Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Dunbar, Stephen

Second Advisor

Welch, Catherine

First Committee Member

Yarbrough, Donald

Second Committee Member

Hlebowitsh, Peter

Third Committee Member

Waltman, Kris


In response to test-based accountability (No Child Left Behind, 2001), schools and districts across the country are adopting a variety of supplemental assessments aimed at improving student performance. These interim assessments are administered more than once during the school year for the following purposes: 1) predicting student performance on summative accountability tests, 2) identifying student strengths and weaknesses, 3) tracking student progress toward "proficiency," or 4) identifying students for remedial instruction. Vendors claim these assessments can improve teaching and learning, although critics contend they do not possess a number of attributes theorized to facilitate formative use of results, including particular assessment features, instructional practices, and school-level supports. To date, empirical evidence on interim assessments is scarce. Thus, this study collected the first empirical evidence on the use of interim assessments in reading and math in Iowa elementary schools.

Elementary school administrators completed a survey regarding their school or district's use of interim assessments. Respondents provided basic descriptive information and also indicated how teachers use assessment results to modify teaching and learning and the types of professional development opportunities available. A companion teacher survey designed to capture teachers' use of assessment information to improve teaching and learning was constructed. This draft teacher survey was pilot-tested with a small sample of teachers in order to improve its clarity by identifying areas of ambiguity. Feedback generated from these interviews was used to revise the teacher survey.

Study results suggest widespread use of interim assessments among respondents, particularly for the improvement of reading skills and primarily for instructional and remediation purposes. These reading assessments appeared to exhibit many of the characteristics deemed essential for formative use of assessment results. However, both survey and interview results suggested teachers have little autonomy for deciding when assessments will be administered. Results also suggest there is much room for improvement in teachers' formative use of assessment results, as one of the most important aspects of formative use (responding to results by modifying instruction and identifying alternative pedagogies) may also be the least used by classroom teachers and the most neglected with respect to professional development.


Formative assessment, Instructional practices, Instrument development, Interim assessment


ix, 192 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 143-149).


Copyright 2009 Emily Rose Lai