Curriculum, How To

Integrating Assessments into Day-to-Day Planning

For an instructional leader—whether it be an elementary school principal or a high school instructional coach—assessments are non-negotiable. This is for good reason, too, considering that assessments directly inform us about whether students are achieving academic goals. 

Even when we understand the importance of assessing students, it can still prove challenging to fit crucial assessments into day-to-day teaching and learning, especially considering the cumbersome responsibilities of assessing students on curriculum-based material, monitoring growth metrics like those derived from the NWEA MAP test, and preparing for state standardized assessments. 

Here are some ways to make assessments work for all stakeholders—and fitting them into a crowded instructional calendar.


Backward planning continues to be a crucial methodology for school and classroom leaders seeking to enhance the effectiveness of daily instruction. By starting with a laser focus on desired learning outcomes, educators can systematically plan backward, identifying the essential milestones required to achieve those outcomes. This approach ensures a coherent and purposeful alignment between curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 

Backward planning also allows administrators to strategically allocate resources, address potential challenges, and create a more focused and cohesive educational experience for students and teachers. Moreover, this method encourages a learner-centric perspective, as educators must consider how students will ultimately apply their knowledge and skills before planning instruction. Embracing backward planning empowers administrators to cultivate a purpose-driven educational environment, where each component of the curriculum serves a deliberate role in fostering meaningful student learning and achievement.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) describe the stages of backward planning as:

  • Identify desired student-centric results/outcomes
  • Determine acceptable evidence, which includes specifics about how students will show their learning
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction that will guide students toward the desired outcomes

When instructional leaders support backward planning as a campus-wide expectation and provide adequate time for teachers to engage in this practice, teachers can begin to map out instructional units based on an estimation of the time needed for students to master tested content. Additionally, teachers can engage in best practices such as developing student exemplars. This will ultimately save instructional time as teachers develop a clearer idea of the challenges, misconceptions, nuances, and necessary scaffolds of a lesson or unit—before presenting it to students.


Establishing a well-structured assessment calendar is a fundamental aspect of effective educational planning for school leaders and a critical tool to help teachers navigate the ever-growing list of assessment expectations in schools. This calendar serves as a strategic campus roadmap, outlining the schedule and distribution of assessments throughout the academic year. By carefully planning assessments before the school year begins, administrators facilitate a balanced approach that guides curriculum pacing and progress toward instructional goals. 

A thoughtfully designed assessment calendar ensures that both formative and summative assessments are evenly distributed, providing educators with regular opportunities to gauge student progress and adjust teaching strategies accordingly. Additionally, this systematic approach helps prevent assessment overload and allows for adequate preparation time for both students and teachers by giving instructional leaders a birds’-eye view of testing throughout the year. Ultimately, a well-crafted assessment calendar contributes to a cohesive and organized learning environment and fosters a more comprehensive understanding of student achievement over time.

Oftentimes, teachers are given pre-populated assessment calendars to adhere to; however, the strongest assessment calendars utilize teacher voice in the creation process to help identify the specific areas where students may need more time to achieve mastery while also avoiding assessment superfluity. Beginning a school year with a completed assessment calendar provides teachers with a roadmap for student learning and reduces confusion around potential breaks in classroom instruction due to scheduled testing.


The word “assessment” is often associated with summative assessments—tests that conclude an instructional unit or course and provide students with a score or grade. but not necessarily to derive from the assessment student progress data that can be used for reteaching material.

The most effective assessments, however, do much more. They tell a story about student progress and allow teachers and school leaders to utilize the data collected to identify trends in student performance, recognize inequities across student subpopulations, and ultimately, close the observed gaps through purposeful reteaching. 

Exit tickets and formative assessments can be two incredibly helpful tools to decrease the anxiety that surrounds assessments, as well as provide an opportunity to measure student progress in a quick, low-risk way. Unlike summative assessments, which gauge overall mastery at the end of a period of time, formative assessments are ongoing, allowing educators to gauge understanding throughout the learning process and address specific student needs promptly. These assessments offer ample data about student progress without taking a significant amount of time, as is often the case with summative assessments. 

Exit tickets serve as invaluable tools in daily lessons, offering teachers a glimpse into the effectiveness of their classroom instruction, as well as existing gaps in student learning. These concise assessments, administered at the conclusion of each lesson, provide real-time feedback on students’ comprehension and identify areas that may require reinforcement. By consistently implementing exit tickets, educators gain insights into individual student progress and overall class understanding. This data-driven approach enables timely adjustments to teaching strategies, fostering a dynamic and responsive learning environment. Additionally, exit tickets promote student reflection, encouraging active engagement and reinforcing key concepts. As a result, administrators can leverage exit ticket data to enhance instructional practices and plan meaningful and targeted professional development opportunities, ultimately contributing to improved academic outcomes and a more robust educational experience.

Formative assessments, of which exit tickets are only one example, play a pivotal role in the educational landscape, providing school administrators with valuable insights into ongoing student learning. Unlike summative assessments, which gauge overall mastery at the end of a period of time, formative assessments are ongoing, allowing educators to gauge understanding throughout the learning process. These assessments offer immediate feedback, enabling teachers to tailor their instruction to address specific student needs promptly. By embracing formative assessments, administrators support a culture of continuous improvement, empowering educators to adjust teaching strategies based on real-time data. This not only enhances the overall learning experience but also ensures that students receive the necessary support to master foundational concepts before progressing. Formative assessments contribute to a more responsive and student-centered educational environment, fostering a deeper understanding and retention of material.

Besides exit tickets, formative assessments can also include:

Utilizing exit tickets and other formative assessments strategies can provide teachers and school leaders with ample data about student progress without taking a significant amount of time, as is often the case with summative assessments. 


One of the most time-consuming components of assessments is the required data disaggregation and analysis that follows the assessment in order for the data to be instructionally useful. Too often, these practices fall squarely on the shoulders of teachers who are tasked with engaging in data analysis on their own time. This results not only in teacher frustration and burnout but also in isolated data practices and lack of collaboration.

Instead, instructional leaders should consider building time for data analysis during every other session of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), or whenever is most helpful. This time can be used for teachers to norm on assessment scoring, share student samples to review, monitor ongoing trends in student performance, identify gaps in student subpopulations, and plan for necessary reteach and review.

Purposeful PLCs that integrate monitoring assessment data not only removes the burden of teachers functioning in isolation to review student progress, but also helps to standardize the practices by which we gauge student learning and address remediation and intervention. One long-standing data protocol that teachers can integrate is ATLAS, a tool that norms how educators engage in and reflect on data.


Integrating assessments into day-to-day lesson planning is essential for fostering a dynamic and effective learning environment. By aligning assessments with learning objectives, creating assessment calendars, deformalizing assessments, and systematizing data analysis, educators can create a holistic approach that enhances student engagement and understanding. Staying informed about effective assessment practices and building meaningful time to assess student progress is crucial for promoting continuous improvement in teaching and learning.

Are you seeing gaps in your students’ assessment results? Partner with us at Progress Learning! We offer formative assessments, exit tickets, Liftoff Adaptive Intervention with NWEA MAP integration, and real-time reporting that makes it easy to incorporate assessment data into your day-to-day teaching. Reach out to us to schedule a demo today!

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