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Improving Student Outcomes with Interim Assessments: What, Why, and How

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 -- Ketsia Hamilton

Welcome to the 2015 – 2016 school year!  Many schools are already in session and soon all schools across the nation will be in full swing.  As the new school year begins, educators will make various instructional decisions based on multiple types of student evaluation. In the classroom, teachers will use formative assessments to quickly adjust instruction based on information they are gathering in real-time about their students’ learning. At the other end of the spectrum, summative assessments will typically be used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs and make judgements on student competency at the end of the year. So what happens in between? How do educational leaders ensure students are making progress toward year end goals?

Some school districts are incorporating district-wide interim testing programs as part of the strategy to monitor incremental progress on standard proficiency. Several state education agencies, like New Mexico, require interim assessments as part of their system of assessments. Others, like Michigan, are in varying stages of developing statewide interim assessments. The use of interim assessments in these examples supports a balanced system of assessments, allowing educators to leverage data points on student groups to discover trends in learning and achievement.

This report, compiled jointly by The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, The Aspen Institute and Achieve, classifies the use of interim assessments into three categories:

Instructional:

  • Diagnosis - The goal is to identify weak performance areas for subsequent remediation
  • Preparation - Interim assessments are cited as helping students become familiar and comfortable with a test that may mirror the mandatory high-stakes test later in the school year
  • School intervention – This is an initiative in a school-wide intervention strategy, such as an RTI program

Predictive:

  • Predictive assessments provide a forecast of student performance on the high-stakes test

Evaluative:

  • School districts may include interim assessment data as an input in local accountability systems
  • Evaluative assessments assess school improvement efforts like professional development needs, areas of instructional focus for the whole building, etc.

Part of developing a successful interim assessment program is requiring leaders to understand the purpose and goal of using an interim tool, and then applying best practices to ensure the program maintains its fidelity.

Key questions to ask as a program like this is developed include:

  • What do we want to learn from this assessment?
  • Who will use the information gathered from this assessment?
  • What action steps will be taken as a result of this assessment?
  • What professional development or support structures will be put in place to ensure the action steps are taken and are successful?
  • How will student learning improve as a result of using this interim assessment system and will that improvement be more significant than if the assessment system was not used?

These questions are designed to drive the implementation of the interim testing program and positively impact educational outcomes.

As a partner in online teaching and learning, Edmentum offers assessment solutions that support schools’ and districts’ interim assessment programs as they work toward a variety of goals. 

Our rigorous assessment solutions for students in grades 3 through 12 are built to the requirements of individual state summative test blueprints and include a diverse selection of technology enhanced items to provide a highly engaging and interactive online assessment experience. Four comparable forms with intuitive and flexible administration and management tools provide multiple opportunities for educators to monitor student progress and use data to make timely instructional decisions.

Interested in learning more about how Edmentum’s interim assessment solutions can help increase student achievement in your school or district? Click here to speak to a solution specialist!