Increasing Achievement and Saving Time by Selecting the Right Assessment and Instruction Tools

Assessments are helpful when it comes to measuring mastery and student progress, but they can often be used ineffectively which becomes detrimental to students and teachers. When assessments are used to ultimately drive instruction, educators can find ways to assess less and know more about their students, freeing up more time for what matters most – learning.

In order to personalize the learning environment for students, we need to have a good idea of who they are as students.Year end summative assessments don’t allow students to meet their maximum potential. Assessment of learning should be imbedded and continuous so that each student can progress at their own pace and to their full potential. When EdLeaders and teachers think outside the box, there are various ways for students to show success and growth, limiting duplicate assessments and creating more useful data to help inform instruction.

Many districts have found creative solutions to limiting duplicate assessments and finding ways to avoid over testing students. This recent feature from District Administration shows how the Plain Local School District in Ohio streamlined their assessment process with adaptive instructional tools like i-Ready and Ready from our advocacy partner Curriculum Associates.

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With many assessment mandates rolled out by Ohio in recent years, the 6,000-student Plain Local School District ended up in a challenging situation.

“Like others in the state, each time a mandate came out, we fulfilled it with a new assessment,” says Cassandra Sponseller, Director of Teaching and Learning and Director of Gifted Programs for the economically and geographically diverse district. “So we soon had a hodgepodge of overlapping assessments that were one dimensional with no vertical alignment.”

These assessments were not providing data that was actionable, and administering them led to a loss of instructional time. The goal was to assess students in a more strategic way, as well as to collect performance statistics aligned with the new Common Core State Standards and the growth and diagnostic data requirements from the state.

From the state’s list of approved programs, i-Ready by Curriculum Associates stood out.

i-Ready is an adaptive diagnostic tool that identifies students’ strengths and areas of need and monitors progress on an ongoing basis. It provides online personalized instruction as well as integrates with Ready, Curriculum Associates’ rigorous standards-based instruction and practice program.

“i-Ready ticked off every box on my dream list,’” says Sponseller. “It does not cap out above or below grade level and is very teacher-friendly. The reports are easy to read.”

A few months after their spring 2013 purchase, “We were up to several thousand licenses, because teachers wanted i-Ready for all of their students,” Sponseller says.

​Sponseller provided overall leadership during implementation, and support from Curriculum Associates as well as the on-demand training videos proved invaluable. “We were able to do an effective district wide rollout in a year; and depending on grade level, we were able to eliminate between four and nine categories of state or district-required assessments, totaling 102 different assessments across K-8.”

With i-Ready, Plain Local educators are able to pinpoint at the subdomain level where students are making progress and where they may need additional support. “There is a very tangible target for how much each student is expected to grow, and i-Ready reporting lets teachers know if students are on track or if they need to change their instruction,” says Sponseller. “And administrators love receiving a single set of assessment data.”

Teachers are required to integrate i-Ready instruction into their classrooms for a minimum of one hour per week, says Sponseller. “We have seen that the more time students spend using i-Ready, the higher they perform.”

Elementary teachers tend to the programs during center time, and secondary teachers will often hold a class in a computer lab or library, says Sponseller. There is also a 40-minute block every day when no new core instruction takes place. “Students can use this time to work in i-Ready or Ready, either as RTI or for enrichment,” she says. “It used to be very difficult to meet the needs of students who are above grade level, but now, it is possible.”

Though Ready was originally brought in as supplemental to the reading and math core curriculum, other curricula have now become ancillary, and Ready has become part of core instruction. “We did a formal survey and asked our teachers how important certain resources were to our curriculum, and Ready and i-Ready were rated at 3.6 out of 4,” says Sponseller.

After a year with these solutions, Plain Local students jumped six percentage points on Ohio’s Fall Reading Assessment for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, while the average district in the county dropped eight percentage points, says Sponseller. “Ready and i-Ready have transformed instruction, learning and assessment in our district.”

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