Across the nation, there is a question that looms over standardized assessments. Do these year-end measures only provide snapshots of student performance at a single moment? The short answer is yes. Educators can’t see the capabilities of each child or individual needs through just one test. These types of tests weren’t intended for that anyway.
How standardized tests are beneficial
Standardized tests are useful in assessing progress and evaluating curriculum. They allow principals and teachers to see general areas where students are doing well and determine potential places for improvement. But they don’t show a detailed picture of student learning.
One test score or letter grade in isolation provides limited information. A single measure doesn’t show the range of progress. It can’t highlight huge leaps or lost ground in learning. That’s where the idea of examining
academic growth comes into the frame.
What is academic growth?
To put it simply, academic growth is the measure of a student's progress between two points in time, often from one year to the next or between testing sessions with tools like
MAP. But this data is much more valuable than a comparison between scores.
Academic growth brings the paths of student learners into a more distinct focus, allowing teachers to provide the right instructional experiences at the right time for their students. It also brings students into the testing and growth process, allowing the results to become relevant to their learning goals at the moment.
How to measure academic growth
Measuring student growth is not easy! Classroom demands keep piling higher. Adding another test to the list without
a plan to use the data won’t accurately show academic growth. It can create frustrations for teachers and students. Make sure that the focus is clear.
As with any academic program,
teachers are the key. Using the data, teachers are the ones who will design and implement specific plans for their students. There must be buy-in for the valuable class time spent. So, be specific with your purpose for assessing and how teachers are expected to use the collected data. With explicit direction, it can become the navigation system for teachers to identify students who hit learning targets and those who require additional resources in order to meet academic goals.
Students are an integral part of the picture as well, and testing fatigue is real! For the data to be reliable, students need to be motivated and engaged when testing. Make sure they understand the value of the information from their scores. Encourage them to develop a growth mindset and a willingness to take academic risks. Teachers and students should work together with the data to set goals and reflect on progress. A focus on academic growth offers the opportunity for true teamwork!
approaches and models are available to measure academic growth. But, what should be considered when choosing assessments?
With the ultimate goal of creating lifelong learners in mind, shifting the focus to academic growth makes sense. Thoughtful use of accurate and fair assessments can bring actionable data for a complete picture of learning. And, that’s what measuring academic progress is all about.