Let’s be honest, assessments just aren’t easy to love. But what’s to blame? High-stakes testing?
While the shared discontent with high-stakes testing is too easily communicated as a nebulous anxiety—there’s more nuance to this story. Teachers are worried their role is evolving (or devolving) as they teach to tests; students are losing interest in subjects they once poured their creative hearts into; and school leadership is concerned, for good reason, that more tests will not improve their schools.
A New Perspective on Assessments
Despite all of this, there’s one important commonality we share with the teachers, administrators, and students using our app: We’re learning new things about assessment every day.
And we want to continue seeing assessment in a new and observant light.
Through nationwide district pilots, and a series of conferences, we keep learning that assessments aren’t always an educator’s favorite topic—but when we offer them a better, fairer, way to do them nearly everyone becomes arrested with intrigue.
Why Use Edulastic?
High-stakes testing isn’t going to evaporate overnight. But before you start dreaming of using the Common Core standards without relying so heavily on annual tests—you’ll still need to help your students master the standards while improving your curriculum.
Edulastic assessments are a good way to ensure teachers and districts are ready to make the transition to PARCC and SBAC instructionally. Additionally, it prepares students for the rigor and interactivity of the new tests (getting them used to the new format and increasing their digital literacy). Furthermore, if you use the app for formative and interim assessments—you can alleviate many of the problems teachers and districts face with implementing the standards.
For example, they can identify how each one of their students is progressing with the new standards via mastery reports; see who needs extra support; provide prompt narrative feedback; and see how they can strengthen their lessons day in and day out.
Ending High-Stakes Testing. Just Castles in the Air?
Giving teachers the ability to craft technology-enhanced assessments that mirror the new testing experience rests on our long term (and sky-high) goal of reducing the need for high-stakes tests. Wouldn’t school be better if students could master the Common Core, and various other learning objectives, on a daily basis with formative assessments that are infused with rich feedback?
We think so—and here’s some Tips & Tricks for getting it done:
1. You’re not alone: Assessment sharing and collaboration.
Sharing of common assessments at the district or school level is a wonderful practice. These assessments, ranging from formative to interim, are collaboratively designed by either district level instructional leaders or by a team of teachers. They are primarily administered as a standardized assessment—and typically designed for pre- and post-assessments for a unit (for the purpose of clearly identifying student learning patterns in the classroom).
Edulastic’s new district role facilitates the creation, customization, review, and administration of common assessments. This allows for tremendous collaboration opportunities for grade-level, course, and department teachers to create assessments that are meaningful for students—and mapped to the district curriculum plan.
Team-developed assessments can encompass a wide range of standards and include a blend of question types (we currently offer 28 question types that go far beyond multiple choice).
More importantly, research has shown that these collaboratively built assessments are good for both teachers and students. They help students master key concepts and learning objectives while informing instruction. They’re also a great way to locate students who need intervention and remediation. And they’re more efficient for individual teachers and equitable for your school or district.
*If you’d like to create a district account, contact us as email@example.com
2. Customization and crowdsourcing: Made (or improved) by you.
We still believe crowdsourcing is a wonderful way to bring truly open access content to teachers. What I mean by “truly open access” goes beyond the fact that it’s free…with our publicly shared assessments you can reproduce or customize teacher-vetted content.
Right now we have over 10,000 assessment questions in Edulastic just waiting for you to use or improve.
Yet even more curious and intriguing is the fact that you have complete control over the assessments you want to administer because you can create and customize them yourself. We are the only assessment platform that gives you this level of authorship to create questions tailored to your students’ learning needs.
3. Learning contextualized: Edulastic’s Learning Stream.
Want a safe and secure way to communicate with your students outside of class? We created a social media styled Learning Stream so you can chat with your students to share supplemental learning resources centered on key class goals.
You can have private one-on-one conversations with students, or share ideas and learning goals with the entire class.
As with many of our features we’re working hard to improve them. Soon you will be able to add attachments to the learning stream and not just hyperlinks (and edit your existing posts).
4. Family engagement: Get parents involved.
While many websites have recognized Edulastic’s potential for parents who are conducting homeschooling, any parent can use Edulastic to see how their child is progressing.
Get them involved first by sharing their child’s login credentials. From there, they can see each assessment their child receives along with their Skill Report. Next, take advantage of digital assessments by printing out a PDF of each assessment your students take. You can then e-mail the parents this PDF so they can review each question and response in detail.
5. Differentiation and personalization: Using homework as a formative assessment with rich feedback.
I recently read a great blog article on EdSurge by Paul Emerich France entitled: For Teachers, By a Teacher: A ‘Crash Course’ in Personalization.
An initial idea behind the creation of Edulastic was that teachers could craft (graded or ungraded) standards-aligned homework assignments. This allows students to master the Common Core daily rather than working with hours long interim and summative assessments.
Paul made an excellent case for homework’s persistent value in a section called “Leverage the Flipped Classroom”:
Homework was always a nuisance for me when I taught in public school. I felt like I was prescribing homework simply to appease parents, meanwhile wasting my students’ time and mine (especially when I had to grade it).
By flipping my classroom, I was suddenly able to break through the four walls of the classroom, create meaningful homework, maximize my time, and even involve parents. The best part about flipping was, when the kids came in the following day, I could very easily assess their understanding with an entry slip, immediately create groups, and instruct to each of these groups within minutes.
6. District-wide support: Join our pioneer program!
We think next generation assessments are the answer, but you need to find the right balance. They have the potential to help students cultivate higher-order thinking skills—and also reduce high-stakes testing by uniting the boundaries between formative and summative assessments.
That’s one of the many reasons why we started our Pioneer Program.
Through the formation of vendor and district partnerships like pilot programs, smoother and affordable implementation is achievable. Not to mention that this collaboration drives district-wide professional development.
Looking to join the Pioneer Program? Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect you with our Partnerships Team.
7. A look into our crystal ball: Edulastic features to come?
While I can’t give away too many details we may or may not have hired some insanely qualified content developers to bring a host of pre-built ELA and math assessments to the platform (not that crowdsourcing is taking a backseat).
You also just might see some new question types coupled with a new user experience. Either way, we’ve been updating the app about once every two months!
8. The White House’s Ed Tech Developer’s Guide: Where do we fit in?
This April the Office of Education Technology outlined ten opportunities for technology to transform teaching and learning:
- Improving mastery of academic skills
- Developing skills to promote lifelong learning
- Increasing family engagement
- Planning for future education opportunities
- Designing effective assessments
- Improving educator professional development
- Improving educator productivity
- Making learning accessible to all students
- Closing opportunity gaps
- Closing achievement gaps
It is interesting to see that assessments are smack dab in the middle of the list. Why do assessments matter to you? Let us know!
Either way, we’re striving to meet all of these but there is always places where we can improve.
Don’t be shy, share your thoughts with us. We welcome user feedback and new perspectives! Tell us what you like and what you’d like to see by tweeting your ideas to @Edulastic.
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