Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox

4 Steps to Using Your Students’ Assessment Data to Promote Growth

Monday, July 10, 2017 -- Krystal Smith

This is a guest post written by Edmentum customer Krystal Smith, a 5th grade teacher at Twin Rivers Intermediate School. You can get more awesome teaching tips from Krystal on her personal blog, The RenewED Teacher.

Growth—that’s a bit of buzzword now, isn’t it? I think it’s a good one, though. Most people, especially the impressionable young human beings we know as our students, want to grow in many areas of their lives. They want to improve and be the best they can be. Of course, as their teachers, we want the same thing. Now, I realize “assessment” can feel like a dirty word for educators, but if you embrace it, the data that assessments provide can be used as a powerful tool you can use to promote the kind of growth you and your students want and expect to see. Here are four ways I use assessments and assessment data to help my students make real academic progress.

1. Before you even think about giving your students an assessment, talk to them

Most students are anxious about taking tests. Why not help them learn how to manage their emotions by giving them some information they can use to cope with that anxiety? Tell them what the assessment is about, what it will measure, what number of questions it may have, and why it’s important that they take it in the first place. These are all things I took time to do with my students each time we took any assessment. At first, I did so simply to get my students on board with the idea, but then I realized that these clear explanations and real conversations were very helpful in putting my students at ease as well.

2. Share assessment data with your students

In my classroom, I regularly administer adaptive assessments through Edmentum’s Exact Path solution for individualized learning in addition to our local and state-mandated exams. Each time my students completed an Exact Path or local/state assessment, I allotted some one-on-one time with each student. I used this time to share individual results from the assessment and to help my students understand what those results meant. In my state, there are four performance indicators on state exams: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. My students all wanted to know how they performed, so these one-on-one meetings always felt like a beneficial use of time. I’m even considering holding these meetings with each student and his or her family prior to our annual conferences.

If and when you decide to share assessment data, it’s important to keep it private between you and each particular student. Not all students want everyone to know how they did—and this is true for both high and low performers. It’s also essential to focus on offering positive feedback, even for students who are struggling. Encourage them to take this opportunity to understand where they are at academically right now in order to help them get to where they want to be later.

3. Use data to set individual goals

Goal setting has become a major part of teaching and learning. This makes sense because goal setting is an important key to success on the trials students are bound to encounter in life outside the classroom. We must show students how to set goals; make, stick to, and evaluate plans to meet those goals; determine definite timeframes for their goals; and make adjustments as necessary until they reach their goals. Following different framework for goal setting can be a big help—I always use the S.M.A.R.T. goal approach with my students. Whatever method you choose, goal setting allows students to take ownership of their learning and experience the pride that comes with meeting objectives. It is proactive and encourages critical reflection on both the parts of both students and teachers.

4. Allow time for reflection

When you administer assessments throughout the year, as I did with Exact Path, the likely reality is that your data will show that not every student has achieved growth. Admitting this is such a tough pill to swallow. But, rather than stopping here, I seize the opportunity for reflection and start by asking myself some questions about how I administered the assessment: 

  • Did I prepare the students as best as I could?
  • Did I choose the best time to administer the assessment?
  • Did I put my students at ease for this assessment?
  • Did I monitor the room as best as I could?

Some answers were yes, and some answers were no. The real key once I had an answer was to consider why—that’s where I gained insights that have helped me use assessments more effectively in guiding my instruction. Next, I ask my students about their thoughts around the assessment:

  • How do you feel about your score?
  • Did you do your best?
  • What could you have done differently to perform better?
  • What would you do the same?

The answers my students offer are a great opening for more S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, which in turn can be used for productive conversations about assessments and learning later in the year. Before you know it, you’ll have a cycle of assessing, sharing data, and providing feedback that will benefit your students’ learning as well as your teaching.

Have you found effective strategies to promote growth in your classroom using your assessment data? Share your ideas in the comments section below. Until then, happy teaching!

Looking for more tips and ideas to make the most of your data to drive growth? Download Edmentum’s guide to Create Personalized Learning Plans for Every Student!