Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Assessment in Perspective

By Amy Brennan

On January 19, 2017 #G2Great welcomed Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan( @ClareandTammy ). We learned alongside our #G2Great community about Assessment in Perspective and we discussed topics related to their book by the same title. In the book, Clare and Tammy begin the preface with a quote from Maya Angelou that really speaks to perspective around assessment and how important the human factor is when interpreting data.

    Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. –Maya Angelou        


Understanding the purpose behind anything that we are engaged in is critical for success. Assessment is no different — all stakeholders, teachers, parents and most of all our students should know why we are engaging in a particular assessment.  When the purpose isn’t known to those involved in the assessing, the data is no longer reliable. When we consider the purpose we also have to consider that there many factors that go into the performance a child has on a particular assessment. Think about physical and mental factors that can interfere with a test sleep, diet and mood can greatly alter one’s performance. Home and school factors can also impact performance, but if the stakeholders, teachers, students and parents know the purpose of the assessment Collectively they can support the whole child by ensuring that the optimal conditions are present when a child is assessed, but this can only happen if there is an understanding and a shared value in the purpose.  

“If we want true, meaningful and authentic data — we must start with the purpose.”

– Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan


If data is to be viewed with meaning, those participating in this assessment must value and see the meaningfulness in the data. In their book, Tammy and Clare title the first chapter, “Moving Beyond the Numbers: Finding the Stories of Our Readers.” If that chapter title alone does not draw you into this book I am sure the tweets from this chat will! They quote Lucy Calkins in this chapter from The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing (2003), “Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work. The intelligence that guides our every moment as a teacher. It is through this mind work –– collecting data, asking questions, digging deeper, talking with colleagues, and putting the pieces of information together –– that we can truly understand our readers and find their stories.”  

We, as educators need to push beyond the numbers and listen to the stories of our students. In a time when assessment and data can be so overwhelming to us, it is comforting to see so many educators who see beyond the numbers. They not only see the name, they see the face, they hear the voice and they hold the hand of our precious learners as they grow because we are assessing with a purpose and they are holding tight to meaningful data.


    “We cannot afford to lose these stories.”

– Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan



Assessments must be authentic. This means that assessment and instruction are connected. Instruction cannot be without assessment and assessment without instruction, they are two halves of the same whole. If we expect assessment to affect instruction it must be authentic. It should be connected to the learning that is actually happening in the classroom. The gradual release of responsibility model that we use in our reading and writing minilessons offers us authentic opportunities to observe our students in the act of learning, we can see how they apply the new learning. At first with a partner and then alone. These authentic assessment opportunities allow students to engage in classroom discussion, provide opportunities for teacher clarity and feedback while generating an authentic formative assessment while students are in the act of learning. If we look to John Hattie’s research we can see that these instructional practices have a significant effect size on learning and they are authentic!


During the chat, so many educators voiced these ideas throughout the chat. As Cathy Mere pointed out, “Assessment is the arrow that keeps us moving forward.” It is important for us to remember that the arrow has to have a purpose or direction and be meaningful and authentic in order to stay its course and move forward.


If you want to learn more about Clare and Tammy’s perspective, visit and buy a copy of their book Assessment in Perspective from Stenhouse Publishers!  

Thank you to Clare and Tammy for chatting with us! Thank you to Stenhouse Publishers for providing books that lucky chat participants were able to win in our raffle!  Thank you to our #G2Great PLN for joining us each and every week as we chat, think and learn together!  It is always better in your company!

Click here for the Storify archive of this chat!