Assessment Insights

What is a Balanced Assessment System? 4 Assessment Definitions that Might Surprise You [Infographic]

[fa icon="calendar"] February, 2017 / by Press Room

Press Room

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) emphasizes the need for a balanced assessment system (BAS). While there’s a lot of uncertainty about the fate of ESSA, many of us in the K–12 world understand the inherent rightness of a BAS and will persist in seeking that kind of comprehensive assessment plan. It’s the bright, elusive butterfly of assessment—we all want it, and we’re all working hard to pin it down. We’ve established our vision of a BAS, and it’s based on having a clear understanding of the goals and uses of various assessment types.

Several different terms can be used to describe similar kinds of assessments. But these terms carry some nuance, and are not necessarily interchangeable. One of the keys to assessment literacy is establishing clarity and consistency in the terminology we use with our colleagues and policy makers.

To that end, Measured Progress created an infographic to help explain the parts and the whole of a balanced assessment system. Here we offer a glimpse. 

4 main components of a balanced assessment system

Balanced Assessment System, Assessment Terms, Formative Assessment, Interim Assessment, Benchmark Assessment, Statewide Assessment

  1. Formative assessment practices

Formative assessment is a multi-step interactive process, not a type of test. Over time, teachers and students engage in a variety of activities in a student–teacher learning partnership.

  1. Benchmark assessments

Test publishers provide many benchmark assessments that districts use at certain points through the year. Teachers also create benchmark tests—the term refers to assessment of recently taught material—such as unit, semester, or chapter content.

  1. Interim assessments

These are general achievement measures used to monitor progress toward end-of-year goals and to flag problems. Interim tests cover the full year’s standards at several points during the school year.

  1. Statewide assessment

Statewide testing refers to the program that individual states or state collaboratives administer once a year to fulfill accountability requirements and demonstrate progress.

Download the infographic to see how these parts work together across a school year, and to learn more about these and other assessment terms.

Unlock additional mysteries of a balanced assessment system

  • Is a summative test the same as an accountability assessment?
  • Are benchmark and interim assessments related?
  • Where do classroom tests and teacher-assigned grades fit in?

Find answers to these questions and more on the infographic. These are our definitions, and we’re striving to use them clearly and consistently in our communications from now on. They’re based on decades of experience and learning from many assessment experts and practitioners. 


Topics: Classroom Assessment, Assessment Literacy, Formative Assessment, Accountability, Interim Assessments, Connecting Teaching and Learning

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Our Press Room chooses topics of interest from activities around the company, to provide a closer look at ways to improve learning and instruction, and to help demystify assessment issues.