginning my first year teaching.

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