While formative and diagnostic assessments are useful tools to gauge students’ academic status, they should be administered with a specific purpose and in coordination with other measures of student learning and social and emotional wellbeing, a group of education leaders said in a webinar Tuesday hosted by the Learning Policy Institute and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
Data from classroom, schoolwide and districtwide assessments, for example, should only be collected and analyzed if the information will be used to improve student supports, the educators said. “I always remind my team that every numerator and denominator represents the life of a child,” said Jorge Aguilar, superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District in California.
Formative assessments, surveys, teacher observations and even student and family direct feedback are essential ways schools will know what interventions students need and how teachers can differentiate and accelerate learning after more than a year of disrupted education due to the global health crisis.
In South Carolina, there are several formative assessments districts can use to measure core academic progress, as well as state-required evaluations for a variety of course and grade levels, including a kindergarten readiness assessment, a dyslexia screener and a pre-college readiness assessment, said John Payne, deputy state superintendent for the South Carolina Department of Education's Division of Federal Programs, Accountability and School Improvement.
“The results from the administration of these pre and post-assessments have and will help schools intervene with students who need it, and help teachers improve the instruction they provide to all students, which is ultimately going to move the needle on educational outcomes,” Payne said during the webinar.
To help educators keep track of all the data points and analyze historical data with formative and summative test performances, districts use the Rally platform, he said. Rally is linked with state-supported curriculum resources, and Payne added that these data displays can help teachers know where the learning gaps are, which students need more advanced instruction, and how the teachers can customize instruction.
In South Carolina’s Richland School District Two, Superintendent Baron Davis said his district’s Summer Opportunity for Academic Readiness program will include the MAP and easyCBM assessments. The district is also planning to measure students’ social and emotional health to help inform multi-tiered systems of support practices, Davis said.
Schools should also review prior years’ data and monitor student activity such as attendance, engagement and grades, said Heather Hough, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education. Educators should also encourage honest feedback from students and families. All these pieces of information can help inform student academic and mental health programming, she said.
A major consideration for districts, Hough said, is to make sure the data collected optimizes and informs practices. For example, districts should not ask students sensitive questions about whether an adult cares about them without having a plan to respond if the student feels unnoticed.
School systems should also understand that educators at the classroom, school and district levels may collect different types of data for different intervention or programming decisions.
Lastly, Hough said staff may need training and support in reviewing and using data and avoiding the use of data to reinforce negative stereotypes or biases.