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Reflections from NCSA 2018: Recaps of Three Informative Sessions

Reflections from NCSA 2018: Recaps of Three Informative Sessions

I had the pleasure of representing Edmentum at the 2018 National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA) in San Diego in late June. This is an annual conference sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) where experts in educational assessment come together to share their knowledge, research, and experiences with the assessment community, including assessment directors from state and district education departments, assessment companies, and psychometricians. The theme for 2018 was “Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): How Assessment and Accountability Systems Can Support Continuous Improvement,” with the following session content strands:

  • Improving student achievement outcomes
  • Closing achievement gaps
  • Engaging educators in ongoing improvement to teach all students
  • Monitoring student academic progress
  • Identifying schools’ needs and proving targeted support

The days started early,  and ended late, and for me, they were filled with reconnecting with former colleagues and partners while attending sessions. There were so many quality sessions available that it was impossible to attend all of them. I have narrowed down my recap to three sessions that support Edmentum’s #EducatorFirst philosophy and that also support moving the field of educational assessment forward.

The first session I attended was “Growth Indicators and Instructional Pathway Recommendations to Reach Proficient from Three Commercial Interim Assessment Providers.” In this session, presenters Steve Ferrara, Dan Mix, Christy Schneider, and Caroline Wylie discussed the use of reporting student achievement growth from interim assessments to follow student growth and progress over time. The presenters continued to discuss how reporting growth indicators without instructional recommendations are insufficient. When educators review student growth indicator reports, a common question is, “Now what?” As I pondered this question, Edmentum Exact Path program immediately came to mind, where a student’s score places the student into a personalized learning path and puts educators first in supporting the question of “Now what?” The second session I attended, “Operational Research in Assessment Programs as a Window into Task and Item Design Principles: Examples from NAEP,” was focused on a small research project that another assessment company conducted using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I found this session particularly interesting because this is new research in the assessment community. The presenters, Madeleine Keehner, Karen K. Wixson, Luis Saldivia, and Robin Hill, studied when the same content was delivered using multiple item types and administered to students where data was collected to see if the different item types impacted whether the students would answer correctly or not. The presenters reported that there was no significant difference in student performance on the different item types assessing the same content, but it appears that students did benefit more from item types that use polytomous scoring (partial credit allowed) rather than dichotomous scoring (either correct or incorrect). The research also explored whether using avatars in assessments affect test performance, test-taking behaviors, and affective responses. The presenters reported that, for the most part, the use of avatars did not add to the cognitive load on students and, instead, made the assessment more engaging. It was evident that more research is needed on a larger scale, and the presenters announced that a larger study is in process now.

The final session I attended was titled “Enhanced Learning Maps: A Flexible, Teacher-Directed Organizing Structure for Improving Learning for All Students.” This session focused on taking a learning progression to the next level. The University of Kansas Enhanced Learning Maps (ELM) project is a dynamic learning map model, a visual representation of learning progressions that also embeds formative assessments, instructional resources, and a student locator tool, which are all linked to the learning map model. The presenters, Nicki Lindner, Holly Dubiel, and Lisa Sireno, stressed how the ELM and formative assessments need to be used together to continue to move students forward in their individualized learning map. The last portion of the presentation focused on how Missouri educators have not only used ELM to improve student outcomes but also used ELM to deepen their own understanding of the content they teach.

While there were many more sessions full of useful and interesting information, I  chose these three to share here because of how closely they relate to what we do at Edmentum and how we continue to put educators first in everything we do. I encourage all of you to search through the NCSA page on the CCSSO website and take time to read through the program and view the presentations from the conference.

Interested in more information about our research-based curriculum and programs? Check out this blog post about the research behind the learning style of today’s students!