Three Ways to Right-Size Educational Assessments for Early Learners

Three Ways to Right-Size Educational Assessments for Early Learners - TLG-IMG-04252019

When we think about educational assessments, we most often think of elementary, middle, or high school students, but more and more K-3 students are being introduced to assessments. Assessing early learners helps educators identify students that are at risk of falling behind, while also giving them information to develop building block learning skills and concepts. With the potential to impact the entirety of students’ academic careers, assessments for early learners require extra scrutiny in the selection process.

In an earlier post, Jennifer Knestrick identified 13 questions to ask when evaluating early learning assessment tools. They are worth sharing again:

Assessment purpose and data use

  1. Does the assessment’s intended purpose match our goals?
  2. 2. Is it aligned to our standards (e.g. state standards)?
  3. Does it screen for students at risk?
  4. Does the resulting data inform instructional next steps?
  5. Can it measure growth throughout the year and across grades?

Time and resources required

  1. Can the early childhood assessment be administered with current technology and staff?
  2. Does it generate results immediately?
  3. Can our teachers be trained easily?

Developmental appropriateness

  1. Are the content and format of the assessment child-friendly and age-appropriate? Is the assessment engaging and motivating for young learners?
  2. Is it responsive to a range of student performance levels?

Quality of reports

  1. Are the results objective?
  2. Are the reports easy to interpret and use?

Ongoing support

  1. Is ongoing support provided by the assessment vendor – not just technical in nature, but professional learning opportunities?

Since every assessment isn’t right for every student, it’s important to ensure that they are developmentally appropriate for early learners. To do this, ask these questions, but also look for measures that are purposeful, authentic, and beneficial to the learning experience of K-3 students.

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Right-sizing assessments for early learners – try these three things

  1. Make it meaningful. Assessments can be very powerful tools to support student learning, but only if they are used with intention.
    • Be sure to get clear on your purpose. It’s crucial to know why you are assessing.
    • Choose the right tool. Select assessments that are designed to deliver information that matches your purpose. For example, if your purpose is screening, you need an assessment you can feasibly give to all students.
    • Guard against the misuse of data. You need to resist the temptation to repurpose results for making decisions unrelated to the assessment’s primary objective out of convenience.
  2. Make it authentic. Formal assessments, along with observations and student interviews, provide a clear picture of learning needs. The best assessments use tasks and tools that feel familiar to students.
    • Educators capture the best insights when assessments are flexible enough to meet students where they are. Adaptive assessments – like MAP® Growth™ and MAP® Reading Fluency™ – allow educators to see what students know and what they are ready to learn next.
    • Assessment tasks should resemble real world learning. With interactive, student-centered tasks, early learners can authentically demonstrate what they know.
  3. Make it beneficial. Assessments should provide crucial insights, but they shouldn’t dominate instructional time. Well-designed measures deliver insights efficiently, so students can get back to the business of play and learning.
    • Instructional time with early learners is more valuable than gold. Assessments must deliver insights that help improve instruction to pay off the administration time they require.
    • Computer-adaptive assessments can capture comprehensive, detailed information about student needs in less time.
    • Emerging technologies can replace burdensome one-on-one test administrations with more efficient group administrations.

As we’ve previously noted, falling behind is much easier when you start from behind. Playing catch-up never feels like a winner’s game. This is certainly true, and one great reason why early childhood assessments can play a big role if done right. Read more about how the right assessments can support your K–3 in our new eBook, Engaging Early Learners.

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