Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (2023)

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he came back toStronger Together: A Guide to Safely Reopening California Public Schools


Due to school closures as a result of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, state and federal testing requirements have been waived for summative assessments in English language proficiency (ELA), mathematics, science, and Mastery of English. Deep concern about learning losses has prompted district and school officials to urgently conduct useful diagnostic assessments that can identify where students are in their learning areas in key content areas when they return to school, to that student teachers can identify them to teach more effectively.

As we reflect on the need for diagnostic assessments to help teachers manage the variability that students are likely to experience after vastly different learning experiences this spring, it is important to remember that each assessment is designed for a specific purpose. Researchers (Earl and Katz 2006) identify three main objectives of evaluation: Evaluationforlearn to judgeconlearning and evaluatingVonLearn. Identifying the purpose of a patch is important to ensure its proper use. Experts point out that formative reviews areforLearning while summative assessments areVonLearn. When assessments are performance-based, that is, when they ask students to show what they really know and can do.againspecific tasks (for example, writing an essay or designing an experiment): support the learning process. These are examples of assessment as learning and reinforce the importance of self-assessment and self-monitoring processes that students use during learning, which have high potential to motivate students to promote their own continuous learning.

To measure learning progress over time, it is important that assessments are scaled over a multi-year learning continuum that can assess student progress in specific areas (eg, word recognition and decoding, reading comprehension, reasoning comprehension). and proportion).

Summative assessments typically collect a wide range of information to produce an overall score that assesses what is learned, but they do not provide detailed enough information to guide personalized teaching and learning. Additionally, state summative assessments used for federal accountability purposes focus primarily on grade level standards, which means they do not test skills above or below grade level. Therefore, they cannot show exactly where a student's understanding of a specific skill or concept lies, or what the teacher needs to focus on to ensure student learning success.

Diagnostic assessments are designed to help teachers identify what students know and can do in different areas to support their students' learning. These types of assessments can help teachers determine what students understand in order to develop their strengths and meet their specific needs. Formative and diagnostic tools can guide curriculum planning and instruction in more specific ways than most summative assessments.

In addition to diagnostic assessments, teachers and students can use the formative assessment process to monitor and adjust learning together. Formative assessment practices provide feedback to both the teacher and the student; The feedback is then used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve student performance in relation to the learning goals or objectives of the curriculum. The formative assessment process has four attributes:

  • Clarify: Determine what students will learn and how they will recognize what they have learned.
  • Investigate: generate evidence of student learning, eg, B. ask questions.
  • Interpret: Review evidence to determine student progress toward learning objectives.
  • Action: Follow the instructional steps below to take students from where they are now to where they need to be by example. B. Re-teach in a different way. (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium 2009).

Examples of teachers in action who focus on all four attributes can be seen in the Smarter Balanced video."Formative assessment practices to support student learning".Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (1)[]

Researchers have found that excellent learning outcomes can be achieved when teachers: first, provide students with rich, well-reasoned assignments; Then provide thoughtful feedback (comments, not ratings) on what was accomplished and what can be done next; and then provide opportunities for practice and immediate review using the feedback. These formative assessment opportunities focus students and teachers on how they can improve (Black and William 2010).

Resources for formative assessment are provided in each California Curriculum Framework, along with examples to support teachers, coaches, local and district administrators, and counselors, for all subject areas, including ELA, mathematics, and science. Teachers can use tools like rubrics to clarify expectations and provide feedback; journals, speed writing, and discussions to see what students think; Pre-tests and exit tickets to see where they are at the beginning and end of classes; strategic questions and performance tasks during class; Observations of students working in small groups; samples of student work; and a host of others.

Many of the diagnostic tools described later in this guide provide lessons integrated with formative tools, accompanied by guidance on how teachers can respond to various ideas or misconceptions that students seem to have.

In assessing their students' knowledge and performance, teachers should use multiple measures (Brookhart 2009) of district, school, and classroom assessments; narrative testimonials; Rehearsal; class projects; etc. Multiple measures from different data sources should be used to determine where students are in their learning process and identify areas where they may need additional support.

With a return to school as complex as expected this fall, teachers will likely want to use a variety of informal tools to assess student learning and performance, as well as their social-emotional well-being and home situation in the first school week. and schedule a more formal diagnostic evaluation after students are comfortable in the learning community and accustomed to "being in school."

