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Peabody Journal of Education, Volume 85, Issue 2, 2010

Special Issue on Benchmarks for Success? Interim Assessments as a Strategy for Educational Improvement


Interim assessments have become an instructional tool of increasing popularity in classrooms across the nation.  Administered multiple times throughout the school year to assess student learning and progress, benchmark assessments provide teachers with formative feedback about student learning in time to make mid-term instructional changes.  Despite the growing interest and application of these assessments, little research exists on the extent to which benchmark assessments affect teaching and learning.  This issue of the Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations aims to address this void in the literature.

The PJE is pleased to have Katrina Bulkley, Leslie Nabors Oláh, and Suzanne (Sukey) Blanc serve as guest editors for this issue, titled "Special Issue on Benchmarks for Success? Interim Assessments as a Strategy for Educational Improvement."  In the guest editors' introduction, Bulkley, Nabors Oláh, and Blanc begin the issue by defining interim assessments and presenting an overview of current research on the design, implementation, and effects of these assessments.  Thereafter, the issue is organized in two sections.  In the first section, an array of overarching issues related to the use of interim assessments are discussed.  First, Halverson characterizes benchmark assessments as part of a formative feedback system and identifies key functions of this system for improving student achievement.  Next, Burch's qualitative analysis considers the role of the private sector in education as school systems increasingly develop contracts with for-profit vendors for the purchase of interim assessment packages. Li, Marion, Perie, and Gong develop an evaluation framework of six criteria by which school leaders can judge an interim assessment package.

The second section provides a case study of the implementation of interim assessments, focusing solely on Philadelphia.  Together these articles share findings from two mixed-method studies of the district's use of benchmark assessments by the Consortium for Public Research in Education and Research for Action.  Among the research questions raised, these articles ask: What are the accountability, organizational, and instructional contexts that affect the use of interim assessments? What are district leaders' expectations concerning the use of these assessments? How do teachers analyze benchmark assessment results and how do they plan instruction based on these results? What micro-practices of school leaders and teachers have the potential to cohere the steps of feedback systems and to enrich the use of benchmark assessment data?  

Lastly, two commentary pieces reflect on the content and analysis included in this issue.  Goren and Shepard individually critique the included articles and relate research findings to policy and practice.

The Peabody Journal of Education is greatly appreciative of the guest editors' invested talent and time in producing this special issue.  We also would like to thank each of the contributing scholars for sharing their research with us.  Given the increasing emphasis on applying benchmark assessments, we believe this special issue of the PJE is timely.  It is our hope that the included research and commentary provide a meaningful contribution to the literature on the use of interim assessments.

CONTENTS

Journal abstracts are linked to titles.

Introduction to the Special Issue on Benchmarks for Success? Interim Assessment as a Strategy for Educational Improvement
Katrina E. Bulkley, Leslie Nabors Oláh, and Suzanne Blanc 
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 115-124.

Interim Assessments as a Strategy for Improvement: Easier Said Than Done
Paul Goren
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 125-129.

SECTION 1 - Mapping the Terrain of Interim Assessments

School Formative Feedback Systems
Richard Halverson
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 130-146.

The Bigger Picture: Institutional Perspectives on Interim Assessment Technologies
Patricia Burch
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 147-162.

An Approach for Evaluating the Technical Quality of Interim Assessments
Ying Li, Scott Marion, Marianne Perie, and Brian Gong
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 163-185.

SECTION 2 - Case Study: Benchmarks in the School District of Philadelphia

Building With Benchmarks: The Role of the District in Philadelphia's Benchmark Assessment System
Katrina E. Bulkley, Jolley Bruce Christman, Margaret E. Goertz, and Nancy R. Lawrence
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 186-204.

Learning to Learn From Data: Benchmarks and Instructional Communities
Suzanne Blanc, Jolley Bruce Christman, Roseann Liu, Cecily Mitchell, Eva Travers, and Katrina E. Bulkley
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 205-225.

Learning to Learn From Benchmark Assessment Data: How Teachers Analyze Results
Leslie Nabors Oláh, Nancy R. Lawrence, and Matthew Riggan
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 226-245.

What the Marketplace Has Brought Us: Item-by-Item Teaching With Little Instructional Insight
Lorrie A. Shepard
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 85, No. 2: pages 246-257. 


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