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The Importance of Assessing Both Standards and Skills

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June 19th, 2020


School districts often struggle with people feeling that we overtest in our schools. I believe that one of the root causes of this is not understanding the difference between skills and standards.

So, let’s start with standards. Standards are the big pieces of learning that we want students to achieve before they reach the end of a grade level, semester, or course. Third-grade math students have a set of third-grade math standards that they’re being taught through tier one instruction. They are being assessed with the formative assessment practices, summative and interim assessments, and eventually with the state assessment. Then we’re using that data hopefully to help differentiate instruction and identify student needs in the classroom. 

Sometimes, though, no matter how great our instructional practices are or our differentiation in a classroom, students are still struggling. The key to finding out why they’re still struggling comes by screening all of your students for skill gaps. It isn’t always a standards gap. Maybe it’s about missing some skills from years ago that underpin the surface of that standards road and create potholes for the student. 

Once you universally screen, the whole purpose is to identify where those skill gaps are, behavioral or academic, and to have really good targeted interventions to fill in those gaps. And then progress monitor to make sure those interventions are being really effective with kids. 

The great side benefit of that is kids are no longer in interventions for the rest of their lives. We’re not labeling them with the label of the intervention—it’s meant to be a temporary gap fill so that they can keep driving down the surface of the road with standards proficiency.


Assessing both standards and skills is key to preventing learning loss with remote learners. Check out our infographic to learn more.


Illuminate Education partners with K-12 educators to equip them with data to serve the whole child and reach new levels of student performance. Our solution brings together holistic data and collaborative tools and puts them in the hands of educators. Illuminate supports over 17 million students and 5200 districts/schools.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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