This Illuminator Spotlight blog features Marisol Lopez, a 4th grade teacher from Rosedale Elementary in Chico Unified School District (CA).
Marisol impactfully uses assessment in many ways. She uses it to check if her students understood the day’s lesson, to identify students who need additional support, to gauge content mastery with standards-aligned tests, and to engage her students in their own learning.
As a result, the percent of her students who “Met the Achievement Standard” on the Smarter Balanced ELA Assessment increased from 44% in 2016-17 to 70% in 2017-18. In 2018-19, 71% of students were proficient, compared to the school-wide percentage of 50%.
We visited Marisol in the classroom to learn more about how she uses assessment to inform instruction and student supports. Check out this short video clip of her reviewing assessment results with her class, and read an excerpt of our follow-up interview below.
Jill Albracht: Can you tell me how you use data in the classroom, like you did today?
Marisol Lopez: I teach my lesson, and then I have the kids practice it. If I’m not sure whether they’re understanding the standard or not, I have them take an informal test in Illuminate Data and Assessment (DnA). DnA has different tests based on standards. The students take the test, and right away—right after they’re done—we look at the data. We pull up the pie chart, and we go over the most missed questions.
Do you make the assessments? Or are they pre-made?
There are some that are pre-made, and I try to use those. If there isn’t a pre-made one, I make it myself. You’re able to see which questions are Common Core-aligned. I actually made one just the other day. When I was going through it, I found I’d picked 3-4 questions that weren’t Common Core-aligned, so I got rid of those and selected questions that were.
How long does that take you?
Not very long. 10-15 minutes depending on if you go through and edit your questions. If you don’t do that part, it’s less than 10 minutes.
How often do you use those assessments?
We do those mini-checks frequently as a standard practice. I explain to the students that they’re not really tests—they’re just practice. I tell them, “It’s just for me to see if you need additional support, or if we’ve got the concept down.”
What do you do after they’ve taken that informal test?
If there are a lot of kids who didn’t understand the concept, I’ll reteach it. I’ll also do interventions in class. I’ll pull my kiddos who didn’t understand that concept, and go over each question with a small group. If there are 10 kids, I’ll break that group into groups of 5. Then I’ll work on a practice review with a few extra questions. I’ll send homework based on that concept and do little lessons here and there in class—they’re about 5-10 minutes long.
A week or two later, I’ll do a re-test. From there, a lot of the time, most kids have improved. If there are a few kids that need additional support, I might do additional lessons here and there. If the majority of the classroom is good, we’ll move on.
We do an ELA test every other Friday in DnA. I also do a test after each math unit. A unit takes about a month, maybe less. We also use DnA for our district benchmark tests.
Are there any other assessment practices you use?
We also do exit slips just about every other day. If I’m teaching something, and I can tell that some are getting it and some aren’t, I have them pull out a sticky note. I put two simple questions on the board right before lunch, and as they leave, I have them stick their exit slip on the Exit Slip Board. I scan the slips, pull the sticky notes, and make two groups: kids who missed both questions and kids who only missed one. Then I split them up and pull one group at a time to work with them. I try to make the intervention about 10 minutes long so I can pull my other group.
Are you doing anything differently this year than you did last year?
This year I have been doing weekly standard reviews. The kids are so used to them now that they ask me when we will be doing one again. If we aren’t doing one that day, they ask why. They love looking at data as much as I do.
What would you tell someone who wants to try to use more data in the classroom?
I would say it’s the best thing. You can look at and use the data to see which kids need more support and which kids are ready to move on. Then, you’re able to focus those additional supports on that small group. If it’s 10 or 17 students who didn’t understand the concept, that tells you that you need to reteach the lesson. If it’s 5, you only need to work with those 5. You’re able to see who needs help and what they need help on: which questions and which standards. In DnA, the distractor rationales are also provided. It says, “If the student chose C, it’s because of XYZ.” When you go over those as a class, the kids get feedback right away, too—they don’t need to wait for you to grade their written test.
What kind of difference has this made for you as a teacher and for your students?
For me as a teacher, I now know where my students are at all times. I know what they’re understanding and what they’re not.
And my kids are getting more support from me because I know exactly which concept I need to help them with. Now, their reading levels are always going up. Last year, I didn’t have a single student whose reading levels went down. Everyone made improvements. And just seeing their faces when they understand the concept—it’s so exciting. Doing this has changed me as a teacher because I now want to do even more than what I did before. Every year, I try to be a better teacher, and I think doing this has helped my students a lot, looking at their scores.
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