Understanding Student Needs when State Testing is Uncertain

Let’s be honest. State testing doesn’t win any popularity contests with students or teachers. Students complain about how long and boring the tests are. Teachers lament about losing instructional time and that they do not see results quickly enough to guide instruction.

However, these tests provide educational leaders with information to evaluate student learning. This information helps leaders plan and improve education. To avoid adding another burden to the next school year, district leaders will want to collect and organize assessment data regardless of what happens with state testing.

Uncertain Testing in 2021

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), every state must test students annually. However, due to the pandemic upheaval, the US Department of Education granted waivers for states to not test in the spring of 2020. Schools started the 2020-21 school year without useful information from these year-end tests.

Waivers may or may not be granted for 2021, so states currently plan to test this spring. Those plans may change. Political shifts and pandemic challenges make state testing in 2021 uncertain.

In September, the United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos penned a letter suggesting that state testing should proceed. However, some educators speculate that the government may grant states flexibility with testing in 2021.

Another standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), will not occur. Dr. James Woodworth, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, announced November 25, 2020, that the NCES would not be able to administer the NAEP in “a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.”

New York high school students typically take summative tests called Regents as part of their graduation requirement. New York canceled January Regents, but June 2021 Regents may still occur. If so, students and teachers feel extra pressure without the buffer of January Regents. Proper preparation will be more critical than ever.

Making Alternate and Supplemental Plans for Assessments

Proactive educators will not want to delay gathering information about student achievement and growth. Computer-based testing may need to replace or supplement standardized testing this year.

Assessment platforms, such as eDoctrina and Castle Learning, collect and show student achievement and understanding to help start next year prepared to meet student needs.

Data from frequent formative and summative assessments provide a comprehensive picture of strengths and weaknesses. The computer-based testing platforms from eDoctrina and Castle Learning have many benefits, including:

• Student Learning Reports
• Cloud-Based Control of Test Administration
• A Large Bank of Standards-Aligned Questions
• Collaborative and Co-Teacher Features
• Customizable Formative Assessments
• Degrees of Competency

Student Learning Reports for Better Decision Making

According to the AASA (the School Superintendents Association), data is a critical component of success. District-level administrators using edInsight will see assessment data and other data points centralized on an easy-to-read student dashboard. Leaders use assessment data to help with the following:

• Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
• Establishing Grade-level Benchmarks
• Targeting Student Achievement Gaps
• Providing Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)
• Allocating Resources
• And much more

A Mckinsey publication offered a grim prediction of learning loss from educational burdens during the pandemic. To make matters worse, the most vulnerable populations were often the most impacted by educational changes. However, without assessing students, you cannot know the depth and breadth of your specific population’s challenges.

Aggregated data reports about student learning and achievement drive instruction and set teachers up for success. As soon as the students finish taking the exam, you can look at the results. Instant feedback makes these cloud-based assessments for improving instruction better than state-administered standardized tests. Entire schools and districts may notice that a particular resource is not working for distance learning and choose to adopt a different resource.

Control Test Administration with a Cloud-Based System

Don’t let eLearning deter valuable testing. Tests on Castle Learning and eDoctrina are cloud-based, so students log on to the platform and start the test. The test administrator has multiple controls over how and when students take tests. These controls include a window for when students are allowed access, a timing option limiting how long they may take on the test, and locking access after students complete the test.

Choose from a Large Bank of Standards-Aligned Questions

The Castle Learning and eDoctrina platforms come loaded with questions covering a broad spectrum of k-12 content areas. Use the search bar and filters to help find the perfect items. You can search and filter by different criteria, including but not limited to: standard, topic, and level. District administrators use these features to create summative assessments for district benchmarking. After finding the questions that match the desired criteria, inserting them into the test is easy.

Collaborate for Summative Assessments

Teachers and administrators can effortlessly share tests with other teachers in the district. Some districts ask curriculum specialists or select mentor teachers to create summative assessments for each content area. An outside perspective finds instructional holes that teachers may inadvertently overlook.

After students take the test, the software helps teachers and administrators see and organize data in various ways. eDoctrina even allows you to see the data organized by demographic variables. Unlike standardized tests, these summative tests are easy enough to administer throughout the year. You will love the ability to demonstrate growth within a single school year.

Teachers Prepare Students with Customized Formative Assessments

Castle Learning and eDoctrina provide tools for teachers to create, edit, and save tests customized to their needs. Castle Learning users will recognize this feature as the “Personal Content Sets” on their home menu. Teachers can choose to create their questions from scratch or search for relevant questions and modify them to fit their needs. They may choose to supplement the questions with links, videos, and pdfs.

Frequent formative assessments give teachers multiple opportunities to discover learning gaps and adjust instruction to accommodate student needs. These mini-assessments prepare students for high-stakes assessments because students apply skills and concepts repeatedly. Veteran teachers take advantage of shared assessments and the bank of questions to spiral the content. Repetitive practice is essential for students with learning differences.

The platforms also help teachers optimize their workday. The Castle Learning and eDoctrina platforms automatically grade multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank type questions. Teachers easily grade constructed response and essay type questions through our short answer response grading interface. With the resulting aggregated data, teachers see at a glance who needs remediation or acceleration on specific content.

Targeted Training for Regents

Castle Learning and eDoctrina provide Regents exams from previous years. Teachers sometimes assign entire Regents exams or select specific questions into their own assignments. Castle Learning also has a self-study mode where students can independently choose to study from previous Regents exams.

Having plenty of experience with authentic practice tests lowers anxiety, which positively affects test scores. The results from practice tests show teachers and students where to focus future instruction. ELL students greatly benefit from recurrent exposure to the same language structures. Students develop mental stamina for extended tests in a low-stakes environment.

Discover Degrees of Competency

Unlike most tests, eDoctrina and Castle Learning capture gradations of student understanding. In Castle Learning, teachers can allow students multiple attempts at each question and even give them a hint after the first attempt.

After students complete each item, the students see the reason the correct answer is best. The immediate feedback reinforces concepts from the assessment.

Hints and reasons come embedded in the bank of questions from eDoctrina and Castle Learning. The teacher can also add hints and reasons to their teacher-created items. Teachers can see who used the multiple attempts and hints features on specific questions, so they know those students need a quick refresher on that topic.

Start the Assessment Process Now

All the uncertainty about state testing means districts need to take control of data-driven decision-making. While fall 2021 may seem a long way off, planning the assessments should start now. Even if state exams occur this spring, the assessments from Castle Learning and eDoctrina add to the body of knowledge.

As Abigail Adams wrote to John Quincy Adams, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

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