Monday, September 24, 2012

Rising to Meet Common Core Expectations for Text Rigor and Content

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts (ELA) stress that students read more complex texts. There are several reasons for this:
  • Research indicates that pedagogy that focuses on higher-order or critical thinking at the expense of reading complex texts leaves students unprepared for college-level work.
  • The texts read by K-12 students have declined in sophistication over the last 50 years, while the complexity of college and workplace texts has remained steady or even increased during the same span of time.
  • K-12 students read far more narrative text than expository text, despite the fact that expository text is more challenging for students to read and is the majority of what they are expected to read in college and in the workplace.
  • When students do read expository texts, they are usually only asked to skim and scan for specific information.
Moreover, beginning in sixth grade, CCSS calls for instruction to promote literacy in social studies, science, and technical subjects.

How ATI ELA Content Specialists Are Responding to CCSS Text Expectations

ATI ELA content specialists are working to meet CCSS expectations for text complexity. This is exemplified by the development of content for RI 11.9, a performance objective which calls for students to “[a]nalyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.”

The performance objective requires that students engage in rigorous analysis of a prescribed range of texts. ELA selected George Washington’s farewell address for the beauty and complexity of its writing and for its historical importance. Items were written with the intent to guide students’ analysis as they read the address, similar to the way teachers use carefully timed and phrased glosses and questions to call students’ attention to key aspects of texts. Since the performance objective does not limit the type of analysis students should bring to bear on texts, the items written to the address require a range of skills and thought processes:
  • Analysis of the meaning of archaic, technical, and figurative language using contextual clues (e.g., “In the first paragraph, what does the phrase ‘clothed with that important trust’ mean?”)
  • Summary or paraphrasing of complex, important passages (e.g., “Read the quotation. ‘...and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness....’ Which best paraphrases the quotation?”)
  • Analysis of Washington’s rhetorical strategies (e.g., “Read the quotation. ‘If benefits have resulted to our country from these services....’ What does Washington accomplish through the use of the passive voice?”)
  • Application of historical knowledge to aid in comprehension of the text (e.g., “Read the quotation. ‘You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together....’ Which event is Washington referring to?”)
  • Inferring background information based on contextual clues (e.g., “What can you infer from the fifth paragraph about America in 1796?”)
A student who can correctly answer the battery of items written to Washington’s farewell address demonstrates his or her ability to engage in the kind of rigorous analysis of sophisticated texts called for by CCSS.

ATI ELA content specialists’ work in developing a robust library of sophisticated expository texts is ongoing. Recent item families added include the Emancipation Proclamation (ninth grade) and several Supreme Court opinions (Brown v. Board of Education [10th grade], Justice Murphy’s dissent in Korematsu v. United States [11th grade], and Gideon v. Wainright [12th grade]). ELA content specialists are also adding complex expository texts for the lower grades, including an illustrated text about dandelions (“Dandelions”) for first grade; a biography of Abraham Lincoln (“The Man Who Taught Himself to Be President”) and a text about helium (“Up, Up and Away: The Story of Helium”), both for third grade; a text about year-round education (“The Benefits of Year-Round Education”) for sixth grade; and a text about hummingbirds (“Flower-Kissers”) for eighth grade.

Lucas Schippers, Ph.D.
Content Specialist
Assessment Technology Incorporated

Monday, September 17, 2012

Innovative Technology Supporting Innovative Education

ATI is committed to continuous innovation - evident through a number of existing patents and several pending.  During the past year, ATI has built hundreds of new features into Galileo Online, provided at no additional cost to all clients. This fall ATI will release a complete Instructional Effectiveness System, again at no additional cost to Galileo users. The system includes three components:
  • comprehensive assessment providing reliable and valid measures of student progress used to determine the value added to student performance by each educator being evaluated;
  • educator rating scales built using ATI assessment planning, item banking, scale construction, and Item Response Theory (IRT) technology making it possible to accommodate customized scales that can be continuously updated to improve rating scale validity; 
  • an Evaluation Score Compiler combining and differentially weighting indicators of student progress, educator proficiency, and surveys of school climate to produce an instructional effectiveness score for each educator being evaluated.
Dashboard technology puts control of the evaluation process continuously under district guidance.  Data on student performance, teacher proficiency, and school climate are provided automatically, thereby reducing the burden of gathering evaluation data while assuring continuous availability of data.

The comprehensive assessment component provides continuous feedback to guide professional development during the school year while there is still time to make a difference in student learning.

