We Evaluate What We Value

Systems define success in relation to their purpose and goals. If the measure of success is limited to only quantitative data, the destination may also become limited. What does your system value? What do you evaluate? Are the indicators of success appropriate and do they include multiple sources? How can you use assessment FOR learning to provide evidence of working towards or achieving your mission?

Remember, we evaluate what we value. If we collect simple, comparative numerical data, we communicate that we value that which can be measured simply and in numerical terms. We end up doing what Paul LeMahieu (1996) warns us against – we end up ACCOUNTING for learning rather than BEING ACCOUNTABLE for it.

Sometimes the push from leaders is to collect ‘objective’ data, yet all data is subjective – it just looks objective when it is in numerical form. When it comes to classroom assessment, leaders can support teachers to work towards better reliability and validity of their evaluations by encouraging them to collect evidence of learning from multiple sources over time. One way to do this is through *triangulation* – collecting evidence through making observations, having written, oral, or recorded conversations and collecting the products created as students learn. Then, when teachers come to evaluate and report, they can be confident in their judgment.

Sometimes educators find it hard to imagine using qualitative data as part of a summative grade. In this Assessment of Learning video clip I give examples of how some teachers calculate percentage grades using both quantitative and qualitative data. You can view the video here. I encourage you to think about how you might be able to include both qualitative data as well as quantitative data in your summative grades so as to report on all learning outcomes or standards, using more of the evidence of learning.


“Your true value depends entirely on what you are compared with.”
~ Bob Wells


Transforming Schools and Systems using Assessment: A Practical Guide is ‘jammed with examples’ of how barriers are being transformed daily by leaders at all levels of education. Check it out here.

All the best,
Anne