Getting it right: Educators share 4 best practices for remote testing

As schools and districts continue to administer MAP® Growth™ and MAP® Reading Fluency™ to students learning remotely, several share-worthy strategies have emerged to ensure remote testing is smooth, reliable, and trustworthy. Here are some from Laveen Elementary School District and Tempe Elementary School District, both in the Phoenix area. Consider incorporating and building on them in your school or district.

1. Know your why

Remote testing requires an all-hands-on-deck approach for students, families, teachers, and district leaders. It’s a big undertaking that requires commitment from all involved. To get everyone invested in the common mission, it’s important to know your why: What’s driving your decision to test remotely?

“Our why was our obligation to have a continuity of learning. We were very mindful that our last touchpoint related to assessment was winter 2019,” says Daniela Robles, director of research evaluation and assessment for Tempe ESD.

Aware of research around COVID slide and lessons educators learned after Hurricane Katrina, the Tempe team wants to take an accelerated learning approach. “We’ve been committed to NWEA MAP Growth for years. It gives us that entry point where we are meeting students where they need us.”

In a nutshell: Defining and reinforcing your purpose for remote interim testing is a crucial first step. Educators at every level should be aligned on the goals of interim testing, as well as how the data will be used for instructional decision making.

2. Overcommunicate

Laveen ESD is home to nine schools and more than 7,400 students in grades K­–8. With so many students and test events, district staff worked hard to get the word out to families.

“We needed to let our students know this was not for a grade,” says Nancy Ramirez, data analyst coordinator for the district. “We explained we really wanted to know how students are performing and what gaps they had, especially after COVID closures.” So she and her team sent out a letter encouraging families not to provide hints or help. A second letter from NWEA was attached, reviewing logistical information to ensure families were ready.

Tempe ESD had a similar strategy and sent information to caregivers early and often, driving home specific messages. “We decided to front-load information and chunk it out over a couple of weeks,” says Emma Gregston, assessment specialist. “We prioritized the message that with remote testing, everything is the same as it has been, except students are at home taking the test.”

In a nutshell: With any new process, reminders and repetition can be helpful. Make sure families have the information they need and know where to go when they have questions.

3. Make a plan that suits your school community

No two schools or districts are the same, so their remote testing strategies shouldn’t be either. If assessment decisions are made at the district level, it’s important to leave room for individual schools to adjust for their unique students and needs.

In Laveen ESD, schools were given the leeway to schedule during the testing window as they saw fit. One school tested grades 6­–8 first thing in the morning, followed in the afternoon by grades 3–5. This allowed any technical or logistical challenges with remote testing to reveal themselves and gave teachers and staff time to troubleshoot ahead of testing younger students.

At another school, each teacher had two testing windows, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Every student started in the morning. Those who didn’t finish could continue a few hours later in the afternoon session. The gap gave students a much-needed “brain break” and gave teachers time to call any students who may have missed the morning session so they could test in the afternoon.

The arrangements each school made were the best fit for their students and staff. With strong plans in place, Laveen was able to complete more than 17,000 test events in one week.

For Tempe ESD, developing a plan was as easy as 3, 2, 1. “We used backward planning, or reverse engineering, of our regular testing process for remote testing. Our end goal: we would have a successful remote testing experience for the majority, if not all, of our students,” Emma says. Like at Laveen, Tempe district staff provided guidance and direction but left it up to each school site to decide which grades would test when.

In a nutshell: Lean on best practices that have worked for other districts but remember: your school or district’s testing strategy should be unique to your school community. Design it with flexibility and sudden changes in mind—and consider what’s worked well for in-person testing in the past.

4. Prepare—and be there

Logistical and technical challenges can be frustrating but can be managed or solved with ease if teachers and district staff are prepared.

For Laveen, preparation and training made all the difference. “We trained our staff on proctoring the assessment and troubleshooting any common issues,” Nancy says. Since Laveen ESD is a Chromebook district, staff created specific technical guidance documents that showed steps for Chromebooks only, to minimize any confusion.

During the test, teachers and students also had Google Meet open in a second tab. This allowed the teacher to monitor how students were doing. If students had questions, they came back to Google Meet to ask. To prevent frequent interruptions, teachers would drop a link to a second Google Meet room where the teacher and student could chat one-on-one, if needed. These secondary breakout rooms were also staffed by tech experts and assessment coordinators to ensure a smooth experience.

In a nutshell: When it comes to knowing an assessment and tools inside and out, teachers and staff can never be too prepared. Knowing how to quickly solve problems or navigate issues can be the difference between a positive test experience and a frustrating struggle. Supporting students during the test is vital, too.

For more support

Remote testing is filled with unknowns. We get it—and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Learn more about what to expect and how to prepare for remote testing on our Remote Testing Support site. And call our support team at 1-877-469-3287 if you need us.

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