Chapter 4 - Local Assessments
Educators spend their careers ensuring students are mastering curriculum and reaching their full potential. Mastery of curriculum can be captured through a variety of measures including interim and targeted assessments focused on skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics. Depending on the type of measure, information is most effectively used at points in time within a school year to ensure students are performing at grade level, and/or across years to assess whether students are making adequate progress from year to year. Both aspects of measurement are important to knowing whether a student masters the content expected for a specific course and whether that student is adequately prepared for promotion and progressing each year.
Ideally every student should make a year of growth within a given school year. Since students rarely start a school year exactly at grade level (they are either above or below the beginning of the year benchmark), various assessments can be used to track progress within a school year. The first area in which students need to demonstrate mastery in the early years is reading as it is the foundation of learning in all other subject areas. Without this strong foundation, students can struggle through their entire educational career. Many districts and states use early reading assessments starting as early as kindergarten to gain an understanding of student performance and measure progress within the year and in subsequent years.
Monitoring and planning for students’ learning in all core subject areas, requires frequent assessments within a school year. In addition to class grades, many educators administer periodic local assessments, commonly referred to as benchmark or interim assessments, to assess student knowledge and mastery of content taught at the classroom level. Results help instructors make mid-course corrections to ensure students are mastering course content and staying on track for making at least one year of growth.
Many states and districts are have been using various indicators to assess students’ academic growth. These include measures of past growth, measures that use past growth as a means to project future success on standardized tests and measures that tie student growth to individual educators, programs or interventions. In recent years these indicators have gained momentum because the United States Department of Education (USDE) is now allowing academic growth as an alternative means for meeting performance standards under the federal accountability system. Growth measures, ranging from simple to complex statistical calculations, can show how much growth a student, classroom, or campus is making over time. All types of growth measures are an important complementary measure to absolute performance as low performing students or campuses may not meet proficiency standards, but may be making tremendous growth through the year. Conversely, high performing students and campuses may show strong performance on tests and benchmarks, but may not be making a full year of growth.
Benchmark Assessments and Performance
Many districts or schools give some type of benchmark or interim assessment at several points during the year to track student knowledge and mastery of standards. Benchmark assessments change throughout the year along with the curriculum making this metric especially useful for classroom educators in assessing past instruction as well as planning for future instruction. As benchmark assessments are tied to the state standards, monitoring benchmark scores is a means to measure a student’s mastery of the state standards. Regardless of whether they are formative (given before the content is taught) or summative (administered after the content is taught) assessments, benchmarks will inform the practice of all educators and allow them to make mid-year corrections to address specific needs of students.
- Black and William found that teachers who used formative assessment results to inform their instruction were able to help their students make 15-25% more gains than teachers who did not (Black & William, 1998).
- Schools that are successful in closing the achievement gap use frequent assessments to inform instruction (Symonds, 2004).
How to Use the Metric
Benchmark or interim assessments give educators a view into what a student or group of students has already mastered. These assessments are either given as formative (before instruction) or summative (after instruction) assessments. If the assessment is a formative assessment, educators should use the background knowledge students possess as a starting place for instruction. If the assessment is summative, educators should look at trouble areas and re-teach.
- Student Benchmark Assessments
- School Benchmark Performance
- Local Education Agency Benchmark Performance
Benchmark assessments (curriculum-referenced tests) are assessments administered periodically throughout the school year, at specified times during a curriculum sequence, to evaluate students’ knowledge and skills relative to an explicit set of longer-term learning goals. The design and choice of benchmark assessments is driven by the purpose, intended users and uses of the instruments. Benchmark assessment can inform policy, instructional planning and decision-making at the classroom, school and district levels.
How to Use this Metric
The TEKS Mastery metrics indicate the percentage of TEKS the student has mastered as of the most recent benchmark test and whether or not it meets the campus goal. These metrics help educators identify areas that need improvement in order for a student to have the best understanding of the subject and be prepared for the next grade level.
- Student TEKS Mastery: ELA/Reading and Writing
- Student TEKS Mastery: Mathematics
- Student TEKS Mastery: Science
- Student TEKS Mastery: Social Studies
- School TEKS Mastery by Core Subject Area
Students spend the first part of elementary school learning to read and the rest of their lives reading to learn. Typically students are assessed with a reading inventory several times a year during elementary school starting as early as kindergarten. Although reading inventories can vary between schools and districts, regularly assessing the reading level for students and which inventory was used, allows educators to track progress and modify instruction throughout the school year. Moreover, reading inventories are some of the earliest formal assessments given to students. They can provide invaluable and early insight into student learning. Learning to read is critical for success at all levels in the education continuum.
- Students who struggle with reading at the middle and high school level fall behind in all subject areas (Wise, 2009).
- An estimated 1.7 million eighth graders have only basic literacy skills and 1.7 million more are not proficient in literacy (Greenleaf & Hinchman, 2009).
- Youth with reading difficulties are disproportionately incarcerated (Christle & Yell, 2008).
How to Use the Metric
Reading inventories are given several times throughout the year. Educators should monitor these levels as they are assessed as they give an early indicator for success on other assessments such as benchmarks and state standardized tests. At the student level, educators should monitor students’ growth over time and use the student’s individual reading level to ensure that instruction is tailored to each student’s needs. Aggregated at the campus level, educators can use the reading level metric to identify areas of concern and implement interventions and supports for grade levels and/or classrooms.
- Student TPRI
- School TPRI
- Local Education Agency TPRI
- Student Tejas LEE
- School Tejas LEE
- Local Education Agency Tejas LEE
- Student DIBELS
- School DIBELS
- Local Education Agency DIBELS