As a state we are firmly on course for the SBAC this spring. But what to do when your previous interim assessment is a total mismatch with the SBAC? Many districts will be shopping for new interim assessment options. My middle school has just completed a week of math and a week of ELA testing with an interim assessment tool measuring attainment of the Common Core State Standards using the types of questions students will see when they take the Smarter Balanced test this spring. Here are some first impressions.
- The interim assessment we chose is pretty flexible. Our district selected the standards to be in included on the benchmark test, then test questions were pulled from an item bank to measure those standards. Here’s the surprising part. Teams of teachers from our district were invited to preview the test items and give feedback. I worked on the 7th grade ELA items and based on our team’s feedback, one of the reading selections was changed. Instead of primarily pulling reading selections from the public domain (the price is right but cultural competence is lacking) writers are hired to create most reading selections which are leveled using all three legs of the text complexity triangle.
- The interim assessment is truly formative. Each question is designed to measure a standard. As teachers review the test item by item, they can see which students missed which questions, which distractor they chose, and which misconception the distractor was designed to identify.
- The interim assessment is designed to provide useful feedback. Students who all chose the same distractor on a particular question can be pulled into a group and suggestions for reteaching meant to correct the misconception are provided. The teacher can then go to the assessment’s website for additional student questions to see if the reteaching was successful.
Along with some positive first impressions, we had some concerns.
- Although our school has worked hard to organize our technology purchases so that we can support frequent school wide online testing, we are planning for a huge SBAC window this spring – March through May. Since it’s brand new to us we don’t really know how long it will take to administer. The three interim benchmarks had to be squished in earlier, so our math classes sat down to take the first one on the fifth day of school in September. There was no time to prepare students for SBAC type multiple answer, linked multiple choice, and technology enhanced items which they had never seen before.
- Students (except IEP students and Advanced Learners) take the interim assessment for their grade level on standards they are expected to meet at the end of the year. They need to be prepared to see scores that leave a lot of room for growth on the report screen that shows their results when they complete the test. A few items on each test need to be scored by teachers using a rubric which is provided so the initial score for those items appears as zero which was alarming for students who had not been warned beforehand. In general the scores were low.
- There’s just so much we don’t know. How effective are the reteaching suggestions provided by the interim assessment? Will students whose perform well on the interim assessment do well on the SBAC? We’re used to a single score and a lexile from our previous interim assessment – how can we take the time to figure out reports organized by standard?
It’s a high stakes choice. What is your school district looking for in a new interim assessment?
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