Assessment for Growth

I. Philosophy – MLC’s approach to assessment

Our core beliefs about assessment

MLC’s philosophy and policies about assessment have been shaped by the CREC mission and vision, our own beliefs and experiences as MLC educators, and the standards and practices of the IB Middle Years Programme. 

First, we believe that assessment, like all parts of the learning process, empowers students to become independent and capable learners and citizens. Through assessment, students are able to:

  • recognize their learning styles and ways they can grow in other styles;
  • understand that cultural experiences and expectations influence how they and other individuals learn;
  • prepare for different types of learning and performing in ways that make sense for success;
  • reflect on their preparation and performance so that they can identify areas of strength and areas for growth and improvement; and
  • expect and provide constructive, useful, timely feedback from (and to) teachers and peers – and use feedback to improve their future performances.

These beliefs dovetail with the IB Middle Years Programme’s assessment aims. Specifically, these aims are that assessment at IB World Schools should:

  • support and encourage student learning by providing feedback on the learning process;
  • inform, enhance and improve the teaching process;
  • provide opportunity for students to exhibit transfer of skills across disciplines, such as in the personal project and interdisciplinary unit assessments;
  • promote positive student attitudes towards learning;
  • promote a deep understanding of subject content by supporting students in their inquiries set in real-world contexts;
  • promote the development of critical- and creative-thinking skills;
  • reflect the international-mindedness of the programme by allowing assessments to be set in a variety  of cultural and linguistic contexts; and
  • support the holistic nature of the programme by including in its model principles that take account of the development of the whole student.

     (p. 78, From Principles into Practice)

 As a result of basing our assessment policy on these beliefs and aims, how we assess at MLC is different from how other secondary schools assess students.

Assessments, defined

At MLC, we believe that “assessment” means more than tests and quizzes and scores.  Instead, we define “assessments” more broadly, as important tools in developing students’ skills and knowledge. They provide valuable feedback to students, parents, and teachers about students’ progress throughout the learning process. 

 We distinguish between two types of assessment, formative and summative:


Formative assessment is assessment for learning.

Formative assessments are used by teachers and students as evidence for: deciding how students are doing in their learning, what they still need to accomplish, and how they can achieve it.

Formative assessment might include practice or rehearsal of skills students will need to perform on summative assessments.

Summative assessment is assessment of learning.

It is used to evaluate student achievement. In other words, it is what you probably know assessment to be: a way to measure how much a student learned during a period of study.

Summative assessments might include tests or papers, but they could also include projects, presentations, or other creative ways for students to convey their learning.

How assessment fits into teaching and learning at MLC

Teachers design their courses’ units of study backwards – that is, they begin by identifying the unit objectives for a particular unit (what concepts, content, and skills students should know and be able to work with/do), then they design summative assessments.  

Figure 1. Summative assessment design

From there, teachers create formative assessments, and then, after all of that planning and creating, they develop the day-to-day lessons for that unit.  We do things this way so that every lesson and every day of learning is aligned to learning goals. This helps students to make sense of their learning, by framing their everyday learning with bigger goals and objectives.  

Figure 2. Progression of learning & assessment during a unit


Assessment in Action at MLC:

The single most important aim of MYP assessment is to support and encourage student learning.  This means that teachers gather and analyze information on student performance and provide feedback to students to help them to be empowered to improve their performance. It also means that students have a responsibility to evaluate their own progress using self-assessment and reflection.  Through all of this, students develop effective critical-thinking and reflection skills.

Assessment in the MYP is called a criterion-related model.  Student work is assessed against criteria, or broad skill areas, in each subject.  Every subject at MLC has four criteria for assessment; for each individual criterion, the highest level of achievement is 8.

The reason that this is so helpful is because before they do any work, students know what needs to be done in order to reach a high level of achievement.  It also allows teachers to explain expectations in ways that are clear and consistent. 

Figure 3. Process of assessment, unit-specific

II. How Assessment Works at MLC

 Key Points

1.       Assessment at MLC is criterion-related; however, the MYP and DP use different subject-specific criteria and descriptors for achievement on criterion rubrics.  Please see Appendix A for the complete lists of MYP and DP subject criteria.

2.       Percentages are not used in criterion-related assessment, and therefore are not used at MLC. Levels of achievement in assessment criteria, therefore, do not translate to percentages.

3.       Extra credit and class participation grades are not used in criterion-related assessment, and therefore are not used at MLC. Instead, a “Commitment to Learning” (CTL) score is determined for students in each course. This CTL score reflects a student’s work habits and attitudes in each course. Please see Appendix B for MLC’s Commitment to Learning rubric.

4.       Formative assessment is used for practicing skills, learning content, and developing understanding. Summative assessment is used for showcasing mastery of skills, content, and understanding.

5.       Each assessment must allow students to reach the highest levels of achievement on a given criterion rubric. In other words, students should be able to reach an “8” on each assessment they are assigned (though not all students will achieve that level).

6.       For the MYP, students are provided with their own copies of MYP criteria for each subject and year. These rubrics are used to assess formative work. For summative assessments, teachers tell students in advance which criteria will be assessed, and provide students with task-specific rubrics that clarify how the criteria apply to the task.

Task-specific assessment rubrics are developed and applied to all summative assessment tasks. These rubrics should link the subject criteria’s level of achievement descriptors with task-specific clarifications.

A well-constructed rubric should:

·         Be clear to students;

·         Provide clear, measurable evidence of learning for the assigned task; and

·         Link generic descriptors and their command terms to task-specific clarifications.

7.       The final level of achievement for both MYP and DP courses is 7.

a.       Each subject’s four criteria have a maximum level of 8, as does the “formative performance” category.

b.       To determine a level of achievement (grade) in a given course, add up a student’s levels of achievement in each criterion and the formative performance category.

Then, apply the MLC grade boundaries to that total to determine the final level out of 7. 

For example, a student needs to achieve at least 35 out of 40 across the 4 criteria and the formative performance category to receive a grade of 7. Please see Appendix C, “MLC Overall Grades and Descriptors,” for additional explanation and for the grade boundaries.

8.       Final levels of achievement in grades are determined using a best-fit model.  Here’s how that works (taken directly from From Principles into Practice, 2014, p. 83):

When applying the assessment criteria to student performance, the teacher should determine whether the [rubric’s] first descriptor describes the performance. If the student work exceeds the expectations of the first descriptor, the teacher should determine whether it is described by the second descriptor. This should continue until the teacher arrives at a descriptor that does not describe the student work; the work will then be described by the previous descriptor. In certain cases, it may appear that the student has not fulfilled all of the descriptors in a lower band but has fulfilled some in a higher band. In those cases, teachers must use their professional judgment in determining the descriptor that best fits the student’s performance.


9.       Feedback to students should be prompt and constructive. Its purpose is to provide students with ways that they can improve performance on the way to mastering content and skills. 

10.   Teachers keep a clear and accurate record of all assessments in PowerSchool. For the MYP, formative assessments should reflect criteria that are assessed on the summative assessment that follows them. Both formative and summative assessments will occur within an academic quarter.