Classroom Strategies, Materials Adaptation, Tools and Resources

Getting to Know Mini-Assessments

Learn about free, high-quality mini-assessments for math and literacy.

Editor’s note: The Student Achievement Partners’ mini-assessments mentioned in this post can be accessed here for ELA and here for math

Don’t you just love waking up in the morning not having to worry that the various assessments you give your students are high-quality, truly aligned to the Shifts, and worthy of your students?  Wait.  What?  That’s not your reality? You mean you don’t have a perfect assessment system?

Almost as soon as Common Core implementation commenced, Student Achievement Partners heard from educators that they were concerned about the lack of quality assessment examples. The issue has become somewhat of a refrain as we’ve worked with educators across the country.  Teachers, coaches, administrators, and even parents asked us where they could access assessment questions they could use for a variety of purposes, including:

For ELA/Literacy

  • To administer assessments across a year to determine if students are showing progress in reading grade-level- appropriate texts. The texts used on the mini-assessments have gone through a rigorous process that includes use of both quantitative data and qualitative analysis. The information has been included as both proof of text complexity and as a model of how to examine the texts users are considering for use.
  • To help students understand how important close reading and use of textual evidence are in assisting them in answering questions. We have included a section in each mini-assessment that offers the rationales for all the correct answers and incorrect answers. These explanations can be used with students to demonstrate the required level of analysis to answer text-based questions.

For Math

  • To provide examples of content illustrating the required skills for success in later mathematics.
  • To determine if students are making progress toward grade-level fluency expectations. The problems on the mini-assessments reflect grade-level fluencies and can be used repeatedly to demonstrate progress throughout the year.

For ELA/Literacy and Math

  • To use in trainings to help colleagues recognize what the Shifts look like when they are applied to assessments.
  • To more fully understand what a question might look like for a particular standard.
  • To use as part of the school or district formative assessments as part of a formative assessment system.
  • To expose students to the various formats they might see on summative assessments. The mini-assessments include multiple-choice items, selected-response items (meaning the items are multiple choice but have more than one correct answer), technology-like items (e.g., charts), and even constructed-response items. Having students familiar with a large variety of items may help them be better prepared for what they will see in other assessments, including state summative assessments.

To respond to these needs, SAP launched the mini-assessment project in 2013.

For literacy, the goal was to create enough mini-assessments so that all Reading Standards for Literature and Reading Standards for Informational Text would be represented.  To that end, we’ve posted a total of 50 mini-assessments, representing grades 3–11. The texts include stories, poems, essays, scientific articles, seminal and foundational documents–whatever genre is needed to meet the standards.  Along the way, we also found opportunities to test some of the grade 6-11 standards in Literacy in History/Social Studies as well as the standards in Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects. (If you wish to locate an item to a standard at a particular grade, you can use this sorter. The topics were chosen with kids in mind, so not only are the texts appropriately complex and aligned to the specific genres listed in the Standards, they are also meant to be interesting!

For math, the goal was to create mini-assessments aligned to Major Work clusters and illustrating each of the aspects of Rigor: conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application.  To that end, we’ve posted a total of 22 mini-assessments, representing grades 2-8 and HS.  The math topics were chosen with kids in mind, so the examples provided will help move students toward college- and career- readiness.

Our goal is to help you wake up in the morning worry-free, knowing there are examples of high-quality, well-aligned assessments you can use, free of pain (and free from spending).  So go explore those mini-assessments and get a good night’s sleep.

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About the Author: Astrid Fossum supports Student Achievement Partner’s mathematics and assessment initiatives in her role as Mathematics Assessment Specialist. Astrid brings over 18 years of experience in mathematics teaching and administration, starting with 10 years as an elementary and middle school teacher in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. She served in district mathematics teacher leadership roles before her most recent position as the Mathematics Curriculum Specialist for the Milwaukee Public Schools. Astrid has taught pre-service and in-service teachers and administrations at the college level and has served on the board of the Wisconsin Mathematics Council. Astrid holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from St. Olaf College, teaching certification coursework from University of St. Thomas and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Viterbo University.

About the Author: Laura Hansen supports Student Achievement Partner’s literacy and assessment initiatives. Laura joined Student Achievement Partners after having served as Executive Director at ETS, where she was directly involved with many state testing programs. Prior to working in the testing industry, Laura was a classroom teacher in Texas for nine years, emphasizing reading strategies and best practices in her classroom. While in the classroom, Laura also worked as a scorer for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Lifetime Teacher Certificate with Reading Specialization for the state of Texas.