Magazine article Leadership

Feedback in a Flash ... Computerized Tests Provide Detailed Information That Helps Shape the Curriculum and Tracks Growth in Clovis Usd. Aligned with District and State Standards, the On-Demand Tests Adjust to Meet Achievement Levels of Individual Students

Magazine article Leadership

Feedback in a Flash ... Computerized Tests Provide Detailed Information That Helps Shape the Curriculum and Tracks Growth in Clovis Usd. Aligned with District and State Standards, the On-Demand Tests Adjust to Meet Achievement Levels of Individual Students

Article excerpt

When California's assessment system was in a major flux a few years ago, Clovis Unified School District went shopping for its own answers. Regardless of what the state's solution would be, we wanted a system that would provide feedback on student achievement related to district standards, and we didn't want to wait.

Ours is an academically strong district with students consistently scoring above the 50th percentile on the SAT-9, but we wanted to better shape curriculum and track results now and in the future. With school funding increasingly tied to meeting new (and at the time undefined) standards and the prospect of the state's high stakes graduation exams looming, we wanted more detailed information to guide us.

Clovis has always been focused on data-based solutions, so we sought our answers there again. Norm-referenced tests provided percentile rankings for us in the past, but they didn't provide the assessment data we needed to justify program changes or review individual performance. We wanted data to compare year-to-year growth and also track the growth of individual students across time.

While very skilled at identifying the low-performing students and writing individual prescriptions for them, we lacked a sense of what kind of growth average and above-average students were achieving from year to year.

One of our key goals was to be able to address achievement of all students relative to the district standards. Any measurement system we adopted needed to be able to offer us feedback on standards and data that could be used to compare year-to-year growth and rank the growth of individual students across time. Being able to do on-demand testing also was important.

The answer

We found the answer in a testing system developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit organization committed to helping member school districts meet their assessment goals. NWEA's computerized adaptive testing system, called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), is based on an equal-interval interval measurement scale and includes items selected from a large pool that reflect our district standards.

We began our work with the association using paper-and-pencil tests based on the same scale; however, we are now implementing the Web-enabled MAP. We see it as the wave of the future because it streamlines testing mechanics and creates an assessment system more responsive to individual teacher needs.

As a member of the NWEA, our district also receives ongoing help with test administration and scoring and data interpretation, including how to appropriately use the test results to improve learning.

Tests measure individual student achievement

Unlike tests geared to a specific grade level, these tests adjust to meet the achievement levels of the individual student. Real-time computer adaptability means that each subsequent test item is automatically more difficult or easier, based on the student's response to prior items. Student achievement is reported on a continuous achievement growth scale. The scale provides for the measurement of academic growth, normative reporting, and predicting student performance on the state tests.

Clovis is a 32,000-student, K-12 district, but our initial focus is on grades three through eight. We've implemented the tests in those grades in our 25 elementary and four middle schools throughout the city of Clovis and the Fresno County area. Originally, we aligned the test with our district standards but with NWEA's help, we've recently revised the alignment to reflect the new state standards and to measure student progress toward the new High School Exit Exam.

Dick Sparks, director of assessment for Clovis USD, has been enthusiastic about these tests, which provide teachers more flexibility. "The test results give us benchmarks so that we know where kids are relative to our curricular standards," said Sparks. …

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