Monday, October 17, 2011

Question and Answer

Having had conversations with many clients and prospective clients throughout the years, questions regarding the implementation of assessment and intervention can be specific to a school or district. However, some questions are similar from one district to another. Here I address some of the questions that come up regularly.

What are the benefits of online vs. offline assessment?
While there are pros and cons to both methods of administration, there are strong reasons to lean towards online administration. Online testing saves on the cost of paper (environmentally friendly) and gives immediate access to test results. These days, students are more technologically savvy and are comfortable with online testing. I’ve observed groups of very young students navigating through online testing with confidence and ease. Some could make a valid argument that they want the testing to mimic the statewide assessment (e.g., AIMS, MCAS, CSAP, CST). Our own research seems to show that whether the students take the test online or offline, it does not seem to affect our ability to predict how the students will do on the statewide assessment.

On the other hand, offline assessments can be administered to large groups of students at the same time and reading texts/items are presented in a traditional format. Access to computers may be a limiting factor that would lead to a need for offline testing. English language learners or other specific groups of students may benefit from working from the test booklet. Offline testing involves the extra steps of printing test booklets and bubble sheets and of scanning answer sheets once test administration is completed. The plain-paper scanning available for the past several years is an improvement in scanning technology which makes the scanning task much quicker.

What grade levels should be included in our district’s assessment planning?
Recent policies have led to emphasis in testing for grades three through 10. However, in every state, teachers in all grade levels are responsible to assess towards the state standards. Teachers and students at all grade levels can benefit from a comprehensive assessment system which is aligned to state standards, provides information about mastery of standards to inform a variety of decision-making questions (e.g., questions related to instruction/intervention, screening/placement, growth) and, with regard to instruction/intervention, recommends specific actions to improve student performance.

What subject areas should we be testing?
Math, reading, science, and writing frequently included in assessment plans as they encompass the core subject areas and most statewide assessment cover these areas. However, teachers in all subject areas should be encouraged to incorporate a comprehensive assessment system into their approach to instruction.

Should we build District Curriculum Aligned Assessments (DCAA) or use the Comprehensive Benchmark Assessment Series (CBAS)?
The DCAA is the optimal choice for districts that have common pacing guides (or curriculum maps) which are incorporated across the district. The DCAA are customized assessments intended to be aligned to instruction. These tests measure student accomplishment and pinpoint areas for which reteaching could be of most value.

The CBAS is designed as a comprehensive assessment to give multiple snapshots throughout the year of progress toward standards mastery. These are built by ATI using the blueprints from the statewide assessments.

How long does it take to test a student?
This depends on many factors including the length of the test, the objectives being assessed, and the number and length of the reading texts. A 40-45 item assessment will likely take a typical class period to administer. Some students will take less time and some will take more. In general, Galileo assessments are not designed to be timed. The goal is to determine what the student knows. Although it’s ultimately a district decision, enough time should be allowed for students to complete all testing.

What are the best reports for teachers and administrators?
ATI has synthesized some of the most frequently used reports into a Dashboard where teachers and administrators can easily access actionable information. For example, the Dashboard contains one-click access to the:
1. Test Monitoring reports which are in a graphical format and indicate how individual students (or the class) performed on specific assessment standards;
2. Detailed Analysis Report which links test items to state standards as well as reporting on response patterns for specific items; and
3. Intervention Alert Report which helps the teacher focus interventions by state standards and to place students into intervention groups.

I hope you found this Q&A helpful. If you have additional questions, please contact ATI at 877.442.5453 or at

-Baron Reyna, Field Services Coordinator

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