An education leader’s journey to deliver and collect common assessment information to track and support student growth during the COVID19 Pandemic at a Dropout Prevention and Recovery (DPR) high school. With Edulastic, the school was able to administer diagnostic assessments to 75% of students in fall 2020. Their plan for a formative and then summative assessment by the end of the year will allow them to get a full picture of student progress.

Guest post by Samantha J Shaffner, high school administrator at Central High School in Ohio.

I value having the ability to access rigorous content and sophisticated data reports on my assessments as a content creator, veteran ELA teacher, and high school administrator. In using Edulastic as my main tool to develop content to drive instruction in my classrooms daily for the last 5 years, Edulastic has proven itself to me as cutting-edge, data-driven, and progressive in supporting learning in whatever learning landscape is being used whether remote, hybrid, or brick and mortar. Expectations about student data have not changed in my experience even amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. We, as educators, are still expected to find solutions and produce student data in less-than-ideal situations in the name of compliance.

From the perspective of a teacher and a principal, educators like me can use Edulastic as an alternative and accessible alternative to other common assessment platforms like NWEA vendor assessments. End of year data vital to measuring student progress in an academic year was and (is still not in many cases) available to educators and decision makers trying to educate our youth. As unfortunate as this is on the side of the educator, students too were lost in the instantaneous transition to full remote learning last spring caused by the unprecedented Covid19 pandemic.

Because of this and in consultation with my district staff, I’ve used Edulastic to create and publish common assessments to my students which mirror state testing, introduce students to electronic testing standards, and which produce all of the data points needed to move students toward graduation and success. All of the data gathered is necessary to measure student growth and progress. Any loss of the data or missing a chance to collect the data as early as possible risks missing a chance on using that data to promote student growth.

Why Edulastic for Common Assessment?

When deciding on a tool to use we considered the following criterion: the tool must be affordable, versatile, and data-driven/capable. As a DPR community/charter high school in a economically disadvantaged region (Franklinton, OH) choosing to purchase a district Edulastic Enterprise site license is an attractive alternative for many reasons I will describe in this blog. 

A main selling point is the fact that the product, with all its utility value and innovative use capability, costs only 4 dollars per student in the district. Conversely, NWEA, at this point in time, was quoting our district at over 10 dollars a student assessed. 

In addition to those 3 vital items, we sought out a program with all the “bells and whistles” that would be required to securely administer a district level common assessment in the fall, mid-year, and spring.

To me, using Edulastic, especially with the updates included in the 2.0 version, this seemed like a “no-brainer” (I have been a MAJOR fan for years!). For these reasons, we took the power into our own hands and contacted Edulastic for a meeting to set up a Edulastic Enterprise Site license. 

After deciding on the platform my colleague Nathan Hawk and I embarked on this journey with the ongoing support of our regional Superintendent at Career Prep, Mr. Gamal Brown. Our common assessments and systems have been designed, facilitated, and supported by the few Nathan and I since inception. 

implement common assessment
Viewing the instant assessment insights on Edulastic.

The process of setting the comprehensive common assessment system itself was tedious,  but very doable with capable and tech centered educators on the task! The Edulastic Support Team was always available and helpful along the way when we had questions or needed support when  using new features on the platform for the first time for a major project. 

As it pertains to the actual logistics and our roles within the planning process and implementation, my colleague Nathan Hawk worked with me side-by-side to set up each teacher and student account. We first met with Edulastic team members to make important choices about the common settings for the test and received advanced training on common assessment administration. 

After a few meetings to discuss our needs, quote a price, and receive advanced training on district administrator setting features for testing we were ready to create our district testing plan. This involved but was not limited to training our teachers and admins, managing the test itself, and using the data to move our students to proficiency in reading and math. We believe these specific best practices will progress us towards higher rates of achievement gap closing for our most vulnerable and at-risk student sub-groups.

Follow these 3 Easy Steps to Successfully Implement Common Assessment” using Edulastic Enterprises

  1. Develop a district common assessment timeline 
  2. Plan and design your Common Assessment 
  3. Utilize Edulastic “Insights” data to set school goals and monitor student progress

Step 1: Develop a Common Assessment Timeline

Plan to implement common assessment
CPHS Common Assessment Timeline SY 2020-2021

As far as time is concerned, our students at CPHS will be taking District Common Assessment 2 in February, and then District Common Assessment 3 in May. The assessments provide administrators with the data to write school goals that keep school sponsors (in our case ERCO) aware of school progress with student performance. With this data our sponsor is able to advise us on solutions to learning barriers which has a positive impact on the overall performance of students and schools.

Step 2: Design Your Common Assessment

Let me explain my process here. To begin, I designed “District Common Assessment 1”  by analyzing blueprint standards used on content specific Ohio State Tests (OSTs). Common Core State Standards on this test blueprint have been adapted to meet the needs of the assessment. In order to do this, I varied levels of difficulty while keeping the learning target consistent with the test blueprint (ranging from grades 6 through 10). By doing this, it was possible to offer comparable student  performance data to measure growth over time (similar to the NWEA Map Reading and Math Growth 6+ assessments)..

implement common assessment with Edulastic
Use this tab to “Review” your test: ((make changes, add items, add directions, change settings, print a copy, share a link, clone, publish, or assign))

Creating my Common Assessment for Reading…

As a professional assessment designer, I took the time to create 24 of the 30 baseline questions myself to allow myself the freedom to use reading passages relevant to my students and their interests. The other 6 items on the assessment were “borrowed” from the Edulastic Certified bank after vetting similar questions covering the same content standard! 

