Why a comprehensive assessment system is essential

Every student follows a unique learning journey. In order to help each learner continually grow, educators need clear and accurate information about where students are in their learning to help them progress.

That’s why a comprehensive assessment system is so important. Different assessment tools are designed to answer different questions about learning. When educators use the right assessment to answer the right question at the right time, they’re able to deeply understand what students know, what they don’t yet know, and the right instructional next steps to take. A comprehensive assessment system ensures educators have the right measures to answer those key questions, while preventing over-testing due to duplicative or unneeded measures.

High-quality assessment tools are truly the building blocks of accelerating learning: they enable every educator to efficiently inform instruction, effectively guide reteaching and additional practice, and pace instruction according to student, group, and classwide needs. A comprehensive assessment system also provides the foundation to a district’s multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), driving key decisions around how to support the universal tier, which students need additional supports in order to succeed, and whether interventions are effective.

Renaissance’s Comprehensive Assessment Solution provides the tools educators need to accelerate learning through insight-driven instruction and tiered whole child supports. Learn more below, or reach out today to talk to an expert.

Meet Renaissance’s comprehensive assessment tools

Our suite of valid and reliable assessments gives your team the flexibility to select the right assessments to meet your unique needs.

From computer-adaptive tests to curriculum-based assessment, from norm-referenced assessments to custom-built tests, Renaissance offers the assessment tools needed to accurately understand learning and drive instruction and intervention at each tier.

Comprehensive assessment

Classroom Formative

Classroom Formative

Classroom formative assessment confirms that specific learning has taken place and provides data to inform instruction that follows.

Key Questions:

  • Did students learn what was just taught?
  • What should I teach next?


When? Ongoing

Who? All students or small groups

Classroom formative assessments are used continually and routinely (often on a daily basis) to monitor student learning, identify where students struggle, and determine where misconceptions exist, so that teachers can take the right next step to help move learning forward.

Learn more about DnA

Universal Screening

Universal Screening

Universal screening identifies students in need of additional assistance in order to meet learning goals.

Key Questions:

  • Who is at risk?
  • Are students growing at expected rates?


When? 3–5x/year

Who? All students

Educators should use universal screening data as a check on where students are, to monitor whether students are equitably growing at needed rates, and to identify opportunities for Tier 1 improvements.

Learn more about our universal screeners

Skill Screeners

Like universal screeners, skill screeners are given to all students to identify which learners need additional assistance in order to meet learning goals. Whereas universal screeners assess a range of skills, skill screeners focus solely on essential skills, like phonics.

As a result, they’re able to yield rich instructional information. Skill screening data dramatically enhances the skill data provided by universal screeners and enables teachers to target instruction in a specific skill domain with increased precision and clarity. Skill screeners are especially important in foundational areas of early learning, such as phonics.

Key Questions:

  • What specific skill categories should I teach?
  • How do I target my skill instruction exactly where students need it?


When? 3x/year

Who? All students

Learn more about Star Phonics



Diagnostic assessment is the process of using multiple measures and reports to identify student strengths and needs in specific skill areas, so teachers can provide instruction to address learning needs.

Key Questions:

  • What is the specific area of need?


When? 2–3x/year

Who? Students or groups flagged by screening

Unlike other screeners, reporting from Renaissance’s universal screeners offers diagnostic information to help pinpoint the specific skills causing students to struggle.

Star Phonics, a skill screener and diagnostic assessment, helps teachers precisely target their phonics instruction—the literacy domain that research affirms causes most students with reading difficulties to struggle.

Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring evaluates progress toward a learning target, per the rates of improvement for the specific skill being targeted by an intervention. Progress monitoring assessments are very sensitive to growth and help educators accurately track student progress toward their goal.

Key Questions:

  • Is the intervention working?
  • Is the student on track to meet their goal?


When? 1–4x/month, as required

Who? Students receiving Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions

Using high-quality progress monitoring tools helps educators efficiently remove students from interventions when they are no longer needed, and prevents students from receiving ineffective interventions for prolonged or indefinite periods of time.

Progress monitoring can also help educators determine when interventions are insufficient to meet student needs and a special education referral may be needed.

Learn more about our progress monitoring tools, including Star and FastBridge

Benchmark/Common Formative

Benchmark/Common Formative

Benchmark/common formative assessments measure students’ standards proficiency.

