Data Use for Improved Learning

April 28, 2014

Data Use for Improved Learning provides information and strategies related to several types of assessments, including an extensive section on formative assessment. This site is no longer being updated as of 2013 but will still prove quite useful for educators looking for assessment resources.

Created by: The National Center for Research on Evaluations, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) in partnership with WestEd, and supported by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Audience: Educators, administrators, and professional development providers.

Potential Use: Professional Development – self-guided or group
The readings, modules, and field examples in this site could be used by professional development providers or administrators designing offerings on the topic of formative assessment. The site can also be explored by teachers and administrators for individual professional growth.


This website provides information and strategies related to several types of assessments. It has an extensive section on formative assessment. The site includes explanations of each step and some practical strategies that can be used with students (in general – not a specific age). It also covers benchmark assessments and diagnostic assessments.

Note that this site was developed around 2006 and does not reference the Common Core State Standards. However, the strategies and process described can be easily integrated into a Common Core-connected curriculum.

Good to know: a Road Map to this Resource


This site provides rich set of resources and can be explored anytime, anywhere. For use for individual professional growth, set aside a few hours to explore.


None required.

Content Map

The “Supporting Learning” section of the site (see the left navigation panel) is the most relevant to learning about assessment. Sections include:

  • Formative Assessments
    This section includes an interactive graphic of the Formative Assessment cycle. The Cycle section identifies the steps in the cycle and the Strategies section then provides strategies for each step. Click on any of the steps in the graphic and see more information or a specific example in the space to right. When needed, click on “read more” to view the full text. The Bibliography page links into the main resource database and includes dozens of articles and books on the topic.
  • Benchmark Assessments
    This section discusses how benchmarks assessments can be used for information and instructional planning. It includes pages that explore: the role of benchmark assessments in an Assessment System, the Purpose of benchmark assessments, Selection and Use, and the Instructional Support needed for implementation.
  • Diagnostic Assessments
    This section explores four criteria for selecting quality diagnostic tests that contribute to student learning: validity, reliability, bias, and usability with a tab for each. Under Criteria you will find a lists of questions you should consider when assessing an evaluation tool based on each of the four criteria. The Course section includes an interactive module on each criteria. The modules are short animated presentations with multiple choice and open-ended questions on the topics and their application in your school.

Data Use for Improved Learning also contains a variety of tools to help schools/districts use data better found in the “Foundation” section. This includes a guide that “provides a comprehensive overview of data use to support educational improvement and is applicable at all levels of the system, from the state level to the classroom level”, and tools to evaluate data capacities and needs. A user will also find a criteria for evaluating commercial data tools.

Navigation Tips

  • The subsection pages all include a tab called “How to Use this Section” which will help you navigate through and get the most out of your visit.
  • Print any page on this site by clicking on the printer button located in the bottom left hand corner.
  • Note that the module on reliability in the Diagnostic Assessments section has some technical problems with the activities slides and you may not be able to complete that module.

Key Resources

Capacities Map: This is an interactive graphic which outlines all the capacities that must be in place at all levels of the educational system to effectively use data to enhance student learning.

State Examples: This section describes the different approaches taken in several states to increase formative assessment. For example Arkansas provided PD to teachers and administrators at several schools and then developed a statewide online course. Iowa provided training for their Department of Education staff and then developed an institute for PD providers and LEAs to deliver PD throughout the state. Each example includes descriptions of the modules, workshops, etc. that were provided, along with agendas and PowerPoint presentations. These resources could be adapted when designing PD offerings.

Resource Library: The resource library is extensive. Searching for “formative assessment” pulls up dozens of articles and books for further reading.


  • Assessment Blog Access the blog from anywhere on the site by clicking on the Blogs header and selecting the assessment topic from the pull down menu. Recent topics include “How Assessment Can Lead to Deeper Learning” and “Helping Students Understand What a Test Is and Is Not”.
  • Discussion Forum To join in from any of the main section pages (Overview, History, etc.), use the navigation list on the right hand side to choose “Join the Assessment Community” under “Find More Resources”. You will see a list of current topics, such as “Different Types of Formative Assessment” as well as an option to start a new discussion thread.
  • “Follow” Comprehensive Assessment Edutopia offers weekly, topic-specific newsletter, or a RSS feed. Another option is following them on twitter @edutopia.
  • Comments Most pages also include a section where you can read reactions or add thoughts in response to resources or blog posts.

How does this align with student-centered learning research and practice?

The information on the site is in line with the five qualitites of student-centered assessment in Assessing Learning. Specifically, on the Formative Assessment section of this site, there are concrete examples of how to work with individual differences in the practical strategies. The “Defines Learning and Feedback” steps in the assessment cycle are also tied to research on motivation. This resource supports the Students at the Center framework, especially competency-based learning.

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