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Benchmarking Is the Road Map to Learning Gains

Benchmarking Is the Road Map to Learning Gains

You can’t know where to go next if you don’t know where you already are. The process of benchmarking student progress is directly related to moving through a curriculum efficiently and effectively.

Yet, benchmarking often causes teachers to roll their eyes due to its association with high-stakes testing. When completed correctly, benchmark assessments can prepare you and your students for the next learning unit and the spring testing season. The key is establishing some best practices.

Be honest

Benchmark tests don’t require the same levels of secrecy and stress as the year’s main assessments, so there is no harm in being forthright with the students about the purposes of the testing, the structure of the text, and the ways of being prepared. To ease stress, schedule some time prior to testing for a review. Few students find testing fun, but you can at least inject some levity in the benchmark assessments. Otherwise, you risk just adding to possible test anxiety that can derail your efforts in the spring.

Practice test-taking strategies

In modern education, the process of taking tests is a skill set just like any other. Mastery can pay dividends down the road. One way to generate that mastery is to treat your benchmark tests as an opportunity to practice test-taking strategies. Things like managing time, using relaxation techniques, and  skipping challenging questions are not inherent talents. They must be taught … and not in the spring-testing season.

Leverage data

The primary goal of benchmarking is to generate data that can be used to inform instruction moving forward. What goes unsaid is that students should also be invested in the data being generated on their behalf. Even younger students can understand the concept of the skills (and scores) needed for mastery and the lengths they need to go to get there. Students will be bombarded with data all their lives. They might as well start familiarizing themselves with data study now.

Keep it manageable

There is no reason to schedule your benchmark exams in a similar fashion to the state’s tests. It only adds to student stress and the perception that education is more concerned with testing rather than learning. A more deliberate process can help students and teachers better prepare. Stagger benchmark assessments, preferably testing one subject at a time. Breaking up the testing into smaller phases allows students to focus on a single topic and feel more in control.

Celebrate success

In most states, the results of the statewide assessments are often not known until summer. The only positive reinforcement students receive comes from their parents or in the form of a celebratory message on the school’s marquee. Obviously, benchmarks are different. As soon as is the results are known, share the data with students and take some time to celebrate students’ successes—no matter how small. It will give them the boost they need to put forth their best effort as they improve.

NWEA, an Edmentum partner, is one organization that provides powerful benchmark tools. Looking to learn more about what you can do with post-benchmark NWEA data? Register for our NWEA + Edmentum webinar, and tune in on September 19 to hear more about how you can leverage your scores to drive targeted instruction