Research & Development

Designing Balanced Assessment Systems

Assessment tools and products abound, but district leaders need support in how to build a coherent and comprehensive system that can lead to improved student learning.

Our research is helping to inform this important area of school leadership, shaping the development of new resources for educators and policy makers.


Current Research and Development Topics

Assessment Learning Institute

Since 2019, we have equipped groups of Michigan educators to use MAC-developed resources to increase assessment capable practice. The Institute, typically held in August, is designed to promote assessment literacy among local and intermediate school district staff and to improve the quality and effectiveness of local assessment systems.

This work builds on a proof-of-concept pilot undertaken in 2017-18 using the District Assessment System Design Toolkit (DASD) and an associated process (developed by the Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment—NCIEA) in selected Michigan districts.

The AL helps teachers—whether new or veterans in the classroom—more effectively use assessment to accelerate student learning. The activities in this year-long learning engagement empower and fortify teachers in using classroom assessment to support student learning.

ALI Focus Record:

  • In 2019, ALI participants piloted the use of facilitator guides designed to support the use of MAC’s Assessment Learning Modules for local and ISD blended-learning models.
  • In 2020, participants examined an expanded set of MAC materials to learn from and shape practice.
  • In 2021 and 2022, participants used assessment to both deepen and accelerate student learning to address disruptive challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In 2023, participants deepen their understanding about assessment literacy, classroom assessment methods, and student engagement in the assessment process.

Achieving Balance in Classroom Assessment (ABCA) Project

The ABCA project promotes the use of balanced approaches to assessment in the classroom – the integrated use of assessment for and of learning. Launched in 2020-21 as the “Smarter Fame,” project, the ABCA project is building on successful early collaboration with the Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators (FAME) program to develop a set of instructional materials in the form of MAC-developed Learning Maps and supported by a cadre of facilitators who will field test professional learning materials, facilitated support, and quality example materials designed to increase knowledge, skills and effectiveness in:

  • implementing the formative assessment process in classroom instruction.
  • integrating and using classroom summative assessments within a classroom as part of a balanced assessment system.
  • integrating and using Interim/Benchmark assessments within a classroom setting as part of a balanced assessment system.

The SBAC Interim Assessments and instructional platform Tools for Teachers provides example material to use in training. The FAME program is the professional learning model ready to take classroom teachers forward.

District Assessment System Design Pilot

The District Assessment System Design Toolkit (DASD), developed by the Center for Assessment, was used to guide a process of designing a district assessment system or evaluating and improving an existing one.

We identified potential school districts (coordinated by their ISDs), provided facilitators, experienced the facilitated process, and communicated feedback on how the process and the Toolkit could be enhanced.

To learn more about the MAC’s Research and Development work, contact Ed Roeber at (517) 816-4520.

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Our resource bank contains additional materials and resources to support educators in the effective use of assessment.

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