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Neil McLeod



Criterion and Norm Referenced Assessments

1) Criterion Referenced Assessments (CRT) are assessments that are designed

to determine if a student has achieved the instructional objectives of a lesson. A

criterion based test is designed to assess whether a student has learned the skills

and/or material that was presented in the class. CRTs allow the creation of a

pass/fail type of test, where a student is expected to get a certain percentage of

questions correct or they do not meet the objectives of the lesson.

This type of assessment has several advantages. In the case of training for

specific job duties, a CRT allows trainers to be assured that if a student passes the

exam the student has learned the items from the test. Its easy to see how this type

of test would be beneficial when testing drivers education students. If the examiner

asks the student to complete a three-point-turn and the student successfully

completes the task, then the student has passed the criteria of that portion of the


Another advantage of these types of assessments is that they can give a

plethora of information to the instructor and the student regarding the students

learning of the material. If a student is taking a chemistry exam there will likely be

several different lessons worth of material on the test. The teacher and the student

can determine which material a student mastered, and which material the student

needs to review in order to meet the learning objectives.

Criterion based tests can also be used to help a teacher identify the efficacy

of the teaching methods used in a specific lesson. By using data gained from a

group of students, and comparing their answers to specific questions the teacher

can determine if the material presented in the class effectively prepared the

students to meet the learning objectives for that class.

In short criterion referenced assessments are assessments that allow

teachers and students to determine the actual ability and knowledge of the student

in regards to the objectives of the class.

2) Norm Referenced Assessments are tests that are designed to compare a

students results to other students that have taken the same test in similar

circumstances. Norm referenced tests can also show whether a test taker performed

better or worse than the average student. This is determined by either selecting a

base set of students as the norm that all other students are then compared to, or

by simply comparing a students scores to the other students that took the test at

the same time.

Norm-referenced scores are usually reported as percentages or as a

percentile ranking. Percentages simply show the score of the student. However,

percentile rankings are more nuanced. Percentile rankings give the value of all

students that scored the same or below the given student. Therefore, if a student

takes a norm-referenced test and scores in the 90 th percentile, this means that the

student scored the same as or better than 90% of his peers and 10% did better than

the student.

Many national standardized tests are graded on a norm-referenced scale. The

IQ test is very common example. The score received on an IQ test is based

referenced to other test takers where 100 is average. The SAT is also a norm-

referenced test, but the ACT is not.

Norm-referenced tests can be useful in providing specific information. This

style of assessment can be used to determine if a child is ready to begin

kindergarten by measuring language abilities, social interactions, and motor skills.

Thus, one can compare one child to his peers and determine as a whole if theyre

ready to interact in a more disciplined environment than pre-K classes.

Many competitive colleges use the SAT to determine acceptance of students.

These ultra-competitive schools want the very best students in attendance.

Therefore, they can use the scores obtained from a norm-referenced test, like the

SAT, to weed out the highest ranked individual for admittance.

3) From my understanding formative assessments are any sort of test or graded

activity that would give the student and teacher an idea of how the student is

progressing throughout the learning process. The key here is that the tests are

given while the student is still learning the material. Thus the student and teacher

can use these assessments as a sort of measuring stick to figure out how the

student is doing as he/she moves throughout the unit. At that point the student and

teacher can make individual and group changes to the learning activities to better

the learning of the students.

Formative assessments can be either a formal test, homework, or in class

activity. These tests can be anything that is graded that lets the teacher know how

each individual student is progressing through the material.

Im also fairly certain that a formative assessment can be graded as either

criterion or norm referenced. A criterion referenced test would give information

directly to how the student is progressing to specific learning objectives. A norm

referenced test would give a teacher information about how the students as a whole

are progressing compared to each other.

4) Standards based grading is the act of grading students against specific

learning standards. Instead of grading students based on participation, turning in

work on time, and other more classical grading methodologies standards based

grading only grades students on their actual learning and accomplishment of the

standards of the course. In many districts that have implemented standard based

grading, this means that there is no opportunity for extra credit, but students have

the opportunity to turn in the grades for learning objectives anytime and their final

grade only reflects their most recent learning.

One of the biggest benefits of this grading system is that a students grade is

an accurate representation of what the student has learned. In the grading system

that is used classically the students grade could vary based on a numerous number

of reasons. Weve all seen students who perform well on tests but dont turn in

homework. These students have actually learned quite a bit in the course, but

because of missing assignments they wont receive a grade that is reflective of their

actual knowledge gain. On the other side a different student could be very good at

playing the school game. Meaning, they always turn in their homework on time

and constantly pressure the teacher for extra credit. However, if this student

doesnt perform well on tests, the student might still receive a decent grade in the

class despite the fact that they havent learned anything in the course. In both of
these cases the students receive grades that dont actually represent their

knowledge in the course material.

