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[Study Island Feature Focus] A Common Yardstick: The Case for Common Assessments

[Study Island Feature Focus] A Common Yardstick: The Case for Common Assessments

Teachers are some of the most creative people I know. They are constantly on the lookout for new resources they can use to engage students in the learning process and help them achieve improved outcomes. Many teachers have some latitude in selecting and incorporating unique or new supplemental resources to support innovative instruction. This freedom is great for students, as it allows those educators who know them best to determine how to facilitate their growth.

When it comes to assessment, however, if the results are used as a comparison of performance across classes or schools or as an indicator of how students might perform on a state test, it’s important that a common yardstick measure is used when possible. Imagine measuring one child’s height with one type of measure and a second child’s height with a different type of measure. It would be impossible to definitively say how tall the children are in comparison to each other.

The Case for Common Assessments

Using common assessments across a school or district ensures consistency in measurement

It also guarantees that every student is treated fairly, as all students are taking the same test. Results can be compared to identify high-performing classes and schools, and any distinct strategies or methodologies they’re using can be replicated elsewhere to increase performance overall. And, measurement consistency is necessary in order to identify the classes and schools that need additional support, which helps prioritize focus where it is needed most.

Using common assessments across a school or district empowers and promotes collaboration and accountability among teacher teams

When teachers work together to create common assessments for their students, having to earn teacher buy-in and support of the assessment becomes a nonissue. This type of collaboration also ensures that the assessment is highly customized to the needs of all students and teachers, and it promotes alignment to the district or school scope and sequence or pacing guide because teachers know that their students will be accountable for the same learning as the students in other classrooms.

Ready to give common assessments a try? Check out Study Island!

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

Study Island's Test Builder feature is an excellent tool to reduce the amount of time and work associated with creating and administering high-quality common assessments. Teachers don't have to write their own questions;  they can choose from a bank of over 600,000 unique items that are created from Common Core and state standards and aligned to state summative assessments. The Study Island item bank also includes 14 different technology-enhanced item types, including constructed response, so teachers aren't limited to multiple-choice questions. Additionally, all questions, excluding optional constructed-response items, are automatically system graded, providing immediate, actionable feedback. Using Study Island, teacher teams can take a task that once required 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 creation meeting.

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

  1. Decide on the standards to be assessed.

For many educators, the standards will be decided for them by a schoolwide or districtwide 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.

  1. 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 mastery and how well students perform on specific types of items.

  1. 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 in to his or her individual Study Island accounts and assign the test to their classes.

  1. 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 test, they are 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 other's students to ensure that items are graded without bias.

  1. Review the data.

The last step in the process is for the team of teachers to come together and review the data. Because 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. Teachers simply need to schedule a time to come together, discuss the strengths and weaknesses reflected on the assessment, and decide what interventions will take place. Additionally, Study Island topic level assessments can be used to reassess students post-intervention on just the standards they struggled with.

To see Study Island in action, view the recording of the Study Island Common Assessments webinar!