Another approach to common assessment design was taken by my coaching co-lead and partner on this particular project. Mr. Hawk created his math common assessment for the fall cycle by borrowing a majority of his standards’ aligned questions from the Edulastic Certified bank according to our standards chosen. Then he added 5 or 6 items to the math baseline assessment that he created himself. 

Both tests were high quality and received well by our students. However you decide to create your test is up to you. Edulastic gives you top-notch tools and the ability to innovate, mix and match, and merge, simultaneously. In other words, there are many ways to write common assessments. 

My best advice would be to choose a method for creating or choosing assessment material works best for you and your students, faculty, and school leaders based on the data and needs of the assessment itself.

implement common assessment
Reading Common Assessment Teacher Crafted Item: Multi-part Question covering Reading and Vocabulary Common Core State Standards

I created the above pictured question or test “item” by selecting appropriate/ relevant reading content at an 8th grade Lexile level using a platform called Newsela. Then, I wrote the question in a way that is very similar to format and content on similar high-stakes tests using an A/B multipart format. For more on how to craft test items check out my blog “How to Create ELA Passage-Based Assessments that Meet Your Students’ Needs”!

Although I truly enjoy creating my own assessment content, It is just as important to know Edulastic has thousands of vetted, quality, standards-based assessments that any administrator or building leader could assign as a common assessment by simply administering the test on the back end of the portal. Look for “Edulastic Certified” items for top-notch test questions  and assessments!

Step 3: Use Edulastic Data “Insights” for Student Progress Monitoring and Goal Setting 

Find out more about reports with “Insights” here.

As educators, data is more important than ever. Make sure you take advantage of the “Insights” feature to get the most out of your common assessment data. This next-level feature generates standards-aligned data reports that give important feedback in many areas. 

You will find a plethora of sophisticated standards-based reports here that you can use to generate important discussions with teachers in TBT meetings. The advantages of this feature  have fully equipped our school leaders with the tools required to create meaningful school improvement plans (SIPS) and growth goals which are being implemented over time as we assess our students. 

By employing this best practice with fidelity, CPHS regional administrators and content designers are able to hone in on what standards are being measured and identify the learning deficits. As you can see in the chart below, Central High School’s goals include measurable and specific ways to increase student reading proficiency to a 60% average, and Math proficiency to a 43% average by the mid-year common assessment which would be a 10% increase in both areas.. These SIP (School Improvement Plan) goals are included in our student progress monitoring (SPM) summaries submitted to our school sponsor as well as the state of Ohio.

implement common assessment first CA (baseline) for district math and reading performance.
 CPHS Common Assessment 1: District Common Assessment Results by School

Tips on Implementation and Design for your Common Assessment… 

  1. Ensure consistency with process through pulling from a consistent pool of standards, Depth-of-Knowledge( DOK), and number of items/time needed to successfully complete a test. Remain consistent with these controls to ensure proper data results etc.
  1. Be sure to make resources and training available  to accommodate the learning curve to ensure some level of equity. Make a point to foster meaningful conversation around student performance and how we can bridge the gaps we see individually and in groups. 
  1. Lastly, utilize the platforms “Common Assessment Settings” to ensure integrity and consistency with students and teachers (safe-browser, password, timed, etc.).

In conclusion, by implementing common assessment across the district with Edulastic Enterprise, student/school/district growth, set performance goals, and the depth and rigor of assessments are transparent to everyone involved. Using this system, we successfully tested 75% of our student population across all 4 schools. We are using our common assessment data from each of the schools to initiate positive changes in the way that we approach teaching and learning with our students, especially during these challenging times.

Using Edulastic to implement common assessment has benefited our students, parents, teachers, principals and district administrators who make district-wide choices about programming. 

By using this system to assess our students at CPHS we have become empowered to make important decisions based on data trends so we are able to meet the needs of our students, schools, and district. In addition to this, we are using these data insights as a means to locate data in order to research best practices in other DPR schools that will be vital as we continue writing improvement plans and growth goals for our students and regional district schools. 


About the Author

Samantha Shaffner is a high school administrator at Central High School, a Dropout Prevention and Recovery (DRP) high school in Columbus, OH.  An award-winning ELA teacher, Samantha has 14 years experience in the classroom as an ELA teacher and blended learning expert. She has served as a curriculum designer, content creator, blended learning coordinator, district testing coordinator, and academic coach. Additionally, Samantha is an independent contractor and consultant with cutting-edge educational technology companies. For years, Samantha has advocated for effective remote learning and for student access to the technology they need to succeed in all learning spaces. Samantha serves on the Edulastic Innovator Team and is a contracted blogger and content writer for Edulastic and other cutting-edge Ed tech companies. 

Connect with Samantha on Twitter: @SamanthaShaffn2


Read more success stories from schools and districts that are using Edulastic to power assessment.