Guide for the use of government resources

This guide describes how local educational authorities (LEAs) can use California-approved assessments to assess where students are academically at the beginning and throughout the school year. At the state level, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the California Assessments of English Language Proficiency (ELPAC) provide summary assessments of ELA, mathematics, science, and English proficiency to meet state requirements. and feds. The assessment programs also provide California standards-aligned teacher resources to help teachers implement the formative assessment process during the classroom and share information with other educators, students, and parents. These assessment tools include the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is available free of charge to all California public school districts, schools, and teachers.

The guide also includes a number of additional grade 2 diagnostic assessment-approved tools, all of which measure state standards and have the ability to assess student progress along a longer continuum of achievement that typically encompasses the areas of ELA and mathematics. covering K-12.

Smarter Balanced Ranking System

In California, the Smarter Balanced Rating System provides ratingsfor,con, miVonlearn in an integrated way. The system consists of three components:

  • Summative assessments, which measure class level standards for accountability.
  • Interim exams designed to support teaching and learning throughout the school year
  • Tools for Teachers, a website to support formative assessment practices in the classroom

All are designed to measure the Common Core State Standards and all include elements of performance, selected response, and open response.

Figure 1. Continuous teaching-learning process

Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (2)

Accessible version of Figure 1

Midterm assessments and formative assessment tools are available throughout the year to all K-12 teachers in all LEAs, including charters. Nonpublic school educators who provide direct instruction to students in California public schools may also use these scores.

The Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments are fixed-format (non-adaptive) tests designed to provide meaningful information to measure student progress in mastering skills measured by summative assessments, but can also be used to delve into specific areas and can be use at any point. in the learning continuum. The interim assessments are designed for students in grades 3-8 and high school, but can be administered to students in any grade.

although californiaEducation Code(FOR EXAMPLE) In accordance with Section 60642.7(b), the results of interim evaluations are not to be used for higher-level purposes, LEAs may wish to use thisComprehensive midterm evaluationsto get an overview of students' status on grade level standards for their 2019-2020 grade level, and then track groups of students in more specific areas that appear to need more reinforcement using theintermediate balance blocks, which provide more detailed information to guide instruction in specific areas (for example, multiplication and division within 100). Interim balances are described below:

  • Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICA) are based on the same frameworks as Summative Assessments. The ICAs, which typically have between 35 and 45 items, include the same item types and formats, including performance tasks such as summative assessments, and provide scores on the same vertical scales. ICAs provide general scale ratings, general performance level designations, and complaint level information.

    Comprehensive ALS Midterm Assessment Plan Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (3) (PDF) []
    Interim Comprehensive Assessment Model for Mathematics Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (4) (PDF) []

  • Interim Assessment Blocks (IABs) focus on smaller groups of objectives and therefore provide more detailed information for educational purposes. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, a new type of IAB is available, called the Focused IAB. Focused IABs measure smaller content packages to provide teachers with a better understanding of student knowledge and academic performance in specific subject areas and to provide teachers with precise next steps for instruction. Teachers can compile several focused IABs to assess student learning in relevant areas.

    ALS Interim Assessment Block Project Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (5) (PDF) []
    Balance Blocks Interim Project for Math Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (6) (PDF) []
    ALS Focused Interim Assessment Blocks Project Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (7) (PDF) []
    Mathematics Focused Intermediate Assessment Block Project Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (8) (PDF) []

  • More than 160 interim reviews are scheduled to be available on August 20, 2020. The results of these assessments will be available electronically to educators within 20 minutes of administration once all required manual assessments have been completed. A site or district coordinator must create the student groups that will allow teachers to access these results in the California Educator Reporting System.

Figure 2. ICA, IAB and IAB in focus

Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (9)

Accessible version of Figure 2

  • tools for teachersincludes lessons and activities with interactive Connections playlists that can be used with interim assessments, high-quality resources aligned to learning standards, formative assessment strategies built into each resource, and accessibility strategies. Teachers can also use formative assessment tools and courseware from Tools for Teachers. These instructional resources, which include lessons and activities, suggested materials, and ongoing assessments that can guide instructional strategies, are held to the same standards as midterm and summative assessments.

similar resources

  • Interim Assessment Video Series []
    This series consists of five video modules designed to help educators effectively use interim assessment systems and the tools necessary to select, administer, manually score, view, and use the results of Smarter Balanced interim assessments.
  • Note-Based Interim Reports (PDF) []
    This document provides a list of all available intermediate grades by class, including claims and targets, the total number of items, and the number of manually graded items. This information is provided to assist LEAs in planning the management and manual evaluation of the on-site mid-term evaluations.
  • Summary of interim balances Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (10) (PDF) []
    This document describes interim evaluations, including their purpose, use, and variants. This document provides a list of midterm assessments available for the 2019-2020 school year for each class and subject.
  • Smarter content browser Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (11) []
    This easy-to-use web tool combines more balanced content information and item specifications (essential resources for test and item development) into an easy-to-use, searchable interface. This tool can help teachers better understand how test questions are designed to show what students know and can do.
  • tools for teachers Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (12) []
    This site contains standards-based formative lessons, activities, materials, and assessments for each area of ​​the Common Core State Standards.
  • Smarter, more balanced distance teaching and learning Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (13) []
    This new site offers suggestions on how teachers can use the Smarter Balanced Assessment resources when participating in distance learning.

