Ensuring Equity in Assessments

I shared five essential questions to ask myself while developing appropriate assessments for my students. Overall, these questions guide a teacher towards an assessment that matches the needs of students, offers opportunities to receive feedback and make improvements, and will give information that will improve the effectiveness of future lessons. However, one additional element is essential to consider at this point: equitability and anti-bias measures. All humans deserve respect, so I must work to ensure that the assessments I design are free of bias and are culturally appropriate.

The entire checklist can be found here, but the sixth checklist question is presented below.

QuestionEvidence of Understanding
Have I started by articulating the needs of all students?– My assessment was created after taking inventory of my students’ needs.
– My assessment reflects the variety of needs in my classroom.
Have I made specific plans for using this assessment to impact the instructional design of future learning?– I haven’t made concrete, irreversible instructional decisions before receiving the results of the assessment.
– Maintaining choice for student representation of knowledge and multiple means of expression.
Does my assessment provide timely feedback that will promote the transfer of skills to a new context?– Students have demonstrated understanding of the key skills or concepts in a new context.
– I have planned for ongoing feedback opportunities to allow for cycles of revision and improvement.
Have I ensured my goals are explicit and my students are able to self-assess their progress against the goals?– Students clearly identify the goal of the learning.
– Self- assessment opportunities allow for reflection on the goal and identification of concrete steps for improving performance.
Have I articulated expectations for cooperative learning and social skills during learning and assessment?– I have explicitly taught skills for giving and receiving feedback from peers.
– I have planned to offer feedback on how to improve cooperative learning throughout the learning process.
Have I demonstrated cultural competency in my assessment?– I have considered my assessment from various cultural backgrounds to ensure they are free of bias.
– I continue to receive feedback and learn about the cultural perspectives found in my community and adjust my assessments accordingly.

Question 6: Have I demonstrated cultural competency in my assessment?

Popham (2016) reminds educators that, “educational tests, if they’re good ones and if they’re used properly, permit us to make accurate inferences about the skills and knowledge students possess.” Making sure that assessments reflect the cultural background of students is an essential step to accurately assessing students’ knowledge. Diversity in cultural backgrounds is reflected in more than just skin color and the importance of understanding other cultures is discussed by Vernita Mayfield (2020) in her book Cultural Competence Now. She states that “racial identity is important, but it’s not the only influence in understanding the cultures of people. If your school does not have a great amount of racial diversity, it can still benefit from staff who are culturally competent in understanding the cultures of their students and who know how to use that knowledge to craft better learning experiences for them.” Assessments must reflect the diversity of the student population in my classroom and be adjusted as I learn more about the cultural influences of the community.

Evidence of Understanding

Popham’s (2016) advice is that “the very best way to identify potential offensiveness in your own test items is to become extraordinarily attentive to the offensiveness potential of any test item you write.” As a teacher, this means I look at my assessment creations from a variety of perspectives- race, gender, disability, age, religious background, culture, etc. I have to acknowledge that I do not know everything about all cultures, but take steps to receive student, parent, and community feedback about elements of my teaching practices that are not yet in the best interest of the students and make adjustments. While addressing why he does not grade, Jesse Stommel (2018) shares that it is essential that “we think critically (and talk openly with students) about our approach, assumptions, tacit expectations, actual expectations, etc. We don’t prepare students for a world of potential oppression by oppressing them.” It seems that engaging students in conversations about responsibility, expectations, goals, and backgrounds help students understand our perspective, but also give them an understanding of my implicit biases. If a classroom culture is built on mutual respect, then dialogue can take place which ultimately helps me identify areas where my own assumptions and biases are affecting student learning.


Chapter 1 of: Mayfield, V. (2020). Cultural competence now. ASCD.

Popham, J. (2012). Assessment bias: How to banish it. Pearson. http://iarss.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Popham_Bias_BK04.pdf

Stommel, J. (2018, March 11). How to ungrade. JesseStommel.com. https://www.jessestommel.com/how-to-ungrade/

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