It’s generally accepted among educators that frequent progress monitoring is vital to establishing a data-driven school culture that keeps academic scores on the rise. So you might be surprised to learn that while I was principal at Cahuenga Elementary School, we took a different approach in assessing our young learners’ reading skills – we decided to test less. Instead, we relied on our reading software’s embedded assessment technology, and as a result, we more than tripled our previous year’s Academic Performance Indicator scores.
What follows is a list of factors we considered as we moved to our “assessment without testing” methodology, as well as a few thought provokers to help you navigate the decision-making process in adding embedded assessment technology to your curriculum mix.
Got Culture? Have you established a culture for embedded assessment? Some educators want to hang on to the security of the traditional “paper and pencil” testing methods. Help your staff understand the benefits that come with the ability to assess student progress in real time. Very soon after implementing Lexia Reading’s Assessment Without Testing™ technology, our teachers saw the advantages of being able to review concise yet comprehensive reports on the rate and accuracy of skills development with very little effort and without interrupting instructional time to administer a test.
Hardware Ready? (Or Not!) To support a robust environment of embedded assessment, be sure your school or district has the correct hardware configuration. That is, focus and maximize time and resources so as to allow independent, adaptive learning to take place on computers or tablets in the lab or in the classroom with the software.
In Alignment or Out? Ask yourself: “Is the embedded assessment solution we’re considering aligned to the summative and formative assessments we currently use?” Our performance data for Lexia Reading correlated to and was highly predictive of outcomes we registered on our district-mandated DIBELS® assessments. Consequently, I obtained a waiver from the district leadership exempting us from deploying the commonly used assessment in favor of the embedded assessments. This saved both money (less testing expenses) and time (less analysis of results).
The View from Here: Predictive vs. Retrospective. With the right embedded assessment technology in play, the program can help educators understand the trajectory of a student’s learning path in real-time, enabling them to provide the prescribed amount of instruction so that students are continually progressing. Nowadays, there is no time to look back at where students have been in order to determine the right instruction for moving them forward.
Teacher-Ready, Set, Go! Teachers must truly embrace this tech-driven approach. They also need an action plan – one that provides the roadmap for differentiated instruction that will increase a student’s likelihood of reaching end-of-year benchmarks.
As many of us face the challenges of preparing for the Common Core State Standards, schools are searching for digitally advanced technology solutions to play a central role in accelerating skill development, assessing that progress in real-time, and delivering personalized instruction to support student outcomes. These programs must not just deliver results—they have to deliver results you can be confident will align to your school and district’s mandated high-stakes tests and, of course, CCSS.
Dr. Chiae Byun-Kitayama is the instructional director for the Education Service Center for East Los Angeles and former principal at the city’s Cahuenga Elementary School