As educators aim to close learning gaps widened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a cohesive approach to assessments is more crucial than ever. While the emphasis on assessment has often been focused on the year-end summative test, educators today know they can best support students by keeping tabs on their progress week by week and concept by concept.
Taking periodic measurements "provides opportunities to intervene and make adjustments to elevate students to where they need to be by the end of the year," says Amy Reilly, Vice President of Innovative Assessment Solutions at Pearson.
The effect can be profound: A recent study found that more than three-quarters of students tested at one high school were reading at an elementary school level. Ongoing knowledge of student performance allows teachers to address and overcome these inequities as they arise.
A comprehensive and cohesive assessment system that tracks ongoing and summative progress can ensure educators set students up for long-term success. Read on to learn more about the key components of this system.
Understanding two key assessment types
A holistic assessment system considers the whole child, not just their test scores. It encompasses two types of assessments: assessments of learning and assessments for learning
Assessments of learning are administered at the end of a major unit of instruction and help determine whether students are proficient in their knowledge and skills against a set of measurable objectives. One common example is a year-end state summative assessment designed to meet federal accountability requirements. These assessments often include standardized administration procedures, such as testing during a specific time frame to enable comparisons across groups of students.
"These types of assessments present district and state leaders with a big-picture view through the aggregated results of how a group of students is performing," Reilly explains.
Assessments for learning are ongoing and may consist of a short set of test questions that measure a student on a particular skill, such as adding two-digit numbers. They serve as a practice to reinforce what students are learning and can help educators ensure they course-correct as needed to improve student learning outcomes along the way.
"Assessments for learning serve as checkpoints throughout the year and allow students to demonstrate an understanding of the information or reveal a misconception at an opportune time to address it," Reilly says. "If you just get an overall score on math, rather than information about mastery of a specific concept, it's hard to know what exactly to address."
When evaluating their approach to assessments for learning, educators should consider three questions:
Are the assessment results provided quickly so instructional adjustments can be made as soon as possible?
Do the assessments cover standards or topics that are relevant to what has just been taught?
Are the assessments of a "grain size" that teachers can use to make actionable decisions to address student misconceptions or misunderstandings?
"Results must be interpretable and actionable, with data coming back to teachers as quickly as possible so they can immediately use it as an input to planning," Reilly notes. "While there has always been a need for this constant feedback that allows teachers to adjust their plans to meet current student understanding, the gaps resulting from distance learning support even more emphasis on this type of assessment."
Creating a holistic system to support student progress
Combining assessment of learning with assessment for learning supports the goal of a balanced assessment system by giving educators multiple measures for each student. Pearson's District Assessment Solutions offer a combination of formative and interim assessments that bridge the gap between assessments of learning and assessments for learning.
"Pearson is highly regarded for providing milestone assessments of learning, following rigorous assessment development processes to support the types of decisions that are made from those assessments," Reilly says. "As we create assessments for learning, we're leveraging that expertise to create high-quality assessments that are more directly related to improving instruction."
The need for a more comprehensive assessment system led Pearson to rethink its assessment solutions. The key components of the new suite are:
An interim assessment tool that focuses on measuring student growth.
A classroom assessment that empowers educators and learners by identifying what learning has taken place and where students need more support.
A suite of reporting products, which offers parents and caregivers insight into their student's data in personalized, easily comprehensible videos and reports.
"Together they will provide more actionable information that will support all students more inclusively," Reilly says.
Are your assessments designed to help you close learning gaps? Learn more about how Pearson's assessment solutions can help by visiting pearsonassessments.com/districts.