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Innovation for K12 Assessment

The Benefits of Formative Assessments

Until recently, K12 assessments have been used to measure benchmarks-—what the student has learned up to a certain point in time—to determine if students are meeting standards set by the school district, the state or by the teacher.

Equally as important are formative assessments that assist learning during the learning process.

Because formative assessments are considered part of learning they are typically not assigned grades. Rather, they function as practice for students, providing feedback so that the can improve their performance.

Another goal—and benefit—of formative assessments is that teachers can modify their instruction based on information gained through the assessments.

The formative assessment can help determine which students need a different approach, which students need immediate attention and which students are not learning as a result of not being challenged.

From this point the teacher can provide corrective activities and enrichment activities as appropriate. Corrective activities must present information in a new way and engage students in different types of learning experiences; changes in format, organization, or method of presentation can all be beneficial.

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized it included a requirement that educators use the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, a new (and still developing) way of delivering intervention based on evidence-based practices. The RTI model calls for "alternative assessment…coupled with formative evaluation to obtain data over time to make critical educational decisions."

A3 Virtuoso™ is a leading provider of customizable K12 student assessment software that allows administrators and staff to create and distribute Benchmark and Formative Assessments to all the schools in the district, in a simple and effective manner. These assessments can be delivered to students via iPads, iPods, or iPhones.

The A3 Virtuoso Insight system makes it easy for the district to monitor student achievement and progress as well as teacher performance at the click of a mouse. The many benefits of Insight include ongoing remediation and differentiated, data-driven instruction that is created every day; progress reports that are available anytime throughout the year; and tests, results, and data are saved to a central repository for access anywhere at any time.

Ensure K-12 Education Student Achievement With an Encouraging Environment

As educators, it seems that K-12 education student achievement  is a constant concern.  There are formative assessments, summative assessments, benchmarks, and aptitude tests throughout the school year. 

While instruction and comprehension are obviously important for student achievement on assessments, attitude and comfort level can also help increase achievement.  You can help students perform better on assessments by creating a relaxing environment that encourages recall.

Many educators use candy or small treats to keep their students focused during the test.  Give each student a pack of "Smarties" candies, and tell them that the candy will help them feel smart if they forget anything while taking the test. 

You can also give your students confetti in bag, and send them home with the confetti the night before the test.  Attach a note that explains that sprinkling this "magic dust" under their pillow will help them get a good night's sleep and do well on their exam.

You can also prepare your students mentally by practicing the material on the test days before.  You can set up a game show stage in your room, and give the students a chance to answer sample questions while under a time restraint.  Help them recall information by providing memory clues that they can later use during the actual exam.

Many educators have sent notes home to parents asking them to write an encouraging letter to their child, which they can read throughout the day of the test.  You can also invite parents in to write positive messages on the chalkboard before class begins.  Anything that shows your students that they have support from you and their parents will be beneficial, and help them relax.

Play soft music during the exam, and allow regular breaks.  Have the students get up and do a silly dance or stretching routine during breaks. You can change the relaxing music to fun, upbeat dance music.   Encourage the kids to move around and increase their energy.  Provide a healthy snack during breaks, and plenty of water.

As a teacher, it takes many tactics to relieve testing anxiety. The truth is, these tactics are necessary, because calm students perform better and are happier.  Make sure you reward your students in some way after the exam, as well. Let them know that you are proud of them, and that their hard work is appreciated. 

When you focus on making your students happy, comfortable, and relaxed in times of stress, then they will thank you by performing better and being agreeable.

I Want My Students to Learn, So How Can I Use Data and Assessment?

All teachers have tons of data! All teachers know using data is important! But how do you use all of the data and make smart decisions that will help your students learn? 

First, you need to be organized and know you can't do this yourself. Using data and assessment requires collaboration.

Second, you need to create a data overview. Start with what you want to know, what questions you want answered, with the data.

Third, you need to be able to dig into student data in a meaningful way. How can you do this? We suggest having a system that uses technology in a powerful way to give you rich data results.

Fourth, you need to be willing to examine instruction based on the results of the data and develop an action plan.

Fifth, you assess the action plan and start over with the second step.

The step we left out? That step is creating quality assessments aligned with standards. 

Sound overwhelming? Let's talk about some ways the process can become less overwhelming.

Our Learning Station Insight System allows you to create assessments aligned to specific state or Common Core standards. These assessments can be taken by students using computers, iPads, bubble scan sheets, or pencil and paper.

