by Holly E. Bremerkamp, Ed.S.
Technology-based formative assessment is a powerful tool for improving education. However, educators must have the skills to analyze and interpret the data produced. For that reason, a professional development program is essential.
St. Louis Public Schools uses CTB/McGraw-Hill’s Acuity InFormative Assessment™ solution as a fundamental tool for student, classroom, and teacher support. Schools analyze the data to gauge the effectiveness of classroom instruction and plan their professional development programs based on each school’s needs.
“The power of assessment programs can go unrecognized without a professional development program for educators,” said Dr. Cleopatra Figgures, Deputy Superintendent with the St. Louis City Public School District. “To make the most effective use both of assessment data and teachers’ time, professional development is mandatory. It helps assure that educators have the specialized skills necessary to quickly analyze and interpret the data, diagnose student progress, and develop targeted instruction.”
Every St. Louis school has at least one instructional coach, with a district Acuity leader responsible for overall professional development. Bi-weekly meetings with coaches allow the Acuity Leader to respond to specific inquiries from individual schools.
Teachers typically require only a three-hour training session; the sessions are usually offered immediately after a new set of test results has become available. Introductory training covers these topics:
1. Understanding the types of reports.
2. Accessing and interpreting the reports.
3. Comparing specific report information.
4. Assigning Instructional Resources through the Class Assessment Reports.
5. Accessing student user information to allow students to use the Instructional Resources.
For many teachers, the notion of using test results to inform their practice has been intimidating. Acuity data create a bridge between technologically savvy, fledgling teachers and their veteran peers that may be less technologically adept.
Identifying areas of concern
Staff at all levels can use Acuity data to create a mentoring relationship in which a successful leader can counsel their struggling peers to develop and target interventions. Additionally, the data pinpoint challenging areas of instructional practice to determine how professional development may best be focused.
With the use of Acuity, students have developed a healthy academic competition, making the intellectual realm as engaging – and as cool - as sports.
“Supportive professional development can improve the level of conversation among teachers, creating changes in the school culture,” added Dr. Figgures. “Instructional coaches are the key - their role cannot be overstated. Through the coaches, district-level managers connect with school-level staff, forming a network for ongoing professional development. This allows us to maximize the impact of Acuity results, in a manner that expands to all members of each school community.”
Student Acuity diagnostic assessment results have risen over the school year, and students have showed improved retention of knowledge following the summer break. Based on school leadership using assessment data effectively, a low-performing school can be transformed into a data-driven, high performer – one which addresses the unique needs of each child and maximizes the potential of both students and staff alike.
Ms. Bremerkamp was Assessment Manager for St. Louis Public Schools before joining CTB/McGraw-Hill in Summer 2009.