Educational assessment is a key issue in the movement to reform education and improve student achievement. Standards and benchmarks are measurable descriptors of student knowledge and expected student learning outcomes based on grade level. They are among the tools used in rating the effectiveness of teachers and schools.
Benchmark testing brings accountability to schools by measuring student learning against quantifiable standards. Teachers use the results of benchmark tests to modify their instruction as needed and to prepare students for end-of-the-year standardized achievement tests.
Benchmark tests are sometimes administered as often as monthly. It's more common, however, for the tests to be given several times a year. For example, the Common Core benchmark assessments can be given four times per year. The goal is to find out how well students have absorbed the lessons, and to give the instructor feedback so he can modify his teaching in accord with the needs of his students.
The results of this type of high-stakes testing are often used to determine funding for certain programs, schools or districts. As of 2014, 44 states have adopted the Common Core as their primary method of assessing benchmarks and student achievement, and this is one contributing factor for funding. Some districts also include the results of benchmark tests in teacher evaluations.
Benchmarks are statements that describe concrete learning outcomes. Teachers, administrators and academics create these benchmarks. For example, Common Core benchmarks were established by educational experts, politicians, teachers, school administrators and parents. Benchmark testing generally takes about one hour per subject.
Benchmark testing is unpopular with many teachers because of the classroom time that it takes to administer the tests.
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