You can then take the results of the assessments and see the results right away. No need to take the data home and try to graph it. Let technology do that work for you. You can see the results and analyze instruction almost immediately. That is the key to improving instruction so students learn.

What else is there? We could list all the possibilities here, but we know you will learn more by looking at our website If you have questions or like what you see, contact us. We would like to help you increase student learning through the use of data and assessments.

Formative Assessment Helping Students and Teachers to Be Better

A somewhat contemporary learning concept known as formative assessment may seem somewhat foreign to those of us who are used to getting our only feedback at the end of an assignment in the form of a letter or numerical grade, which would actually be an example of the opposite, known as a  summative assessment. Formative assessment, however, includes ongoing feedback throughout the learning process in an effort to improve students learning and teacher effectiveness alike.

Formative assessment helps students to spot their current strengths and weaknesses, while allowing them to adjust their focus to particular areas of need for their individual learning. Therefore, creating a more well-rounded learning environment and a better balanced knowledge base for the student. 

In regards to improving teacher effectiveness, formative assessment can be great for assisting the teacher in spotting a student's areas of need, and where they can better "teach" the student for his/her individual struggles.

More and more school systems across the country are adopting formative assessment to a curriculum for just about any subject; English, Science, History, even math. In fact, most recently The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) issued a public statement regarding its view on the subject of formative assessment, saying the following:

"Formative assessment is an essential process that supports students in developing the reasoning and sense-making skills that they need to reach specific learning targets and move toward mastery of mathematical practices." (Linda Gojak, President NCTM)

Engaging and involving students in their own learning process was also mentioned in the comprehensive statement released by the NCTM. Another interesting theory is their position that formative assessment can be crucial to adding motivation and self-esteem to students throughout the learning process. More and more today, educators are realizing how vitally important these two factors can be in having a student reach his/her potential.

"LearningStation" offers a suite of advanced cloud applications that enable schools and districts to effectively and efficiently assess student understanding and mastery of Common Core and other state-mandated curriculum standards. Visit our website today for more information.

3 Advantages of iPad, Tablet Assessment for Education

Are mobile devices a detriment to education? Some would argue that they reduce attention spans, affect memory, and are obviously an easy source of cheating during test administration. However, we need to look at the entire picture with mobile devices in education - in the right hands they can do tremendous good. To demonstrate this, let us look at three of the greatest advantages of iPad and tablet assessment for education.

Cutting Down on the Administrative Overhead of Assessments

Standardized testing, in recent years, has been shown to cost states $1.7 billion overall. The logistics of distributing and scoring all test materials, as well as all of the associated labor, IT work, and miscellaneous costs, quickly cause costs to shoot up. iPad and Tablet assessment, along with other electronic sources, allow for cost effective delivery and reporting of results.

In the world of enterprise, electronic invoice systems have saved companies millions of dollars by removing paper waste. We can expect the field of education to see similar savings.   

Integrating Assessment into the Everyday Curriculum

On top of the clear financial costs associated with assessment, the process takes multiple weeks out of the school year. This could lead to a vicious cycle; there is pressure on schools and students to improve scores, but time constraints associated with testing can make this difficult.

With iPad and tablet assistance, it is possible to weave assessment into the everyday routines of student and teacher. For example, daily quizzes can be administered electronically and graded instantly, giving a fine grained picture of subject mastery.  

Gaining Real-time insight into Assessment Status

School assessment often has a certain amount of time delay. In any situation in which feedback is important, delayed information can skew results, lead to false conclusions, and cause decision makers to take the wrong course of action. With iPad and tablet assessment, all information goes instantly to centralized systems that can report back on progress and trends. It is then possible to gain a real-time picture of the assessment effort and allow educators to take the most effective actions possible. For instance, gaps in mastery will always be readily apparent, allowing educators to address these deficiencies before students get too far behind.

Given these three major benefits, it is clear that mobility can help both students and educators boost levels of achievement. For more on the full potential of electronic assessment platforms, aided by iPads and tablets, contact LearningStation

Understanding the Common Core Standards

Historically,  states have had different standards for what students are expected to learn. This can create a disadvantage for some students as they head to college, start their first post-high school job, or even switch schools. The common core standards establish certain criteria which are expected of students. Although they have not all implemented them yet, initially 45 states as well as Washington D.C. and four U.S. territories adopted all the common core standards. Minnesota adopted the English Language Arts standards but not the Mathematics standards.

