NWEA Releases Guidance on Remote Testing to Help Schools Assess the Impact of COVID-19 Disruptions

August 6, 2020 NWEA News

Portland, Ore. – Aug. 6, 2020 – As millions of students get ready to return to school, school districts are preparing for a large number of them to be learning remotely. This presents a challenge for schools that need to triage the impact of COVID-19 disruptions on learning from this past spring with the cumulated impact of summer break.  Teachers will need reliable, quality data on where students are academically to determine best paths forward to customize instruction and overcome learning loss during one of the most tumultuous school years ever. This may mean assessing students remotely this fall.

After completing more than 400,000 remote test events this spring, NWEA released today a set of resources designed to guide schools as they prepare for the reality of remote testing, and help them administer the test and use data to guide instruction. While the resources are geared toward the 36,000 schools who use NWEA’s assessments – including MAP Growth and its innovative oral reading assessment for young readers, MAP Reading Fluency – the detailed resources are designed to help all schools planning to test remotely.

“One of the biggest and most important issues educators will face this fall is how to get reliable, timely data that helps them better understand how achievement has been impacted by COVID-related disruptions, identify the gaps and have meaningful goal setting conversations that set students up to succeed,” said Fred McDaniel, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Assessment and Professional Learning at NWEA. “Given the continued pandemic, educators may choose to assess students remotely to secure this data – which presents a set of unique challenges.”

A successful remote assessment program gives careful consideration to which students will be assessed, and how the data will be used. Additionally, multiple variables must be considered and planned for, including the logistics of administering a test remotely, whether in a home or socially distanced format;  the role of a remote proctor in the test taking experience;  ensuring test integrity and student privacy; and monitoring student engagement and “rapid guessing” behavior. These factors, among others, necessitate additional preparation and up-front investment from school leaders to ensure a smooth test-taking experience for remote testing sessions.

  1. Effective communication from school to homes is top priority: Most parents/caregivers may be new to the remote testing experience. It will be helpful for them to understand the value of the assessment, as well as what to expect before, during and after the test. Another important thing to consider is that parents/caregivers may need to help students prepare a device for testing.
  2. Invest in your proctors: Educational leaders should make a concerted effort to invest in remote testing training for their proctors. Proctors are the primary point of contact for the student during the test, are responsible for ensuring that any technical hurdles are overcome, and help students get set up for a successful test-taking session.
  3. Get in front of technical hurdles. Schools/districts should create a support plan for staff, students, and families to address concerns including assessment technology requirements, connectivity issues, device management, software support, firewall and web filter adjustment.
  4. Maximize test integrity and security. Remote testing presents an additional integrity challenge that in-school testing does not where environments are more controlled. Schools should consider security agreements with parents, active monitoring during tests, and formalized rules/protocols regarding usage of additional devices and the internet.
  5. Prepare for testing. Spring 2020 taught us that transitioning to virtual instruction is not easy, and that communicating effectively with students over the internet has a learning curve. Since remote testing involves using these communication tools, we suggest that schools/districts have proctors and students practice logging in and taking a practice test so that everyone involved is confident on the day of the test.
  6. Support accessibility, accommodations and equity. Schools must be ready to help students gain access to assistive technology. They must also consider and guide when to use embedded accommodation features within the assessment platform or how students gain access to non-embedded accommodation features (e.g., bilingual dictionaries, English dictionary, and abacus). And most importantly, they must have a clear plan to communicate with families regarding the use of accommodations.

Once the logistics are accounted for and the tests are administered successfully, we recommend the data is scrutinized to ensure that sound instructional decisions are made for students based on these results. This involves reviews of additional data elements including the proportion of items answered correctly, the proportion of items that were rapidly guessed, the overall test duration, and standard error of measure. In addition, we recommend caution when using remote testing data as a basis for high-stakes decisions for students, teachers, and/or schools, or to evaluate the effectiveness of remote instruction or delivery in individual schools.

“With over 400,000 successful remote tests completed in spring 2020, we are feeling incredibly positive about helping even more schools learn to successfully implement remote testing this fall,” said Adam Wolfgang, Product Manager and lead on remote testing solutions at NWEA. “There are some differences … there are some minor hurdles to overcome, yes—but if the spring 2020 remote testing season taught us anything, it’s that even under the most challenging of scenarios, we can help schools get the best data they need to help all kids learn.”

To learn more, view NWEA’s remote testing resource center for schools.


About NWEA

NWEA® is a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency—and provide insights to help tailor instruction. Educators in more than 10,000 schools, districts, and education agencies in 146 countries rely on our flagship interim assessment, MAP® Growth™; our progress monitoring and skills mastery tool, MAP® Skills™; our reading fluency and comprehension assessment, MAP® Reading Fluency™ ; our personalized learning tool powered by Khan Academy, MAP® Accelerator™; and our new assessment solution that combines growth and proficiency measurement. Visit NWEA.org to find out how NWEA can partner with you to help all kids learn.

Contact: Simona Beattie, Sr. Manager, Public Relations at NWEA, simona.beattie@nwea.org or 971.361.9526

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