Assessment-driven instruction - SmartBrief

All Articles Education Edtech Assessment-driven instruction

Assessment-driven instruction

5 min read


This post is sponsored by Curriculum Associates.

With the right assessment approach, teachers can assess less while still gaining critical insight into each student’s strengths and areas of need. An assessment approach that aims to drive instruction frees teachers to spend more time providing instruction to all students whether it is online, teacher-led, or a combination of both. Katie Nicholson, vice president of online assessment at Curriculum Associates, provides more information on technological advancements in assessment, how valuable assessment data supports blended learning, and the ultimate goal of a strong assessment system.

What technological advances have you seen in the area of assessment that districts should be taking advantage of to reduce testing time for students? Why?

There is growing interest in computer adaptive testing (CAT), where students answer questions online and a computerized algorithm tailors future questions based on correct or incorrect answers. The key difference between an adaptive assessment and a fixed-form one—which is often taken with paper and pencil—is the way in which the former efficiently identifies skill gaps across grade levels. This is especially relevant today in light of more rigorous education standards. For example, iReady® provides an adaptive diagnostic for grades K–12, offering a comprehensive, across-grade, across-domain understanding of a student’s skills. As a result, teachers can better understand the root causes of skill gaps spanning back multiple years as well as identify where to focus instruction next. This helps them differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all learners, including those who are below, on and above grade level.

What questions should district leaders ask when making assessment decisions?

With some of the technology-driven assessment platforms, the opportunity now exists to use one assessment for multiple purposes—formative, summative and the like—making assessment more efficient. We recommend district leaders choose an assessment platform where the ratio of district/school/teacher objectives addressed by an assessment is greater than one-to-one. To accomplish this, a district leader should start by asking questions like, “What critical needs are we trying to meet through assessment and why?” and then, “Which single assessment tool can meet as many of those needs as possible?” Also, asking the assessment provider questions about the range of data collected as well as the assessment design will help district leaders feel confident that the selected assessments will support the range of needs of both administrators and teachers.

In addition, knowing why and communicating how often students are being assessed, and then understanding the purpose for each assessment administration is critical to achieving stakeholder buy-in. When developing an assessment plan, district leaders should be able to answer a few key questions to facilitate this buy-in:

  • Can I explain in three sentences or fewer why each assessment is critical?
  • Can my staff, building leaders, and teachers also explain why each is critical?
  • Is everyone saying the same thing?

What about teachers? Are there advances that can help teachers get time back in their day?

Using an adaptive assessment that provides actionable results is key; this approach provides teachers with a roadmap for differentiating instruction and personalizing learning. Doing this through teacher-built, paper-and-pencil, fixed-form assessments is hugely time consuming. However, leveraging a computer adaptive assessment with robust, teacher-friendly reporting can add hours back to a teacher’s day. Ideally, an assessment is also linked to instructional resources to save teachers even more time.

What should be the ultimate goal of an assessment? Are there any big opportunities districts are missing out on today?

I think everyone can agree that no assessment should be administered purely for assessment’s sake. Assessment should both inform good instruction through high-quality, valid, reliable, and actionable data and drive good instruction through direct connections to instruction. A good assessment not only provides aggregate data for summative purposes, but also gives teachers the level of information (data and interpretive commentary that’s insightful, easily interpreted, etc.) that ensures students get exactly the instruction they need when they need it (such as highly valuable formative assessment results).

How do advances in assessment technology help support educators in their efforts to implement blended learning?

Adaptive assessment enhances blended learning regardless of the model a school or district has decided to implement. There is no one right model, but having the right assessment platform that connects to digital instruction can provide teachers with strategies and recommendations for instructional next steps, information to support instructional groupings, and resources that support both individual students as well as those instructional groups. In addition, assessments that report on both progress toward grade-level and growth expectations provide a broader range of data to inform the full scope of blended learning initiatives in a variety of settings, including personalized online learning, small group, and whole class on grade-level instruction.

Learn more about i-Ready® from Curriculum Associates, which leverages advanced technology to provide a deep, customized evaluation of every student to track student growth and performance consistently and continuously over a student’s entire K–12 career.

Katie Nicholson is Vice President of Online Assessment for Curriculum Associates and drives the strategic direction and oversight of the award-winning i-Ready online assessment program including its adaptive diagnostic, progress monitoring assessments, and future assessment offerings.