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Setting a Benchmark Strategy That Meets Your Needs

Setting a Benchmark Strategy That Meets Your Needs

The last couple of years in education have been anything but routine. Interruptions in learning due to school shutdowns or shifting learning models were common, and we’ve seen state education agencies calling for strategic plans to ensure that any gaps in learning that accrued are understood. As a result, the increased use of benchmark assessments by schools is taking hold to help shape instructional planning. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking—ANOTHER assessment? Before you write this one off, consider the value a well-executed benchmark strategy can bring (especially this coming school year) and the reasons they are important for the classroom.

The Case for Benchmarks

Benchmark assessments, also known as interim benchmarks, can be used to establish a baseline of student understanding, identifying specific strengths and needs for each learner. As such, they offer critical information to guide future instruction that could ultimately prepare students for high-stakes testing.

You can think about benchmarks as a sort of in-between assessment—a way to assess your students more formally than a formative assessment might but without the high-stakes weight that a summative assessment would bring. For this reason, benchmarks are often administered two to four times throughout the academic year.

By beginning the school year with a pulse on where your students are ready to start learning, you are able to be strategic and intentional when planning how you will teach the curriculum. See? Benchmarking isn’t just another assessment. It’s a great way for you to feel confident about identifying your students’ needs!

How Can Edmentum Help?

Luckily for you, Edmentum supports your benchmarking efforts with two of our programs—Exact Path and Study Island. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these programs offers different approaches to benchmarking.

Exact Path: Adaptive Diagnostic Assessments Supporting Full K–-12 Learning Progression

Exact Path’s adaptive diagnostic assessment is built into our individualized learning program and is available for grades K–12 in the subject areas of math, reading, and language arts. The computer-adaptive assessment is designed to precisely measure strengths and needs within each subject domain.

As a computer-adaptive test, this style of benchmark assessment adapts in real time based on a student’s responses and individual ability level. As students answer questions correctly, the questions get harder. If students answer questions incorrectly, the test adjusts to provide easier questions. The goal of this assessment style is to zero in on student understanding not only on grade-level standards but rather across a complete K–12 progression of skills. How smart is that?! The results of this adaptive diagnostic are reported on Edmentum’s 500–1500-point scale, and robust reporting includes national percentile ranks for normed student comparisons, as well as grade-level proficiency metrics, to name just a few of the data points available.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the case for using Exact Path for interim assessments, head over to this blog post about using diagnostic assessments to accelerate growth.

Study Island: Fixed-Form Assessments for Grade-Level Standards

If you’re familiar with Study Island, you may know that it’s our formative assessment solution and that it includes an increasingly popular feature, Test Builder, which allows teachers and administrators to easily create, customize, and share standards-based Built Tests. This program capability is perfect for designing your own fixed benchmarks from a robust bank of high-quality assessment items to assess grade-level proficiency. Built Tests include the ability to:

  • Design a test using Study Island’s bank of questions or use your own curriculum: Test Builder allows you to choose questions by topic and even filter your questions by item type. You can also build your benchmark using your own material.
     
  • Use data to drive instruction: In our Built Test Reports, you can view individual student results and a breakdown of scores by topic. This information allows teachers to individualize instruction based on how a student performed on the interim assessment. You can also view your students scores by standard, allowing you to efficiently plan instruction when preparing students for state assessments.
     
  • Share your custom benchmarks: We know that many educators work as a team when assessing entire grade levels. With the Built Tests feature, you can share the benchmark assessments you create for one common assessment across your entire building.

In our blog post A Common Yardstick: The Case for Common Assessments, you can take a closer look at how to ensure that students are being measured fairly by creating common assessments across classes or schools with Study Island.

If you’re looking to learn about how Study Island can support your students, check out this blog post that highlights how you can implement an effective benchmark strategy in your classroom, using Study Island’s ready-made Benchmarks, which are built directly to state standardsIf you’re just looking for interim assessment strategy help, check out this blog post on how to implement the assessment data you’ve gained from administering your benchmarks!

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Brittany Becker

Brittany Becker currently serves as a Marketing Specialist at Edmentum, and has been with the company since 2016. Before her time at Edmentum, Brittany studied both Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and eventually went on to teach 4th grade in Title 1 schools. Because of her background in education, Brittany is passionate about providing educators across the United States and the world with the tools and best practices to empower their students each day in the classroom.