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ANet is a nonprofit dedicated to the premise that every child in America deserves an excellent education and the opportunities it provides. We pursue our vision of educational equality in America by helping schools boost student learning with great teaching that is grounded in standards, informed by data, and built on the successful practices of educators around the country.

Previewing assessments in ELA

Reading the standard is a powerful first step, but previewing an assessment question or task helps you see what the standard looks like in action. It’s the age-old adage: Show me, don’t tell me.

Previewing assessments in ELA

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“Previewing the assessment allows teachers to plan for how to introduce a technique or concept to students, and to reflect on possible misconceptions or mistakes their students might make. This creates a path for future learning.” —Kelley Dudley, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist at George Washington Carver Elementary School

Sometimes, assessments can feel like a “big reveal”: Will the topics we covered in class actually be on there, or will there be a magical white rabbit none of us saw coming? It’s anyone’s guess. 

But assessments shouldn’t have to feel that way. When used to their full potential, instructional assessments can actually serve as planning tools that help teachers internalize the demands of the standards. That way, teachers are better prepared to support students as they engage with rigorous, grade-level content. 

And while simply reading the language of a standard is a powerful first step, looking at an assessment question or task helps you see what the standard looks like in action. It’s that age-old adage: Show me, don’t tell me

Previewing literacy assessments is based on the idea that there’s no substitute for doing the work. Teachers read the texts and answer the questions their students will be expected to do. As they read and write, teachers notice what skills and knowledge they have to draw on. They discover different entry points and potential pitfalls.

With a clear sense of the end goal in mind, teachers can improve their planning and instruction by asking themselves, Are the texts I’m using complex enough? Are my questions text-dependent, and do they lead students to key understandings of the text? 

Watch this video in which Principal Susan Harvey from George Washington Carver Elementary School in Cleveland, OH, shares how her teachers (and students!) have made it a habit to look at assessments as part of their planning. 


Use this assessment preview protocol to help “flip” assessments from being a measure of students’ skills and knowledge to a powerful planning tool.