Blueprint or outline assessments

Assessment blueprints

Answer important questions with performance data

An assessment outline or blueprint answers instructional questions. A good plan will create assessments telling a story and providing feedback about student learning.

Establish the purpose and use of the assessment

What do we need to learn about our students?

How are we going to use the data or results?

Team or program assessments planned for a purpose improve instructional decisions and target learning opportunities, benefitting teachers and students.

Purpose of data defines the assessment.

The purpose and use of performance data define the type of assessment.

  • Prediction
  • Diagnostic
  • Grades
  • Placement
  • Intervention
  • Formative

For example, a predictive test mirrors the style and standard set from an important summative assessment. Assessments used for grading reflect current classroom instructional standards and include the type and style of content currently taught in the classroom.

Blueprint questions outline and define the assessment

What standards tell us what we want to know about our students?

  • important current standards
  • standards without recent data
  • skills needed in future learning

Not all current standards or skills need inclusion on assessments.

Evaluate the need to assess standards you already have enough information from the students.

Do any standards complement each other?

Complementary Standards usually come from the same domain or strand. Identifying complementary standards reduces item counts and exam time while providing useful data. A few items for a piece of specific knowledge or complementary skills will give indications on students learning, just not at a psychometric level similar to a high stakes assessment.

Define instructional needs

  • What skills or knowledge within the standards need assessing?
  • What level of difficulty or complexity is appropriate at this point in the school year?
  • How much time are we going to give students to complete the test?
  • How many items do we need on this assessment?

Item counts per standard do not have to be high for classroom assessments. Quality items, along with the right standard mix, will provide acceptable performance data to improve learning and instruction.

Taking online or offline?

Online versions of an assessment will allow for different item types. Online can be good or bad, depending on available technology, and the quality of the online item. Evaluations that are going to analyzed by a team or department should either be online or offline, not a mixed environment. If each teacher is going to look at the results in isolation, it doesn’t matter.

What item types should we use?

  • Multiple choice
  • Constructed response
  • Performance tasks
  • Writing prompt
  • Technology-enhanced

Modifications and participation

  • Will all students take the assessment?
  • Are we going to allow modifications to the test?
  • Do we provide any additional support to specific students?

Team or department assessments usually expect administration for all students with little or no modifications, but expectations and reality do not always match. Without guidelines, the test environment may look different from class to class. If you want quality inferences from the performance data, make sure the team has guidelines to follow for participation and modifications.

Informational text classroom

Informational text good habits

Reading independence happens when students purposely use their reading skills to enhance learning.

Skills needed to independently learn from informational text

  • Basic reading skills to comprehend text
  • A vocabulary to support learning from a content area reading
  • Know subject area text structure
  • Read age-appropriate text fluently
  • Understand the reasons for using text to learn
  • Background knowledge to support meaning from the text

Prepare struggling readers for content area reading

  • Preview key concepts or vocabulary
  • Plan pre-read discussions
  • Write pre and post reading to target key learning
  • Read complex text in chunks to scaffold learning and check for understanding
  • Practice making inferences from text at central learning points
  • Model and practice thinking techniques while students are using complex text
  • Teach, model, and practice word strategies
  • Implement targeted vocabulary curriculum
  • Increase reading time

Learn from reading

  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • Authentic text

Quality, not quantity.


  • Textbooks
  • Online
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Blogs
  • Social media

Informational reading from high-quality text

Online resources are easy to find, quality is not guaranteed.

System of text resources

  1. Identify resources
  2. Easy access
  3. Storage system
  4. Quality check
  5. Catalog

Resource access gaps effects learning.

Other than online

Students still need to read from print books. Reading online is difficult, requires great concentration, and takes particular skills.

Online close reading of complex text is hard, especially for younger students learning to read with depth.

  • What skills do our students need to learn from a complex expository text?
  • What text available to use during school hours?
  • Are the textbooks of high quality?
  • Does the textbook have high-quality illustrations, graphs, and other learning sources that go beyond just the text?

Quality books are content rich and use a variety of styles to support learning.

Six steps to better classroom data

Six steps to increase the value of classroom performance data

  1. Determine progression outcomes all students must attain in preparation for current and future learning.
  2. Identify skills and concepts matching intended learning. Rank the skills and concepts by importance, and plot essential skills, ideas, and opportunities that support the plan.
  3. Design or select a summative assessment to measure final learning. The type of evaluation varies based on the desired outcome, and performance expected from students.
  4. Select a diagnostic assessment to measure student preparedness. Include essential and challenging standards in the test or task. If possible, use recent performance data or student work for diagnostic information to minimize time and effort.
  5. Develop an instructional flow and lessons to keep actual learning closer to intended learning. As the plan develops, identify potential reteach or intervention points, and adjust with the diagnostic data.
  6. Embed formative checkpoints used during instruction, intervention, and reteaching. Create a performance task with embedded formative experiences. It allows for adjustments during education and provides scaffolding opportunities for targeted students while building to final decisions on learning effectiveness.