Frequent formative assessment provides teachers with the tools to prepare students for high-stakes testing, as well as the data to make enlightened changes to instruction along the way. With the right technology, such as eInstruction’s suite of products, teachers can increase their efficiency and success to drive student performance. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 17, 2012, the superintendent of the Milton, Pennsylvania school district explains how eInstruction was used to increase achievement and engagement.
eInstruction is a 20-year-old assessment company serving teachers and administrators around the world. At eInstruction, we believe in formative assessment and the power it brings to educators in the classroom. We believe assessment gives educators data that allows them to be more effective and to drive student achievement.
New students come into the classroom every year and not much background information is available to their teachers. It is difficult to know what was previously learned and what needs reteaching. Nonetheless, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation discovered that teacher effectiveness has a greater impact on student learning than any other factor under the control of the school system. A Los Angeles study found teacher effectiveness can be worth as much as 10 percentile points on standardized math tests.
The ability to quickly assess, report, and evaluate student progress is critical in any classroom environment. The resulting data can provide the feedback required to help develop effective teachers. We believe our products provide the tools necessary for good teachers to become great teachers.
These real time assessment tools complement teaching efforts and give educators the ability to analyze, assess, and make decisions in the classroom about how best to do instruction.
SD: A school in Los Angeles found that too much testing took away from valuable instruction time, so they started testing less. Instead, they assessed while teaching, which allowed the school to gather detailed data without interrupting the flow of instruction. Continuous assessment can be easy and often.
PB: Feedback not only helps teachers assess student understanding, but helps educators make informed decisions about classroom activities. Beta tests of our latest product, Insight 360, found that the combination of real-time feedback and digital instruction helped teachers create activities and decreased the transition time between activities. The combination of technology and formative assessment allowed them to focus on teachable moments, rather than constructing their own assessments. Insight 360 provides data that can be linked to state or national learning standards. It provides reports on not only individual student performance, but also classroom performance over time.
SD: These reports provide electronic data that is easy to collect, manage, and analyze. Since many schools are struggling with tight budgets, a platform that is easy to use and troubleshoot, like eInstruction, is essential in the absence of extensive IT support.
PB: Data collected from these formative and summative assessments are valuable not just to eachers, but principals and administrators as well. It can show student understanding across certain academic benchmark levels and provide the ability to analyze different subgroups. At eInstruction, our goal is to help teachers be more effective and efficient by giving them tools that are powerful, yet easy to use. We believe in letting teachers teach rather than forcing them to learn technology for technology’s sake.
At Milton Area School District, when we were working on improvements, the first thing we did was examine our mission statement. We feel it is important for schools to be focused on worthy outcomes and to address these outcomes with coherence and consistency. Our mission statement drives our purposeful actions.
Our first step in making change across the school district was to analyze data and prioritize needs. We wanted to focus on student progress and performance through a transparent, systemic approach. Various tools such as standardized test scores and eInstruction’s assessments help us gather data to drive our decision making. We then built districtwide data teams.
At the high school level, the teams are department based; at the middle and K5 level, they are grade-level based. The elementary teams are supported by technology integration and literacy coaches. We utilize all available options to collect data and disaggregate and examine the results. Specifically, we are looking at the behaviors and evidence that are correlated with student performance. We try to identify trends and patterns in both performance and the factors the school controls.
The goal setting model we selected for Milton allows for specific, measurable goals that are challenging but attainable for students. As these goals address an urgent need, change is expected. Timely dates are selected for the measurement of goals. Building time into the schedule for teachers to review data and revise student goals is necessary. There is always the chance for a teacher to stop, examine data, and change his or her practice if necessary.
Our high school teams meet every six weeks to analyze benchmark data and determine if mid-course changes are necessary. To see if changes have been successfully implemented, there should be an observable change in teacher and student behavior. The degree of effectiveness tells us if we have successful goals or we need to revise our strategies. Milton’s end is student performance. This is why we find it necessary to review results indicators for every assessment in every class.
Interim assessments and results indicators are reviewed by data teams, coaches, and administrators. We have “war rooms” that contain student data and indicate where students are and where we need to move them to. We also have an online, collaborative space shared by all educators. This space was essential to our culture of trust. There is no judgment held against a student or teacher. Rather, we take an offensive, proactive approach on changing behaviors and increasing learning and engagement while moving student progress and performance ahead.
Our long-term goal is to help students become self-managing in their learning. We believe that reflection is a large part of our professional practice and by using this type of data-driven model with formative assessment, everyone from the student to the board of directors is engaged. Not only is everyone in the school engaged, but there has been a creation of real collaboration between the teachers and administrators.
Our holistic approach has allowed for a shared understanding of the sense of urgency for student progress and achievement. To schools thinking of moving to a data-driven model, I urge you to think about how your leadership would monitor school plans, how mid-course corrections would be made, and what process you would use to make revisions. Most of all, consider how you would stop and celebrate those incremental results.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.districtadministration.com/ws101712.