Assessing Student Work

Last Updated: January 01, 2001

Assessing Student Work

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By Rural Trust Documentation and Assessment Team

Rural Trust schools and communities embrace an education that values what is local — the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature and art of a particular place — in an effort to promote mutual school and community well-being. This local focus, the Rural Trust argues, has a special power to engage students academically, pairing real world relevance with intellectual rigor. It also develops in students critical habits of mind that promote genuine citizenship — decision-making, planning, public presenting, and valuing of local culture. The Rural Trust believes these skills and habits are best displayed through long-term projects, in community-based work with a public purpose and audience.

This guide originated in a request from Rural Trust project directors for assessment practices compatible with such project-oriented learning — the types of assessment in which students actually do something, construct answers, perform critical tasks and create a product of value. In the face of increased calls for accountability, there is an urgent need for thoughtful assessments that capture the place-based learning of Rural Trust students more adequately than standardized tests. What follows, therefore, are descriptions of various assessment strategies, practical steps to take in constructing them, and specific examples from a number of school communities.