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Tips and Strategies for Your Exact Path Winter Diagnostic: Before, During, and After

Tips and Strategies for Your Exact Path Winter Diagnostic: Before, During, and After

Recently, I had the honor of connecting with many educators during a live webinar all about Best Practices for Your Exact Path Winter Diagnostic: Before, During, and After. We covered a lot of ground in just 60 minutes, and I’m bringing the best and brightest tips and strategies here for easy reference. Whether you are preparing to assess students for a second time, testing right now, finishing testing students for a second time and digging into the data, or—given the year we’ve all been living through—giving your first diagnostic just now, we’ve compiled tips and strategies to help you make the most of your winter diagnostic no matter where you find yourself in the process.

Before the Diagnostic

Plan with the End in Mind
What do you want your data to look like after students test? If you’re interested in disaggregating metrics by subgroups according to demographics, load that information into your user profiles on the front end. Also, consider if you have your classes set up in the best way. Students can exist in multiple classes, and you, as an educator, can be associated with multiple classes. Create the right structure that mirrors the way you want to run your reports, and when you dig into performance, it will be that much easier.

Set Testing Windows Intentionally
In your Exact Path account, you can set up to five testing windows within an academic year; however, most successful implementations use three (fall, winter, and spring). Consider what will work best for you and your program needs. Schedule out each window, keeping in mind that your students’ growth measures will be the most valid and reliable when there are 60 instructional days between each testing event. Additionally, within these testing windows, ensure that groups of students aren’t testing months apart from one another, in light of the fact that students are learning and building their skills every day. Instead, consider testing all learners within a two-week period.

Determine If Learning Paths Will Be Created
By default, a new diagnostic assessment in Exact Path will create a new learning path for every student. Updated learning paths reflect the strengths and needs of students in the moment, incorporating and responding to additional knowledge from outside sources, most significantly, teacher-led instruction. Alternately, you can choose for an earlier learning path to persist through a testing event and therefore not risk that students may lose progress if they happen to test lower on a later test. Determine which option will serve your students best, and adjust your Exact Path settings accordingly.

During the Diagnostic

Consider How the Assessment Experience Changes
Every assessment after your students’ first test in a given academic year uses the previous assessment placement to inform where the next testing event should begin. Essentially, if a 3rd grader places into 5th grade content on his or her first test, the second assessment remembers that and begins the next test at the 5th grade level, adapting from there. With this logic in play, you can expect each assessment to deliver more efficient results.

Tell Students They Are Not Expected to Know Everything on the Test
It’s important to share with students that an adaptive test works differently than a fixed-form test; there is no 100-percent perfect score on an adaptive test. In fact, you know the test is working properly if students answer 50 percent of the questions correctly and 50 percent incorrectly. Ultimately, this is because an adaptive test’s purpose is to pinpoint each individual’s strengths and needs by adapting in real time based on learner performance. Encourage students to do their very best on each test so that they receive a learning path that reflects only what they need to keep working on.

Refrain from Providing Help
Whether educators or family members are assisting with administration of the test, avoid any temptation to help students while testing. By helping learners, their resulting learning path placement may be artificially inflated and therefore too difficult for them. Also, note that on the reading test, the assessment is designed to automatically read aloud questions as appropriate. If questions aren’t read aloud, there’s a reason for that. Often, the ability of students to read and make meaning of the question is part of determining if they can master that skill.

Allow for Sufficient Time
Students in grades K–1 typically require 15–25 minutes per assessment, while students in grade 2 and above typically require 30–60 minutes per assessment. The test is working hard during this time to efficiently zone in on specific gaps across the entire learning progression—when students put forth their best effort, the test is even more efficient. Once students begin a testing event, encourage them to finish their assessment within one or two sessions. We know students need a break sometimes, but too many interruptions yield poor results.

After the Diagnostic

Monitor Growth and National Percentile Rank
Review aggregated class results, or drill into individual Student Summary Reports to see how students are making growth from one assessment to the next. Growth is measured on Exact Path’s scale of 500–1500 points, allowing you to continually see how students make gains from assessment to assessment and year to year. Along with scale scores and growth measures, students also receive a national percentile rank (NPR), which provides added context to what the scale score means. NPR describes the percentage of peers that students scored higher than nationally.

Use Learning Path Entry Grade and Domain Placement
Providing a level deeper beyond scale scores, you can also get a peek into how each student’s individualized learning path will be created using Learning Path Entry Grade (LPEG). Each subject domain has an assigned LPEG that students receive after every testing event. This means that, for a given domain (Algebra & Expressions, for example), they placed into a specific grade level of content (5th grade, for example). From these results, you can get a sense of which students are working below, on, or above grade level within different subject domains.

Utilize the Diagnostic Experience
Within each Student Summary Report, you can get a peek at learners’ testing experiences. Here, you’ll find details like how many items students received, how long it took them to complete assessments, and how many sessions the assessments were taken over. All of these data points are important indicators as to how valid the testing results might be. If you’re noticing something strange, keep the tips outlined in the “during” section above in mind for optimal testing results.

Support Student Reflection
Don’t stop crunching data after the assessment. Instead, create opportunities for students to own their learning path progress and skills mastery. Consider using one of our available trackers to note mastered skills as they’re achieved. We have trackers for classes (thermometer and gameboard), as well as for individual students (simple, detailed, and gameboard).

Reference back to this list for your Exact Path winter diagnostic reminders! Don’t forget that you can also check out the recently recorded webinar for a live view at these strategies in action.

Angela.Bliyeu@edmentum.com's picture
Angela Bliyeu

Angela joined Edmentum in 2019 as an Educational Programs Consultant. In her role, she connects with schools and districts on best practices for implementing programs to optimize student success. Angela has 19 years of education experience as both a teacher in grades 6-12 as well as Assessment Director for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She earned a B.S. from University of North Texas and holds a masters in educational leadership and administration from Lamar University.