Key Questions:

  • Are students mastering standards?
  • If not, what can we do about it?


When? 2–3x/year

Who? All students

Benchmark/common formative assessments are aligned to a pacing calendar and the district’s scope and sequence. Benchmark/common formative data can be aggregated and used to analyze class, school, and district trends in learning.

Learn more about DnA



Summative assessments evaluate, certify, and/or grade learning at the end of a specific period of instruction.

Key Questions:

  • Did students master the content (knowledge and skills)?


When? End of year, end of term, end of course

Who? All students

Summative assessments enable central, aggregated data tracking around trends, groups of students, and equitable practices.

Learn more about DnA

Ready to see Renaissance’s Comprehensive Assessment solution for yourself?

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Renaissance’s computer-adaptive tests (CATs) and curriculum-based measures (CBMs) for reading and math

An important aspect of measuring student learning is understanding how students are performing in comparison to their peers and/or grade-level benchmarks. This requires valid, reliable, norm-referenced assessments. Two commonly used types of norm-based assessments are computer-adaptive tests (CATs) and curriculum-based measures (CBMs).

Depending on state or local mandates and district preferences, either a curriculum-based assessment or computer-adaptive test may better fit your needs. Renaissance provides both options, so you can choose the assessment options that work for you and your students.

Computer-Adaptive Tests (CATs)

Computer-adaptive tests individualize, or adapt, assessment questions to each student’s skill level to reveal what they know and what they still need to learn. CAT data gives an accurate measure of broad achievement and a highly reliable prediction of student performance on high-stakes exams.

Content: Assesses a broader range of skills

Administered: Group administration, which offers logistical efficiencies

Time: Under 20 mins

Sensitivity, Accuracy, and Validity: Research shows CATs to be sensitive to growth, accurately predictive of performance, and valid and reliable tools for the purpose of universal screening and progress monitoring

Curriculum-Based Measures (CBMs)

Curriculum-based assessments focus on a small number of specific skills. CBMs typically use parallel forms, meaning the items are uniform across students, but employ reading passages or math problems with different words, letters, problems, or numbers from one form to the next.

This strategy avoids giving students the same assessment week after week, while measuring skill growth over time. CBMs are also highly predictive of overall reading or math skills and can be used during universal screening with criterion-based targets to identify needs.

Content: Assesses one or a few very specific skills

Administration Format: Can be 1:1 for first-hand observation of student performance or computer-based

Time: Very brief (e.g., as little as 1 minute to administer)

Sensitivity, Accuracy, and Validity: Research shows CBMs to be sensitive to growth, accurately predictive of performance, and valid and reliable tools for the purpose of universal screening and progress monitoring.

Renaissance’s assessment creation platform

Just as educators require norm-based assessments to understand how students are performing and growing in comparison to their peers and/or grade-level benchmarks, they also need deep visibility into how students are mastering the instructional content of the district’s unique scope and sequence.

DnA enables districts to create and administer standards-based assessments aligned to their unique scope and sequence for rich insights to drive instruction and bolster standards mastery.

Learn more about DnA

Assessment FAQs

Learn more about assessment tools and how they help you accelerate learning for all students.

What is the comprehensive assessment definition in education? Is it the same as a balanced assessment system?

A comprehensive and balanced assessment system is a cohesive set of high-quality assessment practices and tools that promotes an informed, intentional selection of assessments for the right purpose and supplies all stakeholders with the right information to inform next steps.

A system is comprehensive when it integrates a complete set of assessment types to appropriately and effectively support teaching and learning.

A system is balanced when those tools are embedded in high-quality practices that support knowledgeable use of each assessment for the right purpose at the right time, both in isolation and as a holistic system.

In other words, comprehensive is the ‘what’, and balanced is the ‘how.’

How can a computer-adaptive test improve student learning outcomes?

Computer-adaptive tests that are valid and reliable for predicting later outcomes allow educators to know which students may need accelerated learning trajectories in order to achieve grade-level standards.

How can a curriculum-based assessment improve student learning outcomes?

Just as with a computer-adaptive test, curriculum-based assessments that are valid and reliable for predicting later outcomes allow educators to know which students may need accelerated learning trajectories in order to achieve grade-level standards.

How can a computer-adaptive test improve student learning outcomes?
What is an example of a curriculum-based assessment?

These assessment tools are all examples of curriculum-based assessments:

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