“Help! I’m stuck between my administrators who want to use the December benchmark as a predictive and my teachers who want to use the December benchmark as a summative semester final. What can I do?”
One single benchmark, if created appropriately, can serve both purposes.
Every state is required to have a list of standards students at each grade level need to master. It is the district’s responsibility to make sure that every child masters these standards by the end of the school year. In order to ensure this goal is achieved, many districts provide pacing guides to teachers in order to keep both teachers and students on pace to master all standards by the end of the year. These pacing guides identify which standards are supposed to be taught at what point during the year. The benchmark assessments are then created based on the district pacing guide.
The ideal benchmark assessment should be between 35-50 items long and have no more than five items on one specific standard. Using the standards taught during the first half of the year can provide both a reliable predictor of students’ progress towards mastery of the state standards and a valid summative assessment for what students were taught in the classroom. The question then becomes how do teachers take the results of these benchmark assessments and translate them into grades?
The answer to this question depends on the district’s method for grading students. The easiest and most straightforward method is a standards-based grading system. This method of grading provides information as to whether a student has mastered a standard or skill or where he or she is at in developing the skill. Information on standards mastery can be obtained using the Galileo® K-12 Online Intervention Report.
Using benchmark assessments for a more traditional method for grading, (e.g., providing a letter grade for students based on percentages) may need more thought. In order to provide accurate ability estimates for students at all ranges of ability, it is important that there is a range of difficulties on the items and that even the student at the highest academic levels needs to be challenged. As a result, sometimes the raw scores do not represent the level of growth and success students have actually demonstrated. One example is an assessment where the average raw score percentage was 46 percent, yet students demonstrated an average growth of 20 points on their Developmental Level scores (DL). Teachers and districts can use Galileo’s benchmark data when assigning traditional grades. One suggestion to assign grades is to generate a classroom Benchmark Results report. The report provides information for each student’s risk assessment. By providing a grade (e.g., A for On Course, B for Low Risk, C for Moderate Risk, and D or F for High Risk), valid and reliable student data may be converted into a traditional grading system.
- Karyn White, M.A.
Educational Management Services Director