practice tests and training

In addition, teachers and students can use the CAASPP and ELPAC practice and training tests in an informative way during lessons. These tests give them the opportunity to become familiar with the test software before conducting preliminary or summary evaluations. They also allow students to access and answer the different types of questions they will encounter on the tests. Practice tests and training are available for the following:

  • Balanced Smart ALS
  • Smarter Balanced Mathematics
  • california science test
  • California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for ALS
  • CAA for math
  • AAC for science
  • California Spanish Assessment

For practical or training resources, visit theCAASPP Online Training and Practice Test Portal Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (14) []or theELPAC Training Practice and Test Site Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (15)[]. Guides for administering the CAASPP and ELPAC practice and training tests are available from the Department of Education (CDE).Website with quick guides[].

Other diagnostic tools

The CDE has approved a series of diagnostic test scores in ELA and Mathematics that meet the requirements forFOR EXAMPLESection 60644. These assessments have been identified as aligned to the Common Core State Standards and can be used to track learning progress and guide instruction tailored to student needs. They are listed and described on the CDE website (seeWebsite for second class diagnostic evaluations[]) and in Table 1 below. (We note that other publishers have requested that their resources be added to this list; however, the resources are no longer available to review additional second degree diagnostic assessments.) LEAs can attest to the CDE the number of second grade students receiving these scores accordingly.FOR EXAMPLESection 60644 for the purpose of determining the allocation of funds as determined annually by the California State Board of Education.

These assessments were originally scored for grade two diagnostic tests, but they are all scaled assessments that show how students are progressing along a continuum that spans grade levels and can be used throughout the school years to report instruction. LEAs that already use one of these assessments can review student progress over time, from previous years to the present and in subsequent years.

Table 1. Diagnostic classifications recognized by the CDE.

Assessment Comments
Common Core Acuity*


In English

It can be used several times a year. Assessments that include performance assignments may be used as intended or may be modified by teachers to meet specific standards. Assessments are accompanied by recommended teaching materials for each student in a personalized playlist that includes interactive projects and exercises based on student performance. Teachers can also create performance assignments using the rubric and assignment builder.
Assessment of reading development

Read and write

In English and Spanish

It is usually used several times a year. Individually administered assessment that allows teachers to determine each student's level of independent reading instruction by assessing oral reading comprehension and fluency. The DRA Diagnostic Word Analysis Assessment provides additional information about how dyslexic readers and aspiring readers interact and work with various components of spoken and written words. The resulting plan documents what each student needs to learn next and allows teachers to differentiate classes and select books at the appropriate level.
Simply CBM

K-6 (reading)
K-8 (math)

In English and Spanish

It is usually used several times a year. The assessments are designed for the CCSS reading and mathematics standards. Math, vocabulary, and reading comprehension tests are administered online; other measures (letter names, letter sounds, phoneme segmentation, word and passage reading fluency) are managed individually.
I'm ready


In English

A series of computer-based assessments are designed to provide a complete picture of student performance and growth in mathematics and ELA. The suite includes standard and diagnostic proficiency assessments, dyslexia screening, and oral reading fluency assessments that can be used consistently to monitor and support student progress. The reports provide information on how to interpret the overall score and growth and performance on individual items, and highlight what each student needs to learn next. Results are linked to personalized learning paths and teacher tracking features.
Measures of Academic Progress


In English and Spanish

A series of computer-based assessments in math, ELA, and science

  • Growth: A mid-term assessment to be conducted up to three times a year to provide comparative and growth information.
  • Reading Fluency: An assessment of oral reading fluency, essential skills, and reading comprehension for grades K-3.
  • Skills – Designed to be used as needed to provide progress tracking information on MAP growth administrations.

