Knowing the Score: Guidelines for Tests and Measurements for Diverse Learners

by: Melissa Brevetti, Orlenthea McGowan, Leonard D.T. Newby

This article explores the meaning of key terms and ideas in testing.  We present distinct ideas in how to design and to use assessments for enhancing diverse students’ academic progress.  In particular, we will examine how testing instruments should have statistically-sound design in order to make fair and consistent decisions, including the need for formative feedback, from the overall evaluations.


Before entering traditional schooling, students from all types of backgrounds learn in diverse and varied ways in their home settings (Gilkerson & Richards, 2009; Kornrich & Furstenberg, 2013) and thus often learn content information without consistent assessments and formative feedback.  Indeed, many learners may develop test anxiety since they are unaccustomed to showing what they know in formal and informal assessments.  This leads to students battling test anxiety and avoiding opportunities when they have to prove their knowledge by testing.  Part of this common issue is that test instruments are created without being statistically correct in design.  Another issue would be high-stakes testing that limits the use of feedback and scaffolding to build upon students’ knowledge.  Still, more issues exist that tests are often geared towards examining rote knowledge without also including skills of analyzing, creating, and evaluating, which are higher-order thinking skills.  Therefore, this article is to show educators ways to be competent in the usage of classroom assessments.

What are Key Terms in Tests and Measurements?

FYI: We should NOT use these terms interchangeably in education

  1. Assessment—gathering information in measurable terms (recording process)
  2. Measurement—assigning a score (actual number)
  3. Evaluation—establishing a systematic determination of merit (comparison)

For Example:

  1. Assessment is tests and/or assignments
  2. Measurement is scores
  3. Evaluation is the percentage of points in comparison/value
Guidelines for Choosing Quality Assessments

Assessments can exist in many forms, even discussions may be considered a way to discern what areas have been mastered or not.  Diverse students require differentiation in assessments so that many formats (i.e. True/False, Multiple Choice, Essay, Portfolio, Art-Based Projects, Public Speaking/Verbal Assessments, etc.) are implemented.  Additionally, to focus the objectives and activities to meet the learning goals, educators must be careful of how they align and choose assessments (Brookhart & Nitko, 2019).  Here are five principles (p. 2-3) to guide usage of classroom instruments:

  1. Evaluate What Learning Objectives Are Being Assessed
  2. Align the Assessment Instruments to Match the Learning Goals
  3. Select Assessment Instruments to Fit the Learners’ Needs
  4. If Able, Use More Than One Format to Assess
  5. Consider the Limitations of the Assessment Instruments

One important guideline is to consider the process of choosing quality assessments as streamlined since the learning objectives and activities are explicit in nature.  Students know what is the takeaway idea for that lesson.

True/False, Multiple Choice, and Other Assessment Tips

When examining what students know, remember to be clear in language so that the knowledge is the item being tested.  Directions are simple and clear for students to show their thoughts.  If needed, differentiation may be included for directions so that students understand and act in accordance to the expectations.  Human tendency is to perceive information as true, because people are more likely to agree.  Therefore, we need more items that are false in True/False types of format.

Key Ideas for True/False:
  • Test important ideas
  • Require understanding, not memory
  • Item is clear for those who truly know
  • Avoid unintended clues
  • Test only one idea at a time
  • Avoid using the word “not” to make an item false
  • 67% should be false statements
Key Ideas for Multiple Choice:
  • Format items vertically, not horizontally (so you can see every option and don’t read over them)
  • Use negatives sparingly
  • Test the content, don’t have students looking for answers
  • Options should be in order
  • Options should be 3-6
  • Need to be parallel

Diverse students can be better assessed when using different types of formats and styles.  Also, remember to vary the levels of mastery, as shown by Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Many tests simply require recall or descriptions.  Learners should be able to show ways to design or evaluate the information, because higher-order thinking skills show the depth of knowledge.

Discussion and Conclusion

Learners deserve equitable practices to have fair and guiding feedback.  These formative assessments build growth mind-sets in diverse learners—which are a fundamental behavior for success.  Moreover, educators must believe and act in such ways that fair and consistent tests are important and so are fair and consistent decisions following tests.


Gilkerson, J., and Richards, J. A. (2009). The power of talk: Impact of adult talk, conversational turns and TV during the critical 0-4 years of child development (Technical Report ITR-01-2). LENA Foundation.

Kornrich, S., and Furstenberg, F. (2013). Investing in children: Changes in parental spending on children, 1972-2007. Demography, 50(1), 1-23.

Brookhart, S., and Nitko, A. (2019) Educational assessment of students (8th ed.). New York NY: Pearson Education, Inc.


Dr. Melissa Brevetti is a researcher and educator who believes in “maximizing the power of one.” During her teaching career, she realized the importance of linking education research to practice. She has taught in both private and public schooling, which includes work with homeless, special needs, urban, parochial, English language learning, gifted/talented students, and at-risk students. Dr. Brevetti published an international research book, Quest for a Moral Compass (2015), a children’s book of Eastern philosophy called Lighting the Path (2018), and her research areas include moral development and virtue ethics in education, as well as dozens of articles on inclusive and multicultural practices. She is a recipient of the International Roundtable Scholar and Ten Outstanding Young Americans Awards.

Dr. Orlenthea S. McGowan is a Full Professor and Project Director in the School of Education & Behavioral Sciences at Langston University-Tulsa Campus. She is known on national level for her expertise in directing capacity building grants (professional development) for faculty, students, teachers, and community leaders. She has experiences directing nationally recognized projects, establishing learning communities for teachers and university faculty to work collaboratively on LCT projects, designing on-line training resource for faculty, implementing a learner-centered teaching grant and national conference previously funded under USDA-NIFA. She was instrumental in serving as a principal writer and project evaluator for the national “21st Century Community Learning Center” grant (funded for 1.2 million dollars by the USDE) serving three major school districts. She is a proven leader in the field of Education and Learned-Centered Teaching.

Dr. Leonard D.T. Newby is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the School of Education and Behavior Sciences at Langston University. Dr. Newby is a certified educator with over 10 years of K-16 experience and over five years of experience as a licensed program evaluator. He is a dedicated member of the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Education Association, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Dr. Newby’s research interests are in teacher recruitment and retention, learning behaviors, gender and cultural differences, and social & emotional learning.