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Item Analysis: Item Deconstruction

As you learned in Unit 4, content standards must be broken into smaller building blocks that provide a road map for instruction and assessment. If educators have developed assessment items by unwrapping standards, task analysis, and creating clear learning targets rather than using ready-made tests, this work is done and they need only to revisit them.

When close analysis reveals frequently missed test items in the same content standard or cluster, the next step is to “dig” deeper by deconstructing those items into the knowledge, skills, and big ideas required to correctly answer them. Table 4 provides a template for organizing information from deconstructing a number of items:

Table 4: Item Deconstruction Table

Item #



Big ideas/concepts






Once a number of frequently missed items measuring the same standard have been deconstructed, educators can look for patterns. These probing questions may also suggest next steps for adjusting instruction.

  1. What made the items challenging or difficult for your students?
  2. Reflect on your practice: Have students been exposed this kind of item before?  Have you provided opportunities to learn the knowledge, skills, and concepts for all students?
  3. What kinds of learning experiences can you plan next to support student progress?  What do you need to teach differently?