by Dana Bockman, DCSD Facilitator of Assessment and Instruction
With the goal of making instructional decisions, a teacher’s focus should be on the data provided through classroom work, observations, unit assessments, performance tasks, and formative assessment. Why, then, do we need standardized test data? What’s the purpose if it does not inform day-to-day decisions in the classroom?
The Usefulness of the Standardized Test (“Big Picture Data,” as I like to call it)
1. For state reporting and district goal area assessment.Often standardized tests are given partly as a way for the state to measure a district’s achievement. State required goals are written based on the outcome of a standardized test.
2. Allows us to see how the District performs over time. Teachers are primarily focused on the performance of their classes. But the state, the school board, the public, and administration use standardized tests to evaluate the performance of our entire district and by building. We look for trends, which lead us to question gaps that may exist in specific areas.
3. A data point in determining entitlement and placement. Multiple years of multiple data points give reason for placement in specific classes, as well as entitlement for ELP or special education. We cannot place a student in a program or class based on a single data point. We need multiple forms of evidence to make the right call.
4. A red flag indicating a need for a closer look. If a student performs poorly on a standardized test, it gives teachers reason to look more closely at where exactly the student is struggling. It's like going to the doctor if you are not feeling well. The doctor will run tests to determine what the real ailment is. A low standardized test score simply gives reason for concern, but not the actual diagnosis.
5. To solidify our understanding of individual student needs. Multiple data points help to solidify our knowledge about student abilities and needs and guide us to make the best decisions for how to provide students the instruction they need. Comparing several data points assures teachers will make informed judgements and instructional decisions by identifying trends and anomalies.
“The problem with data is that it says a lot, but it also says nothing. ‘Big data’ is terrific, but it’s usually thin….”- Sendhil Mullainathan. Standardized testing has a place and purpose in education, but it is not a daily focus for our instructional decisions.
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