Step 5. Explore Assessment Sources and Structures
This lesson covers one of a series of steps appropriate for districts or schools wanting to establish a system of common assessments. See the "Step 1. Where to Start on Your Road to Common Assessments" lesson if you wish to start at the beginning. Otherwise, keep reading. This lesson addresses the following:
Goal: Explore assessment sources and structures
Details for Meeting(s): Meet at [Location] on [Date] from [Start Time] to [End Time] on [Date(s)]
- Investigate possible [district-wide/school-wide] assessment structures
- Discuss general outline for [District's/Site's] assessment structure (complete Assessment Recommendation Overview Form)
- Investigate [District's/Site's] assessment components (e.g., tests, pacing guide, etc.) already in place
- Discuss assessment and assessment question sources
Investigate Possible Assessment Structures
Review your district's or school's staff survey results (e.g., not just a Microsoft Excel file, but rather a summary of responses by grade, subject, etc.) you acquired via the previous lesson. This will help you gage professional development needs (e.g., are all sites and staff aware of assessment value?) and help you to be sensitive of the climate as you plan your implementation.
However, don't let the survey be a prescription for exactly what is needed. For example, a district in desperate need of common assessments might render survey results where most staff members say, "We don't need or want common assessments!" Sometimes what we want and what we need are 2 different things, and sometimes professional development is needed to help us understand that something is needed.
Also review the samples of common assessment components (testing calendars, pacing guides, tests, etc.) you acquired from others (e.g., other schools and districts, publications, professors, conferences, etc.) via previous lesson. Discuss what might work best for your district or school site.
Remember that a complete system of common assessments does not have to roll-out all at once. For example, it can be very effective to implement pacing guides first, then a few benchmarks assessments to go with them, and then more frequent assessments to administer in-between those.
Discuss General Outline for Assessment Structure
At this point, the team is likely discussing possible assessment structures for your site or district. Complete the Assessment Recommendation Overview Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/AssessmentDesign-RecommendationOverviewForm.pdf (you may work in smaller groups, but there should ultimately be a single copy for the entire district or site). It helps to also copy the Assessment Recommendation Overview Sample on the back (to help with completion). As you complete the form, there are 3 things everyone should remember:
1. The form should reflect what the complete, ideal assessment structure will ultimately look like (even if you are only implementing parts of it in beginning years).
2. Do not conform to assessment pieces already in place to the detriment of an ideal structure. For example, if you currently assess 4th graders in Science 12 times per year, don't automatically assume that is the best number of tests for that grade and subject, or for other grades and subjects.
3. The recommendation is just a draft and will likely evolve as details are added.
Investigate Assessment Components Already in Place
Now review and discuss what assessment components (testing calendars, pacing guides, tests, etc.) are already in place at your district or site by viewing the following forms completed prior to this meeting via previous lesson:
- Current Pacing Guide Overview Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/AssessmentDesign-CurrentPacingForm.pdf
- Current Assessment Overview Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/AssessmentDesign-CurrentOverviewForm.pdf
Remember that the ideal assessment structure you envision for your district should not conform to assessment pieces already in place if it will mean a less-than-ideal structure. However, there might be pieces already in place that fit well ("as is" or if reworked) and/or may be built upon (e.g., a pacing guide in need of assessments to match). Discuss which pieces might qualify to fit (don't worry - they will be closely evaluated later), as well as what is still needed. Record these as follows:
1. On the completed Current Pacing Guide Overview Form, circle any pacing guide that might possibly fit (based on description above) in your ideal assessment structure.
2. On the completed Current Assessment Overview Form, circle any assessments that might possibly fit (based on description above) in your ideal assessment structure.
2. On the completed Assessment Recommendation Overview Form, underline any assessments that are possibly taken care of and circle any assessment pieces that will definitely need to be found or built from scratch. Write and circle "[course/subject] pacing guide" wherever one will be needed (for example, if there is no existing Grade 5 Science pacing guide circled on the completed Current Pacing Guide Overview Form, yet the Assessment Recommendation Overview Form indicates assessments are needed in this area, you would write and circle "Grade 5 Science pacing guide" on the Assessment Recommendation Overview Form).
Discuss Assessment and Assessment Question Sources
This topic requires a lot of thought. There are a variety of sources from which you can acquire entire tests and/or test questions. While this topic will be tackled later, as well, it is good to have a general idea of which source you are leaning toward early in the process, especially since professional test-writing companies often offer guidance in next steps.
You might select a single source or a combination of sources such as these:
1. Create Your Own Tests In-House and/or Revise Tests Currently in Use
Illuminate will offer a test item bank (to all users at no additional cost) within the Illuminate system in December, 2011, and vendors (noted below) also offer test banks that already work within Illuminate. However, test creation is a trickier science than merely knowing how to use technology. This manual can help team members select and craft quality questions, and the process can double as professional development that transfers to other areas of instruction. This approach often assists district-wide buy-in, as teachers know the tests were crafted and approved by their colleagues. However, there are also downsides to this approach. It could cost more (through substitute teachers covering teachers' classes while the team works, any stipends involved, etc.) than paying for the services of professional test writers, and the initial years of administration can involve some trial and error, meetings for revision, etc.
2. Purchase Pre-Made Tests
We work with vendors such as Intel-Assess, Action Learning Systems, and Curriculum Associates (as well as Key Data Systems in December of 2011) that provide pre-made assessments of field tested questions crafted by assessment experts. Click on each vendor's link (above) to explore these great options.
3. Use Tests that Come with Textbooks
This approach can serve as a good starting point for districts very new to standards-based assessments, but it rarely provides what is needed. The move to national common core standards should help, but texts printed with your own state standards are often the same texts marketed to other states (with other state standards printed on them), as well. Thus publisher assessments' standards-alignment and balance can leave much to be desired. This is certainly not true of all publisher assessments (there are some great ones out there), but it's vital to consider this and examine any publisher assessment questions closely for proper standards alignment and coverage. "[The usefulness of text resources] can tempt the teacher to rely exclusively upon them. To do so, however, is to abdicate instructional and assessment decision-making responsibilities" (Peter W. Airasian, 2000, pp. 70-71).
Airasian, P. (2000) Assessment in the classroom: A concise approach (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.
Before Your Next Meeting(s)
1. If you plan to watch presentations from vendors who provide pre-made assessments of field tested questions crafted by assessment experts (such as Intel-Assess, Action Learning Systems, and Curriculum Associates,as well as Key Data Systems by December of 2011), arrange for vendor representatives to attend your team's meeting(s).
2. Plan to provide copies of the Assessment Recommendation Details Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/AssessmentDesign-RecommendationDetailsForm.pdf for everyone.
4. Review the next lesson to see if there's anything else you'll want to prepare ahead of time.
Next you are ready to determine specifics for your assessment structure. Refer to the next document/lesson in this manual for support.