- Improving data analysis, use, and reporting
- Evaluating and supporting educators
Schools implement interim assessments, expecting improved student achievement because they believe the frequently refreshed data build a new bridge to better instructional choices. However, scant evidence exists about how teachers use interim assessments and whether use changes behavior in classrooms. This session reports findings on these issues, drawing on two studies conducted in a midwestern state during its transition to a statewide system of interim assessments aligned to state academic standards. The first study explored teacher usage and understanding of interim assessment data. The second study, a randomized controlled trial, explored patterns of use and resulting impacts on instructional practices.
Interim assessments have become increasingly common (Olson, 2005) and will be components of the Common Core assessment systems (ETS, 2012a; ETS, 2012b). Expectations of improved performance resulting from interim assessments rest largely on teachers’ use of assessment results to inform instructional practice and address identified student needs (Bulkley, Nabors Olah, and Blanc, 2010; Dunn and Mulvenon, 2009). However, there is little evidence about how teachers use interim assessments and whether this usage translates into instructional change. Some research has suggested that teacher use of interim assessment systems may be limited (Wayman, Shaw, and Cho, 2011) and that substantial skill and knowledge are required to translate assessment results into appropriate instructional responses (Blanc, Christman, Liu, Mitchell, et al., 2010; Nabors Olah, Lawrence, & Riggan, 2010).
In the first presentation, Jessalyn Smith discusses the strengths and weakness teachers exhibit with respect to understanding interim assessment data and applying the data to their classroom instruction, drawing on a study conducted by a testing company with support and funding from a Midwestern State Department of Education. Additionally, the study aims to identify characteristics of teachers who are effectively using a statewide interim assessment program. The presentation will include an overview of the nature and objectives of the study, a description of its design and methodology, and a summary of the findings of the qualitative and quantitative analyses (through usage logs, survey results, and focus groups). Results from a quasi-experimental study will illustrate how teachers interpret and use interim assessment data in a formative manner. Specifically, the study collected information on how teachers think about interimassessment and how they apply what they learn from the data collected in their classrooms. Recommendations for professional development opportunities will be discussed.
Two subsequent presentations examine teacher usage of interim assessment systems and how that use affected instructional and pedagogical choices, drawing on data obtained during a large-scale randomized controlled trial. In 2008-09, Indiana began a statewide rollout of interim assessment systems. Within this rollout, two cohorts of schools were randomly assigned to treatment or control status. Schools assigned to treatment received interim assessment systems in grades K-8 that were aligned with Indiana's academic standards and are in transition to the Common Core, which Indiana has adopted. Natasha Collins and Feng Liu show patterns of teacher use in schools participating in the study through analyses of electronic log files that track teachers’ interactions with the system. The presentation describes the frequency with which teachers logged into the system and took key actions, and explores differences in patterns of use across time and schools.
The third presentation shows how this system use impacts choices about instructional content and pedagogical practice, using data from teacher-completed instructional checklists. Ryan Williams investigates whether and in what ways treatment and control teachers differentiate instruction, and treatment impacts on the content that teachers cover during the school year relative to Indiana’s academic standards. The analyses draw on instructional logs completed throughout the school year by teachers of second and fifth grade reading and/or mathematics. The presentation explores whether interim assessments influence how much, when, or how teachers cover academic standards by comparing the choices of treatment teachers to those of control teachers.
As states and districts continue to transition to interim assessment systems, they will need more information on how teachers access, interpret, and use interim assessment data in their classrooms. These presentations provide a look at some of the ways in which teachers use interim assessments, shedding light into the black box of the systems’ implementation. The findings contribute to an emerging base of empirical evidence on key factors that influence how interim assessments are used.
The discussant, the State Testing Director from the state in which the studies took place, will offer her reaction to the findings of the studies and discuss how those findings might impact the implementation of the interim assessment system in her state.