Monday, June 13, 2016

Keeping it Simple with Galileo Assessments

It’s summer again, and that means many districts are in the thick of planning for next year’s assessments and maybe looking closer at all that Galileo has to offer, too. And since Galileo is constantly being refreshed, revitalized, and rejuvenated with updates, upgrades, and even new features, there’s a lot to explore, including technology enhanced (TE) items, digital curricula, and of course all the usual enhancements to learning that have made Galileo the stalwart resource that it has been for many years. Summer is a great time for teachers and administrators to get better acquainted with the various reports and test creation platforms that are so helpful to teachers who are guiding student learning. As an ATI Educational Management Services Coordinator, I often hear from school districts who are clearly not getting the most out of what Galileo can do. A great way to peruse the untapped possibilities is to meander through the help files in Galileo, where there is a wealth of useful and easy-to-find information about a myriad of relevant topics—reports, digital curriculum, scheduling, scoring, printing, the Dashboard, student records, data setup, user accounts, etc., etc.—virtually everything except how to tie your shoes, and yes, including assessment planning.  

As one who works exclusively with districts that design their own assessments using the Galileo tools, benchmark assessment planning is the focus of my time at this point in the year. Fortunately, assessment planning doesn’t require participation of a rocket scientist. My advice is to keep a couple basic principles in mind:  keep it simple, and let the system work for you. If there is not a strong reason to get fancy with your testing, then don’t! You’ll be spinning your wheels just to end up at the same place you would be if you let the ship fly on autopilot. What do I mean? Well, ATI has a series of ready-to use comprehensive assessments and a whole system built around them to provide reliable growth and achievement data that teachers can use to quickly see and target areas of student weakness. A good standard approach is a pretest, 1 to 3 mid-year benchmarks, and a posttest. And while certainly it is true that we don’t want to over-burden and discourage students with comprehensive tests that repeatedly test them on areas where they have not yet received instruction, ATI’s comprehensive pre- and posttests can be combined with quarterly or other periodic curriculum-aligned assessments designed by the district to effectively glean both the information on annual performance that administrators want to see, and the information on student progress that teachers need to support their vital and central role in the educational process. 

In Galileo’s Assessment Planner, the districts that choose to design their own tests can select the standards desired for each curriculum-aligned test and the number of items needed for each standard. We do the rest! Whenever questions come up, ATI’s trained and experienced staff is here to offer guidance and support. Keep in mind, the Test Review phase of test construction is your opportunity to tweak the particular items on a test, not a license to turn it inside out. Why? Because the drafts we deliver have been carefully balanced and designed to provide the best, most reliable data that can be provided within the confines of the particular blueprint; too many changes to the test carry the possibility of unknowingly upsetting that balance and causing that reliability to drift. So, keep it simple, enjoy your summer, and let Galileo work for you.   

Contributed by
Ben Tucker,  Educational Management System Coordinator

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