When students grades reflect their actual learning progression more

effectively, this gives all parties involved more information about the education of

the student. Parents and students will have a better idea of how to best help their

students improve, and teachers can also adjust their guidance and teaching to

better help student through learning objectives that may be more challenging for

each individual student.

Another benefit of standards based grading is that it gives more responsibility

to learning to the student. A gifted student can spend less time on learning

objectives that they comprehend easily, and then spend more time working on

higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy of learning. On the other hand struggling

students will have a better idea of what types of questions they need to practice.

Finally, standards based grading would drastically reduce paperwork for

teachers. If teachers assign points to every single item that they do in class then

the teacher has painted themselves in a corner of crazy amounts of work

throughout the semester. Students who were absent will turn in assignments later,

and depending on the districts policy teachers will have to give grades for late

assignments throughout the semester. The key here is that when teachers have less

paperwork to do, teachers can spend more time developing quality teaching plans

for their students.

5) Grading on a curve is used to compare students grades to one another. It

forces the teacher to put set everyones grades so they lay on a perfect bell curve.

Thus, the student that received the highest score will receive the highest grade
possible on the test. On the low end, the student with the lowest grade receives the

lowest score on the test. Everyone in the middle receives scores so that the majority

of students end up in the C range.

There are several problems when using this grading scheme. The biggest one

that comes to mind is that the grade given gives absolutely no information about

the learning of the student. The grade that they receive is only an indicator of how

well the student performed on graded assignments compared to other students.

Because the curve is set by the teacher with no other input its usually completely

arbitrary. Therefore the curve and the grades are really quite meaningless to

teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

Another problem with using a curve is that reduces cooperation between

students. Each grade is given by comparing students to one another. This will

purposefully increase competition between students. Therefore, the students that

are driven to succeed in the course are actually incentivized to work alone or even

to attempt to sabotage their peers. Obviously this is not what happens in the

professional world. Youre expected to work with other people constructively and

collaboration is key.

Sometimes students grades do not fall into the perfect bell curve. Some

researchers have shown that if the teacher is exceptionally good, then their classes

will actually perform far better over the course. When I taught in the KC school

district students in general were not motivated in school work whatsoever.

Therefore, the averages on tests were always in the low 50s. If a teacher

implemented a strict curve in that class would cause a tremendous inflation to the
grades. Therefore, it would become detrimental to compare students to other

classes within the school or to students from other schools entirely.

There are some advantages to grading on a curve. If students fall very closely

to the bell curve in general, then the previously mentioned disadvantages would

become less pronounced. However, this also implies that the grading system wont

have much impact anyway.

Its also easy to see that the curve would be fairly beneficial within a fairly

competitive department at the same school. For example, if a nursing school uses a

specific pre-nursing department as a means of selecting their students, then

utilizing a department wide curve would make selecting candidates a much simpler


Overall, grading on a curve has a couple of advantages, but the disadvantage

of losing vital information about students learning and performance far outweighs

the advantages.

6) My personal grading philosophy is in flux. Before taking this class I had

always utilized a traditional style of grading. My assignments ranged from

worksheets to projects, and students were graded on turning in assignments on

time and correct answers. Students were also graded on note taking and

participation. I didnt have a problem with accepting late work, and if students were

driven they could ask for extra credit to make up points.

After reading about standards based grading in the textbook I decided to do a

lot more research online about how teachers implement the system. Ive found that

I really like the idea of using this method. It would give me more time to focus on
teaching and students learning, and less time on grading late assignments,

developing methods to grade participation, checking notes, and other purely

administrative tasks. This has been one of my biggest problems in the past.

Students will want to schedule time to come in and work with me on specific

questions, but Ive usually felt so far behind on paperwork that I felt torn between

both tasks.

I think in general grading should be done in regards to specific criteria. The

entire purpose of education is for people to learn. Therefore, in order to make sure

education is working correctly students should be given grades that inform all

parties involved about the actual learning of the student. However, I think it can

provide useful information to the teacher to refer to norm-referenced data.

In general my philosophy is currently in flux. Im learning a lot about different

methodologies of grading and Im talking to other science teachers to figure out

what theyre doing that has worked for them.