Data is a powerful teaching tool! Assessment data – whether from formative assessment or interim assessments like Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) – when put into the hands of teachers and school leaders to inform instructional decisions is what gives assessment its power. Timeliness is key, as is structuring opportunities for application of the data. Using actionable assessment data can help all stakeholders answer important questions about student learning. These may include:
- As a teacher, how can I adjust my instruction to meet students’ needs? How will I know what kind of progress they’re making?
- As a school principal, how can I ensure that the students in my school are tracking toward key milestones? How can I offer the best professional development to support teachers?
- As a district administrator, how can I evaluate our district’s programs for improvement planning? What’s working best, and what should we stop doing?
- As a parent, how do I know my child is receiving instruction that will extend her current knowledge and skills?
- As a student, what do I need to work on to reach my goals?
Assessments that deliver data that can actually be used in real time to make a difference in education, such as formative assessment or MAP, provide real opportunities for teachers and school leaders. Here are some examples of what teachers can do with actionable assessment data:
- Differentiate instruction by student readiness. Good interim assessment data lets teachers know exactly where each student is compared to their classmates and national-level peers. Such a proactive response allows a teacher to meet students within their zone of proximal development (ZPD), the optimal spot where instruction is most beneficial for each student—just beyond his or her current level of independent capability. The ZPD is not about a student’s ability to learn, but rather about what skills and understandings the student is ready to develop with targeted assistance or scaffolding. With our MAP assessments, this is done via a grade-independent RIT score that measures academic growth much like a yardstick might measure physical growth. This actionable assessment data help teachers inform instructional decisions for flexible groupings; supporting differentiation based on student readiness.
- Set academic goals. We’ve blogged before on the importance of student self assessment, and including them in setting their academic goals is just as important. With MAP assessments, teachers can use the growth projection data and learning statements to develop individual academic learning goals with students. Going beyond the individual student level, teachers and school leaders can identify strengths and areas for improvement in goal performance areas for classrooms, schools, or entire districts. Creating a data-centric school culture, engaging students and parents in the goal-setting process, and celebrating student progress will help instill a culture of goal setting that has a lasting impact.
- Evaluate programs and target professional development. Schools and districts can use data to evaluate curricula and intervention programs, inform changes in instructional practice, and target professional development. Status and growth data, when using the MAP assessment, can help identify what’s working and point to successful programs that can be scaled up. It helps answer questions like: Did the students in our new math program experience higher rates of growth than other students? Where do our teachers need to focus instructionally? What kind of professional development will assist our district in targeting areas of concern?
Using student growth data to inform instruction can be a valuable and efficient tool for driving students’ academic gains. When you make data actionable, you make assessment matter. To fully benefit from assessment, students and teachers need to use the data to invoke meaningful change. This keeps the focus on where it should be—on student learning.
Assessments – and more importantly the data they provide – can be powerful tools for student learning. To see additional ways assessments can make a powerful difference, download the eBook – Assessments with Integrity: How Assessment Can Inform Powerful Instruction.