Despite the initial positive views on common core standards, in recent months, several states have introduced some legislation to cancel their plans to adopt the common core standards. One of the main concerns is money. For example, in Michigan, both the House and Senate have approve budgets prohibiting spending for the standards. In Indiana, lawmakers have decided to study the potential cost of implementing the standards before starting to use the standards statewide.

Money is a legitimate concern. Yes, initially adopting new standards may cost teachers and districts more money as new materials may need to be purchased, but that is part of why many states are slowly implementing the standards. Any changes to make children’s educations better are going to cost money, but with the common core standards, the benefits, including having students who are better prepared for college and helping students to think more critically, outweigh the costs.  

The English Language Arts standards include standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and media and technology. By concentrating on both old skills, like developing their writing abilities, and twenty-first century media skills, students can be better prepared to succeed in their futures. These standards help to keep students from poorer communities on the same educational level as their peers going to richer schools.

The Mathematics standards help to ensure students nationally are working on the same level of mathematics at the same age. The standards show where students should be at specific grade levels. For example, ideally 8th graders should be ready to start Algebra. These standards also focus on how students can use their math skills in real world settings.

Despite what some people may think, the common core standards still allow states, districts, schools, and even specific teachers leeway on how they teach standards. For example, teachers can continue to pick the specific texts students read. Exact writing topics and other classroom work is not specified by the common core standards. Although there are tests offered by both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium targeted at helping to test the common core standards, states are welcome to continue using their own assessments to test students’ comprehension of the materials. More than anything, these standards are simply an outline of what skills students should have at certain points in their educations. 

At LearningStation, we want to help school districts and teachers better prepare their students for the future through helping them achieve the common core standards. View our website to learn more about the services we offer.

How to Measure Educator Effectiveness

Educator Effectiveness

There are ongoing debates about how to truly measure student success in the K-12 environment. Are standardized tests a true barometer of student achievement and potential? Is there an easier way to evaluate the combination of classroom work and standardized tests to get a true indicator? How should teachers be evaluated in relation to the test results?

Organizations like Students First emphasizes the importance of excellent, effective teachers for all students and supports the expansion of effective teacher training and certification programs, professional development support, supervision, and leadership. However, they also advocate for a teacher -- and principal -- report card. Their criteria for measuring Educator Effectiveness includes student results, elimination of tenure, and pay based on teacher impact on student results. Teachers counter that if they are only teaching for the tests, it limits their ability to be creative and teachers aren’t the only factor in students’ success. Further, a teacher’s impact on students can happen years later when the student realizes how a teacher influenced their career.

In Colorado, after three years of development, state mandated teacher effectiveness evaluations will begin this year. There is much doubt and controversy. Half of the teachers’ point total will be based on student test scores. Student feedback will be considered. Administrators have been undergoing training to evaluate a teacher who is teaching a discipline the administrator might not be familiar. Teachers in the field will also evaluate. How a teacher uses technology and adjusts when the material is not understood will be among the criteria. Attaining and losing tenure could result. Some teachers are preparing for the evaluations more optimistically, seeing how they can be more effective.

Wisconsin is about to embark on teacher effectiveness evaluations as well, but the Greenfield School District has taken an interesting tact. They are part of the Southeastern Wisconsin New Teacher Project Consortium.  The program is a mentoring program for new teachers, while also training experienced teachers as mentors.  Among the goals is providing new teachers the opportunity to apply their knowledge and receive feedback.

Technology is trying to assist with improving student assessments and evaluation of educators’ effectiveness. The LearningStation Insight program has a myriad of benefits. First, it creates assessments based on thousands of questions aligned with specific state and “Common Core” standards. Results can be set up for grade level, school, teacher and classroom.  As this is online,

  • Students with problems can be identified and helped on a daily basis
  • Students can be grouped by their progress
  • Reports are always available
  • School Districts can login and see how individual schools are performing
  • Schools will have the results of teachers’ impact on student results, how the teacher responded to a struggling student, and how that student subsequently improved.
  • In the coolness department, students can access tests from a computer, iPad, iPhone, iPod, mobile devices and more.

LearningStation Participating in LRMI

I think everyone can agree that links to content is a must in making formative assessment and personalized instruction a success in the classroom.  Read about how LearningStation is at the forefront of this trend.