Monday, October 27, 2014

Testing to the Teaching

Very soon at ATI we will be releasing Instructional Dialogs that include Technology Enhanced (TE) items. The reason for this initiative is to further our goal of bringing assessment as close as possible to instruction. Everyone involved in education is well aware of the problems associated with teaching to the test. Instruction becomes narrowed and limited to prepare for the assessment. Learning is restricted.  However, if one turns that around 180 degrees and puts teaching at the head of the train, then there are many potential benefits.

Embedding TE items directly in instructional content allows assessments to match instruction in a finely tuned way that hasn’t really been possible in the past. Assessments can be built that reflect the steps that a teacher wants students to master in acquiring a specific larger skill. Say, for instance, that the focus of a lesson is the numerical fluency skills that will enable a student to easily calculate a problem such as correct change from $20.00 for a $4.30 purchase. Common Core emphasizes the importance of not only correctly calculating that $15.70 is due, but also completely understanding and being able to explain why the calculation works out that way. An explanation might go something like the following:
  1. $4.30 is $.70 less than $5.00 
  2. $5.00 is $15.00 less than $20.00 
  3. Therefore $4.30 is $15.00 + $.70 = $15.70 less than $20.00
TE items embedded in instruction afford a teacher with the opportunity to evaluate whether students have grasped what they have been taught and can provide a rationale for their approach.

It has long been recognized that such assessments are an important part of teaching. Recent technological advances make it possible to gather valid and reliable data of the sort that would have previously required standardized testing while not diverging from the focus of instruction. Assessment data that informs decisions and allows for easy tracking of outcomes can flow naturally out of instruction rather than being a distraction.  

John Bergan, Ph.D.
Vice President Research and Development

Monday, October 13, 2014

Galileo K-12 Online in the Mobile Classroom

As states continue to work together to implement assessments of student learning aligned to the Common Core State Standards, through collaboration with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, school districts/charters are shifting toward digital curriculum and assessment.  With this shift came a natural progression to increase the number of mobile computing devices found in the classrooms. 

ATI’s implementation of technology enhanced instructional and assessment items is designed to support a wide range of mobile devices.  The Galileo K-12 Online system requirements, located here, provide a list of Galileo features that are supported on low-cost devices built on operating systems including Google Android, Apple iOS, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Windows.

Brandon Smith, B.A., MCSE
Information Technology Director

Monday, October 6, 2014

How ATI Clients are Designing Assessments during Transition in State-Wide Testing

During the past two years, the educational climate has been exciting and ever changing. As each state has published its transition plans for moving to Common Core State Standards, ATI district partners as well as ATI’s Educational Management Services Department have attended closely to the evolving approaches to curriculum, test design, and test blueprints.  School districts are under pressure to ensure that teachers are teaching and students are mastering the skills represented in the new standards. ATI assessments help this cause. There are three major ways districts are creating assessments to collect student test data and ensure that their students are on the path of meeting the new, more rigorous expectations.

The first is to use a comprehensive testing approach. Districts provide an assessment in a content area up to five times a year with each one assessing students on all of the standards to be included on the end-of-year assessments. This provides a snapshot on how students are doing on the path to mastering all grade level standards. The advantage of this approach is that it provides flexibility for all teachers across  the district to teach at their own pace and make their own decisions about how to best teach all of the standards by the state provided testing date. This approach is especially advantageous for districts with smaller student populations.

Another approach is a district provided curriculum map. In this approach, a district splits all of the standards over the course of the year and provides teachers with a list of which standards are to be taught at what points in the year. The benchmarks are then designed to follow the provided curriculum map. The advantage of this approach is that fewer standards are tested on each assessment and more items for each standard may be included in the assessment design. This type of assessment allows districts to monitor the effectiveness of standard-based instruction for students and to pinpoint students who may need additional instruction on the standards covered in the assessment.

A final approach uses essential standards. District curriculum leads pinpoint standards for instruction, they consider essential in order for students in their district to be successful. In this approach, instruction and testing focus on this smaller set of standards. The advantage of this approach is that there is less material teachers need to cover and curriculum and assessment is targeted to meet the needs of the students in a specific district. In addition, there is more time for more in-depth teaching and mastery of the district-identified standards.

All of these approaches are solutions to the end goal of obtaining information about student learning in order provide instruction supporting student mastery of standards by the end of the academic year. ATI Educational Management Services Coordinators are committed to helping our district partners implement which ever assessment approach the district chooses.

Karyn White
Director of Educational Management Services