When we talk about “student information,” we are often talking about student data. Data gives us snapshots of how a student is doing in a given area. To acquire student data, we get some snapshots of whatever it is we want to measure, and then compare each student’s snapshots to a broader scale to determine what they know and what they don’t know.
This is very close to the process I described in a previous post. There, we discussed a conventional data collection method – having kids demonstrate their skills and assess student needs in the moment. One limitation to this is that the teacher can only take one student snapshot about one area at a time. The solution is to use an assessment that measures student knowledge at the depth we need and that gives us some good data to inform what to do next.
The holistic picture of a student is like a puzzle. Using different types of assessments is like having a variety of puzzle pieces that each provide student data to inform what we do with each student to move them forward.
Teachers get different information from assessments with different levels of granularity:
- Screening assessments (or achievement assessments) are really good for determining what holes students have in their knowledge of a subject leading up to their current course – they identify remedial needs;
- Benchmark assessments tell us how well a student is doing on all of the topics they have covered so far in the class that they are taking – think of these as midterms and final exams;
- Topic-specific assessments show us how students are doing on a certain learning standard.
Education does not exist in a vacuum, right? We know that some kids are right on pace and know most of what they should have learned before starting a class, while others may be struggling to keep up in class because they have holes in their knowledge from when they were younger. We can use topic-specific assessments to direct us to assessments that will tell us the size and location of the holes we need to fill, and what steps we need to execute in order to move student learning forward.
Let’s take a closer look at each type:
Screening or achievement assessments are very important because they demonstrate how prepared students are for the next level (for younger students, these show how ready they are for upper grades; for high schoolers, these show how prepared they are for college or career).
The purpose and type of test helps teachers determine what to do with the data – and helps teachers understand where the gaps are that need to be filled. All tests should be designed to provide information that helps propel student learning forward.
This is the second blog in Dr. Jordan Argus’ series, School Rx. In his next post, Dr. Argus explores some different teacher strategies that can be used at home to support student success.
Dr. Argus is a regular contributor to our blog and is an education advocate, speaker and consultant. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.