Though spring has sprung and the end of the school year is in sight, it is important to continue the critical work of addressing unfinished learning and preparing students for their next learning goals. Gathering data through the end of the year will help inform those next steps.
At this point in the year, many teams are navigating questions like:
- How can we best prepare our students for their next grade level? Where is the area of greatest need?
- Where should we focus our attention in our extended school year and/or summer intervention programs?
- How will we know that our learning loss mitigation programs were effective?
- What data could we bring to teacher teams to share insights across grade levels?
End of year academic assessments are often used as a summative assessment, a way to certify learning and check for student mastery. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these assessments produce data that can be used to prepare plans for how best to support students moving forward, including learning plans involving extended learning year, summer school program, etc.
Here are 3 steps for using your end of year assessment data to inform and chart a clear path for accelerating learning with all students. For more detail, check out our Assessing to Accelerate Learning Toolkit.
Use an assessment that provides target-level data
When trying to understand where learning gaps might exist in regards to standards, it is recommended to assess for gaps in learning targets, not necessarily each individual learning standard.
Learning targets are composed of a number of related standards and skills. For example, a grade 3 math learning target from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium reads “Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division.” This target is composed of four different standards (3.OA.1, 3.OA.2, 3.OA.3, and 3.OA.4).
If a student is struggling with one skill within this target, they are commonly struggling with all of them. Therefore, if a student is struggling with this target, it is a good indicator that instruction focused on that collection of related standards will have a positive impact on that student’s growth.
Target-level assessments are also more time efficient as they can contain fewer items because educators are not collecting data on every discrete standard. This shorter assessment saves time in administration and analysis, reducing both lost instructional time and testing fatigue.
This approach is commonly used in state-level accountability assessments and the resulting data is typically reported via some sort of learning target with an achievement-level descriptor. This approach was also used to develop the new Outgoing Broad Coverage Assessments as part of Inspect. When used with the accompanying Incoming Broad Coverage Assessments, this series can be used to show growth from the end of the 20-21 school year to the beginning of the 21-22 school year. To learn more about this series, a recent webinar recording can be found here.
Prioritize instruction on the most important learning gaps
Once learning gaps are identified, work with your teams to plan when and how these gaps will be addressed. Depending on the data, your teams may need to make decisions on which gaps are the most important to cover in the fall or during summer programming. Districts may already have an existing assessment map of priority learning targets to reference. If not, there are a variety of online resources available, such as “Priority Instructional Content in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics” by Achieve the Core. Educators can also work in vertical PLC conversations to identify which learning targets are most essential to master so that students can succeed in the following school year.
It’s important to note that not all learning target gaps need to be filled before moving on to grade-level learning in the fall. It’s possible that some missing content will be addressed early in the fall or during summer programming, but it’s also possible that some can be more easily woven into the curriculum later in the 21-22 school year. The goal is use the data from these assessments to plan how we support students as they work. Data from assessments should be used to inform how to bring students into grade-level instruction and not whether to bring them into it.
Continue to use data to close learning gaps and equitably accelerate growth
As students move through any applicable summer programming and into the next school year, it is important to continue collecting data from screeners and interims to make sure students are on the right track for growth and that the implemented interventions are effective. Moreover, this analysis should be conducted with an equity lens, to ensure that all groups of students are growing.
However, in order to maximize our efficacy in addressing unfinished learning, experts and advocates alike urge educators to prioritize the formative assessment practices that take place closest to the learning. By continually monitoring student learning in-the-moment, reteaching and intervention can be targeted, and instruction can move forward as soon as students are ready.
Maximizing formative assessment throughout the year allows teachers to have an ongoing guide around what students need next without waiting for medium-stakes assessments to check in on how students are doing. This is true in any school year but is essential when significant or wide-spread learning gaps exist.
Illuminate Education’s Coming Back Assessment series is specifically designed to help educators obtain actionable data about learning target gaps so that instruction and formative assessment practices can be targeted to students’ needs. Reach out to schedule a demo.
Illuminate Education equips educators to take a data-driven approach to serving the whole child. Our solution combines comprehensive assessment, MTSS management and collaboration, and real-time dashboard tools, and puts them in the hands of educators. As a result, educators can monitor learning and growth, identify academic and social-emotional behavioral needs, and align targeted supports in order to accelerate learning for each student.
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