Blog Series

What Experts Say About Using Assessments This Fall

by Sally Valenzuela on Sep 10, 2020

  • Assessment

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Much has been published about bringing students and teachers back to school this fall. Educators must consider the health and safety of students and school personnel as well as academics, including gathering information about student learning to inform classroom instruction and curriculum programs. Our senior assessment staff surveyed various sources for information to help guide school and district decision-making.

Don’t rush to assess students

Experts at the Center For Assessment recommend that formal assessments can wait. Instructional time will be at a premium. Teachers and students need time to get used to new procedures for both remote and in-person learning. It is likely that classrooms will look quite different for much of the fall and students will be using new tools in new settings. Families should have time to organize the spaces students will use for schoolwork and students should have time to become familiar with online portals, video conferencing tools, and other technologies they may not have used before.

Use formative and classroom assessments to inform grade-level instruction

Education Week reports that many experts urge teachers to start the year with formative assessment teaching strategies such as probing questions, games, tasks or discussion prompts, or other preassessment activities to gauge student learning. Commercial assessments have a place, but experts are advising educators to also focus on informal assessments in the classroom. WestEd provides resources for districts to assist in selecting evidence-based programs to meet accountability requirements.

Use periodic assessments to measure district-level standards mastery

Data from periodic assessments administered across schools can give education leaders an overall picture of student standards mastery. This information can be valuable in identifying curriculum needs for acceleration or intervention. The Center for Assessment recommends developing a balanced assessment system for the 2020–2021 school year. Districts should look for periodic assessments that can be delivered quickly, either in person or remotely, and that can dip into the previous grades’ content as needed. CCSSO recommends giving commercial assessments, either those that are normally given early in the school year or those tied to the existing state summative assessment to obtain data regarding overall achievement and identifying gaps at the district level.

Whatever you do, plan carefully

Schools and districts should carefully consider how to use assessment to support instruction. While it is unclear what may happen with spring 2021 state summative assessments, having a clear picture of student progress toward academic standards will continue to be essential.

Learn more about ClearSight Assessments here.

Sally Valenzuela has more than 30 years’ experience in K–12 education, including 17 years with a focus on large-scale assessment, K–12 summative and interim assessments, and professional licensure and certification programs. She has worked in product management and assessment development, with specific interests in defining development procedures for technology-enhanced item types and designing and implementing tagging procedures to support accessibility tagging.

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