Balanced Assessment Systems

Balanced Assessment Systems

Because no one assessment is able to provide answers to all questions around instructional decisions based on learning scaffolding, departmental alignment, and systemic adjustments; the MDE suggests that districts develop a Balanced Assessment System including diagnostic (measure students’ knowledge and skills before instruction), formative (to adjust instruction based on student progression toward learning targets), interim (to measure progress toward academic goals and standards) and summative (to measure student mastery of standards and drive local district decision making) components.  As a part of a balanced system, districts may want to divide assessments into two areas:  assessment for learning and assessment of learning.  This division may assist with the use of the inventory tool and assist with driving the building/district decision making process.  The following resources are intended to assist district leaders with understanding a balanced system and with being able to communicate this type of system to staff, parents, and community stakeholders. 

A truly balanced assessment system is a complex concept.  Therefore, this information is solely intended as an introduction and to support districts with communicating with parents, boards, and stakeholders.Additional information to assist with staff professional learning and development around balanced assessment systems and assessment literacy can be found by reaching out to Michigan Department of Education (Office of Standards and Assessment, Office of Educational Improvement and Innovation) staff or by contacting the Michigan Assessment Consortium

The Four W’s of Assessment

The intent of the “Four W's of Assessment” is to provide a general background on the levels of a balanced assessment system and help to answer questions on their use.  Additionally, this figure will assist with communicating the types of assessments and their impact on student learning and district decision making.  This figure may also assist with understanding the flow from Formative (assessment for learning) toward Summative (assessment of learning) and how these uses of assessment can provide different information to varied stakeholders.  Also, this “flow” can illustrate how different assessments inform different educators about varied levels of the district and can assist with aligning all district decisions.  Click the thumbnail below for further information on the Four W's.

The Four W's of Assessment

Assessment Systems

The Assessment Systems Chart crosses assessment type with intent.  In addition, there are some sample assessments listed.  Please note that these are examples and it is not the intent of the department to mandate the use of any of these examples.  Districts are aware of the assessments that they use and can use this chart as a tool to assist with planning their assessment system.  Click the thumbnail below for further information on assessment systems.  These sample assessments can help with identifying diverse needs of districts and students, and with creating and supporting Student Learning Objectives.

Thumb Nail of New Assessment System

Areas of Student Influence

The Michigan Assessment Consortium has created a visual to assist districts with understanding assessments and their impact on student learning.  Knowing this impact can support decisions that are to be made in the School and District Improvement Planning process. 


Thumbnail of Appropriate Balance to Promote Learning