MAP assessments are designed to provide specific information about what knowledge and skills students can next learn and are linked to classroom resources. They are also linked to student profiles that provide growth information and comparisons with other grades that may be of interest to you, such as: B. Smarter and more balanced grades.

mCLASS: Learn 3D / mCLASS Mathematics

Mathematics K-3

In English and Spanish

The mCLASS Reading 3D assessments are a series of assessment and progress monitoring measures focused on comprehension and meaning making. These assessments are carried out on an individual basis using reading devices from a set of books and completing a series of performance tasks, which may include answering listening questions, completing a retelling, and/or writing responses to listening comprehension questions. Student scores are linked to developmental trajectories and research-based benchmarks. mCLASS math tests combine screening and assessment of progress with guided diagnostic interviews to reveal reasoning and math skills. Assessments can be completed individually or through written benchmark assessments, and the results of assessments and diagnostic reviews are reported as diagnostic profiles with suggested class activities.
performance series

K-12 Reading
2–8 O
Mathematics K-12

In English and Spanish
(for math grades 2-9)

Computer adaptive diagnostic tests. Questions are multiple choice, and student reports include rankings relative to national percentiles, score estimates, and ranking student performance in performance bands. Teachers can link student performance to personalized learning plans related to CCSS learning objectives.
Riverside Provisional Ratings

2–11 ELA

Interim assessments can be administered as pre- and post-tests to monitor pre- and post-class learning. All items are selected responses, either stand-alone (math and language) or combined with passages (reading). Student performance is demonstrated through performance assessments.

star rating

K-3, Star Early Learning Bundle (conhecido como Star Early Literacy y Star Reading)

Pre-K-3, Early Childhood Literacy Star

K-12, Sternlesen

1–12, Stellar Math

In English and Spanish

Star Early Learning is a bundle of Star Early Literacy and Star Reading. Together, these literacy skills measure both literacy and numeracy in a single assessment, providing information on phonological awareness, phonics, word recognition, fluency (including estimated oral fluency), vocabulary, and comprehension.

Star Early Literacy assesses a child's understanding of word knowledge and skills, comprehension, meaning, numbers, and operations. It is standardized for classes before K-3.

Star Reading measures a student's vocabulary comprehension, the ability to comprehend text, and the ability to analyze, comprehend, and evaluate literary and informational text. It is standardized for Kindergarten - Grade 12.

Star Math assesses students' understanding of concepts including number and operations, algebraic reasoning, geometry, measurement, data analysis, statistics, and probability. Star Math is standardized for grades 1-12.

*In addition to the resources listed above, many California districts participate in theMathematics Assessment Project (MAP)Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (16)[], which provides a broad set of formative assessment lessons and rich cumulative performance assignments to support the Common Core State Standards. Hosted byMathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS)Guide to diagnostic and formative assessments (17)[]At the University of California, Berkeley, MAP works with state and district networks, including the Silicon Valley Math Initiative, on the design and implementation of performance assessments and on professional development for designers and teachers. Many of the tasks that MARS has undertaken as part of itsBalanced Assessment in Mathematics (BAM)were incorporated into the Acuity materials described above.


Black, P. and D. William. 2010. "Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment."Phi-Delta Kappa92 (1): 81–90. DOI: 10.1177/003172171009200119.

Brookhart, SM 2009. "The many meanings of 'multiple measures'."educational leadership, 67 (3): 6–12.
Recovered from

Earl, L. and S. Katz. 2006. "Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind."Winnipeg, Manitoba: Canada Northwest Protocol. June 15, 2020).

Smart Balanced Valuation Consortium. 2009.Understand the formative assessment process. June 22, 2020).

accessibility appendix

Accessible version of Figure 1. Continuous teaching and learning process

Image from the Smarter Blanced Assessment Consortium demonstrating a smarter assessment system that incorporates a continuous process of teaching and learning. State standards lead to higher education and professional qualifications. Resources and data to support teaching and learning are provided through three integrated components: Summative Assessments, Midterm Assessments, and Instructional Support (Teacher Tools).

Return to index after Figure 1

Accessible version of Figure 2. ICA, IAB and IAB in focus

Summary of interim balances

Comprehensive midterm evaluations

Image of a three by three by three cube with all parts filled in.

Evaluates the same objectives as the summative. Examples:

  • ALS class 3
  • 3rd year math
Current Medium Balance Blocks

Image of a three by three by three cube filled with a two by two by two cube piece.

Score 1-8 goals in math and ELA/literacy. Examples:

  • 3rd grade ELA, reading comprehension texts
  • 3rd year mathematics, operations and algebraic reasoning
Focused intermediate evaluation blocks

Picture of a three by three by three cube with one part filled two by one by one. The two-for-one stuffed portion is inside the portion that was a two-for-two portion.

Assess 1-3 goals in math and ELA/literacy. Examples:

  • 3rd Grade ELA, Reading Literacy Texts: Text Analysis
  • Third grade math: multiply and divide within 100

Return to index after Figure 2


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