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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Using Data to Inform Instruction the Smart Way

Publishing companies make millions of dollars every year to develop assessments for schools made from recycled/reused test questions. Are these recycled questions effective enough to give you the results you need to help you inform your instruction? In my opinion, the answer is NO. The reason I say no is because these questions stay the same from year to year and do not adapt to individual student performance levels.

One of the most innovative ideas found in both PARCC and SBAC plans, that I really admire, is the proposal to include some tasks in the assessments that would be administered during the school year, in addition to an end-of-course assessment. The PARCC proposal calls for three interim assessments, given at three-month intervals, that are intended to measure topics closer to when students actually study them and provide feedback to students and teachers during the year. The SBAC plan calls for a single extended project to be administered near the end of the year with optional interim assessments.

These interim assessments as well as mandatory summative assessments will use computer adaptive testing. This type of testing is very helpful in the fact that it increases or decreases in difficulty on the test questions according to the student's answers. The assessments are also standards based and allow more detailed teacher analysis of weak areas. This helps to give teachers a more clear understanding of individual student performance levels. You will notice that the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates have an area for teachers to choose their students actual grade level as well as a separate area to choose the student's current proficiency grade level (pictured below). The lesson plans give teachers the freedom to choose any of the grade level strand specific lesson plans to use and customize for instruction.

In some cases it is understandable that teachers may want to (and need to) administer their own classroom standards based assessment to check for student learning. In my next post, I will share some suggestions on cost-effective ways in which teachers can accomplish this without having to spend an extended amount of time on assessment development.

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