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Create Standards-based Common Assessments More Quickly and Easily Using Study Island Test Builder

Thursday, November 10, 2016 -- Regina Waddell

Common Assessments are periodic assessments designed by grade-level or course teams to assess student knowledge on a specific set of standards. The key benefit of common assessments is the tremendous impact they have on learning. Doug Reeves sums it up in his article High Performance in High Poverty Schools: 90/90/90 and Beyond:

"The schools with the greatest improvements in student achievement consistently used common assessment."

Another benefit of common assessments is that they turn teacher teams into learning communities of educators who are accountable to each other for helping their students improve. Teachers work collaboratively to identify the standards to be assessed over the specified time period and create the assessment. Then, once the assessment has been administered, teachers come together to share student results, discuss which instructional practices worked and which didn't, and develop intervention strategies for struggling students.

What makes it difficult?

If common assessments are so impactful, why isn't everyone using them? Two likely reasons are the amount of time it takes to create the assessments, and how difficult it can be to find or write high-quality standards-based questions. It can easily take several hours for a team of teachers to write a 10-20 question test to assess the standards covered over a few weeks of instruction. And this doesn't include the additional time it takes to grade and then profile the assessments based on the standards.

Save time and improve standards alignment of common assessments with Study Island

Edmentum’s Study Island practice and assessment solution features Test Builder, an excellent tool to reduce the amount of time and work associated with creating and administering high-quality common assessments. Instead of having to write their own questions, teachers can choose from a bank of over 600,000 unique items that are built from Common Core and state standards and aligned to state and Common Core summative assessments. The Study Island item bank also includes 14 different technology-enhanced item types, including constructed response, cloze, sequence, and more, so teachers aren't limited to multiple choice. Additionally, all questions, excluding optional constructed response items, are automatically graded by the system to provide immediate and actionable feedback. With Study Island, teacher teams can take a task that once took several hours and many different resources and complete it much more quickly and easily.

Follow these steps to create common assessments using Study Island Test Builder:

1. Schedule the meeting

This seems obvious, but it's so important that it is worth calling out. With teachers' hectic schedules it can be easy to fall into a pattern of "taking turns" --rotating the responsibility of creating the common assessment to an individual member of the team and then having that person share the assessment with colleagues to administer to their students. Doing this takes away the power of bringing together the knowledge, expertise, and experiences of different educators, and diminishes the shared accountability to the results. Whether it's before school, during planning time, or after school, the teacher team needs to schedule dedicated time to create the assessment before the instructional unit begins.

2. Decide on the standards to be assessed

For many educators, this will be decided for them by a school or district-wide scope and sequence or pacing guide. For others, the team will need to decide which standards to teach and therefore assess for the instructional unit. Once the standards are identified, have one teacher log in to Study Island to create the assessment. Open the test builder application by navigating to the teacher page and selecting "build a test". From the questions tab, open the standards map. This document lists out all of the standards for that subject and grade level. Highlight the standards that you will assess, and note which Study Island topics align to those standards.

3. Choose the questions and build the assessment

From the questions page, open each topic that will be included on the assessment based on the standards to be assessed. For each topic decide as a team which questions to include on the assessment. Be sure to include three to four questions for each standard and vary the item types to gain true insight into each students’ level of mastery and how well they perform on specific types of items.

4. Save and share the assessment

Once questions have been selected and agreed upon, save the assessment to the library and share it. Then, each of the teachers on the team can log into their individual Study Island accounts and assign the test to their classes.

5. Administer the test

Administer the assessment at the end of the instructional unit by simply instructing students to log in to Study Island and take the test. As students complete the tests, they will be automatically graded by the system. If the team decided to include constructed response items, those will need to be graded by the instructor based on the rubric provided. Tip: Teachers can partner up and grade the constructed response items of each others’ students to ensure that items are graded without bias.

6. Review the data

The last step in the process is for the team of teachers to meet once again and review the data. Since the assessment was administered using Study Island, teachers won't have to map items to standards and then calculate mastery percentages; this will be done by the program automatically. They simply need to schedule a time to come together, discuss the strengths and weaknesses reflected on the assessment, and decide what interventions should take place. Additionally, Study Island topic level assessments can be used to re-assess students post-intervention on the specific standards they struggled with.

Test Builder is just one of many great features included with all Study Island subscriptions. Ready to get started creating your common assessments? Check out this video tutorial to see Study Island’s Test Builder in action!