Skip to content

Making the Most of Interim Assessment Data: Lessons from Philadelphia

Under No Child Left Behind, urban school districts have increasingly turned to interim assessments, administered at regular intervals, to help gauge student progress in advance of annual state exams. These assessments have spawned growing debate among educators, assessment experts, and the testing industry: are they worth the significant investment of money and time? In Making the Most of Interim Assessment Data: Lessons from Philadelphia, Research for Action (RFA) weighs in on this issue. The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was an early adopter of interim assessments, implementing the exams in 2003. Unlike teachers in some other regions, Philadelphia elementary and middle grades teachers rated these ‘Benchmark’ assessments highly. However, the study found that enthusiasm did not necessarily correlate with higher rates of student achievement. What did predict student success were three factors — instructional leadership, collective responsibility, and use of the SDP’s Core Curriculum. The report underscores the value of investment in ongoing data interpretation that emphasizes teachers’ learning within formal instructional communities, such as grade groups of teachers. This research was funded by the Spencer Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.