There are a number of ways to learn first-hand about Galileo K-12 Online. You can:
  • visit the ATI website (
  • participate in an online demonstration by registering either through the website or by calling 1.877.442.5453 / 520.323.9033 to speak with a Field Services Coordinator
  • visit us at 
    • Missouri School Boards’ Association in cooperation with Missouri Association of School Administrators Annual Conference September 28 and 29 at the Tan-Tar-A Resort, Osage Beach, Missouri.
    • Massachusetts Computer Using Educators and Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Annual Technology Conference October 24 and 25 at the Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.
We look forward to talking with you online and at events.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Galileo Online Pre-K Parent Center

Preschoolers are active and continuously engaged learners finding any environment an appropriate place to explore, discover, and grow. This love of learning bubbles over into all areas of a child’s life. A strong partnership between parents and educators may significantly enhance children’s development by allowing a complimentary approach to learning both at home and in the classroom. The Galileo Pre-K Parent Center offers a dynamic tool that supports a family’s engagement in their child’s educational experience.

The Pre-K Parent Center is a secured area within Galileo Pre-K Online and offers educators a platform to communicate with families through posting notes and lesson plans. Through the center, parents have access to up-to-date information about their child’s learning and classroom experiences. The Center also allows parents to print both At-Home Activities to share with their child and up-to-date reports about his or her developmental progress.  Through the Pre-K Parent Center family involvement and engagement in a child’s education can be supported and monitored. Family involvement in a child’s education is an educational opportunity for the child and an important reporting component for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Accessing the Pre-K Parent Center is quick and easy through the Assessment Technology Incorporated home page using a username and password provided by the child’s teacher.

For more information on the Pre-K Parent Center, contact an ATI Field Services Coordinator at 1.877.358.7611 or at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Innovation, Collaboration, and Empowerment: Essential Elements for Developing High-Quality Assessments in Non-State-Tested Subjects

In this new age of educational reform it is widely acknowledged that local empowerment, collaboration, and innovation are essential elements for building and sustaining success for students. For example, while state and federal agencies define and deploy large-scale, end-of-year assessments for use in high-stakes testing initiatives and while national consortia groups plan to follow suit, the educational imperative for reform is really at the local school district level and calls for the development and use of assessment tools in all subject areas (e.g., art, music, foreign languages, social studies, etc.) on a continuous basis to inform and empower instructional decision-making. 

It is here at the local level, and more specifically, within the classroom where education across all subject areas occurs. It is here, where the use of reliable and valid assessments in all subject areas to help inform instruction needs to happens regularly. And it is here where the intelligent integration between assessment, reporting, and decision-making leads to action aimed at elevating student learning. In this regard, assessment planning and test construction in all subject areas must clearly articulate local education goals and local pacing calendars reflecting the scope and sequence of instruction for the school year. Moreover, assessment tools in non-state-tested areas must be sufficiently flexible and readily adaptable in ways that accommodate both current and future assessment needs.  

Accomplishing these goals requires a change in direction – a change that calls for moving beyond the inherent limitations of fixed, static tests toward a more dynamic, collaborative, and locally empowered approach to assessment including the components of item development, item banking, test construction, and psychometric validation. This can be accomplished by taking advantage of the benefits afforded to local school districts and charter schools through new innovations in technology, research, and professional development currently being implemented by Assessment Technology Incorporated (ATI) in partnership with the educational community. For example, these innovations now make it possible and practical for school districts and charter schools to come together as a community and to realize their goals for developing and deploying reliable, valid, and fair assessments in subject areas not tested on statewide assessments. 

Now in its first full year of implementation across several states, the ATI Community Assessment and Item Banking Project is a way for school districts and charter schools to join together at the grass-roots level to develop a continuously expanding community item bank and locally designed “best-fit” reliable and valid assessments in non-state-tested subject areas. As part of the Project, ATI is assisting in the preparation of educators to develop high-quality items and is providing services related to professional development and training, standards-aligned item and assessment development, and data analysis research and reporting tools. As a result, participating districts and charter schools gain direct access to a continually growing repository of shared locally-written, high-quality certified items and customized assessments in areas not currently addressed on statewide tests.  

Participants in the Project benefit from the contributions of all participating districts and charter schools as well as the professional development provided by ATI, access to the Galileo Assessment Planner and Galileo Bank Builder technology tools and the research provided by ATI to help ensure the reliability and validity of assessments in non-state-tested subject areas.

What are your thoughts about this initiative? Please leave a comment to this post.

Interested in learning more or participating? Contact us at 1.877.442.5453 or at and go to:

- Jason K. Feld, Ph.D.
ATI Vice President Corporate Projects