When we think about educational assessments, “timely” means that assessment data is delivered at a time when it will be most useful to the people who need it the most. When building a coherent and balanced assessment system that works for your school or district, you’ll need to consider the time between when the assessment is given and when each group of stakeholders needs the results.
It’s important to pay attention to the time an educational assessment is administered to students relative to the timing of decisions that require supporting data. For example, if your district makes decisions about eighth grade math placement in April, you may want to administer your end-of-year assessment to seventh-graders at the beginning of that month so that the most up-to-date data about math performance can be factored into your placement decisions.
Some stakeholders will need data sooner than others. An example any teacher can relate to is the results of summative assessments. Teachers typically don’t get the results of these end-of-year tests until students have left for the summer—far too late for teachers to use that data to help those students. While educators at the district and state level may not need the data until much later since they are using them for other purposes, the full educational assessment system also needs to provide data to teachers early enough for it to be useful in the classroom.
Who are these stakeholders, and how do they apply assessment data? Here’s a quick rundown of just a few scenarios in which stakeholders use data:
- Teachers – use data to adjust instruction and support the unique learning needs of all students.
- Students – use data to set individual learning goals for the school year.
- Parents – use data to find appropriate books for their kids to read at home.
- Principals – use data to increase library staff and offer one-on-one tutoring during lunch periods to students who need extra support.
- Curriculum Directors – use data to compare classrooms in the district to see if the fifth-grade reading curriculum needs to be adjusted across the board to better meet student needs.
- District Superintendents – use data to see if their schools are meeting state standards or if extra support is required to get kids back on track
- State Boards of Education – use data to compare schools and see if everyone is getting equal access to the instruction they need to move forward
When designing a coherent and balanced assessment system, it’s imperative to keep all stakeholders in mind. Review your assessment calendar to see if your assessments deliver the data your stakeholders need in time to inform important decisions that help students. Adjust your testing calendar to ensure that data gets to each group of stakeholders when they need it. And finally, review and adjust your planned professional development and planning days so that teachers have crucial assessment data that can support their ongoing learning and instructional planning. It’s good to be assessment literate!