Strategies for Improving the Process of Educational
Assessment. ERIC Digest.
by Matter, M. Kevin
Test administration is an essential part of the educational assessment
process, yet it often does not receive enough attention. Because teachers
and principals are concerned with many components of the testing process,
it is important for the assessment office to focus attention on test administration.
This digest presents seven strategies that the assessment director may
employ to improve test administration practices. These strategies highlight
clear communication, the responsibility of the Building Test Coordinator,
and rewarding and reinforcing quality. The administration process from
school staff's perspective and the needs of the assessment office are both
Parents and teachers rarely learn how results are used to improve curriculum,
instruction, or individual student learning plans. Assessment offices and
school districts have a responsibility to provide them with that information.
Develop a year-long communication plan for school staffs, parents, and
the community. It is important for everyone affected by the assessment
process to be continually informed. They should know what tests are being
administered, the purpose of the tests, what the past results show, and
how the current results are used to improve student performance.
Tailor the information to fit the needs of the audience. Providing teachers
and principals with test administration checklists, manuals, and reports
to meet the assessment office needs for standardization and efficiency
is not enough. They should be provided with information that meets their
needs as customers of the test: how will the test impact their students,
curriculum, and district? Briefly communicating to them the assessment
impact reinforces the teamwork that is needed to ensure an assessment system
that is both used and useful.
DESIGNATE A BUILDING TEST COORDINATOR
The key to both administration and processing quality is a team which
includes a Building Test Coordinator at each school. This person is responsible
for administering test materials, overseeing the test administration process,
and providing the assessment office with quality materials. The Building
Test Coordinator works as a liaison between the assessment office and the
Appoint qualified staff to assist the Building Test Coordinator with
materials and with administration and scoring issues. This additional help
will free the Building Test Coordinator to maintain ongoing communication
with the assessment office much more easily. Have someone with a more flexible
schedule assume responsibility for issuing materials. Possible choices
for this position are the clerical staff, a teacher assistant, or a counselor.
The administrative/scoring role may be filled by either a teacher or an
administrator, as long as the person is knowledgeable about or will be
trained in the technical and instructional issues of assessment.
Do not use the principal as Building Test Coordinator. Although it is
important that the principal remain informed and involved in the assessment
process especially regarding deadlines and requirements--the best role
for the principal is to support the Building Test Coordinator by providing
extra help and resources.
MEET WITH ALL BUILDING TEST COORDINATORS
Require all Building Test Coordinators to attend a brief overview meeting
with the assessment staff. To keep the Building Test Coordinator informed,
regularly share what works in the school or district, such as providing
extra clerical time before and after testing days.
Do not send test materials through the mail. Provide all test materials
at the meeting (except test booklets). Walk through all expectations (coordinator
and teacher checklists, materials list, materials check-out sheet, administration
directions) at the meeting.
Make the Building Test Coordinator personally responsible for the test
materials. Before testing begins, communicate that the Building Test Coordinator
must ensure that the materials provided meet the acceptable standards.
Require the Building Test Coordinator to personally deliver the answer
sheets after the testing (or arrange area "drop-off" locations around your
district). Schedule a time for check in.
Develop a process to inspect the test result materials. Whenever possible,
provide the Building Test Coordinator with options for the school (e.g.,
hiring part-time staff to prepare the completed materials). Explain that
unacceptable materials will either be returned to the school, or schools
will be charged for processing time. Use area check-in locations throughout
the district, as needed.
Stress quality of test result materials. Explain the consequences of
poor quality of materials returned by the Building Test Coordinator. Also
emphasize the consequence of a particularly long turnaround time. Provide
examples of what "good materials" look like (answer sheets completed correctly,
header sheets completed, etc.). Explain that good input at the teacher/school
level can alleviate hours of time at the assessment staff level.
DESIGN PROCESSES TO REWARD QUALITY
Recognize a job well done. Find out what is rewarding to the Building
Test Coordinator and do that! Examples of inexpensive tokens of appreciation
include: - Gift certificates from a book store - Certificates of appreciation
- Letters of thanks to supervisors - Thank You party - Feedback on materials
Delaying the reports or results from one testing location because of
problems with other teachers or schools "punishes" high quality work. If
feedback deadlines are observed, schools will be quickly rewarded for their
USE "QUALITY" TECHNIQUES
Use an effective system of deadline dates. Good procedures include several
"waves" of processing and reporting, with deadline dates determined by
the time that is needed to properly collect and prepare materials for delivery
to the testing office. Test coordinators will know the deadlines and understand
the relationship between the date and quality of how materials were submitted
for processing and the date the results are received.
Remember the Golden Rule. Assessment offices may be viewed by teachers
and principals as "the enemy" if practices involve high stakes accountability
and unfair treatment. To counteract these perceptions, assessment processes
must be developed that involve the "user/customer" throughout the entire
process, not just at the end.
The assessment office must design goals, processes, and procedures with
the following in mind: - Information: All information that is provided
must be timely and understandable. Materials should meet the needs and
expectations of the user. - Responsiveness: Assessment staff must be accessible
at times that are conducive to the culture of the school and the time demands
placed on the teacher, the principals, and other staff. - Input: Ask for
feedback whenever possible, particularly when the user is qualified to
comment on the quality of the material. Act on this feedback, making the
necessary improvements. - Teamwork: Teachers, principals, parents, and
assessment offices must work together. Communicate the idea that performance
at one school affects other schools in the district. - Rapid turnaround:
Reward schools by providing rapid processing and reporting of results.
Late is almost identical to never with assessment results. - Reports: Spend
the additional time and resources necessary to customize reports for each
audience. The payoff for reports that are understandable is actual use
of the results. - Useful and usable information: Create staff development
and training for teachers, principals, school staff, and parents that is
focused on assessment results they need and value. - High standards: Demonstrate
that the high standards that apply to others apply to the assessment office
processes and procedures as well. Take prompt action to rectify identified
CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT IN PROCESSES
Efforts to improve administration, processing, and reporting take several
years. Plan for incremental steps to change behavior by rewarding and reinforcing
quality results. Keep a log of good practice ideas; use this to reduce
variation and problems when using a particular process. Be positive, but
expect new problems to occur even as others are reduced.
Involve the entire assessment staff in the planning process, as well
as key representatives from the various internal and external audiences.
Allow assessment offices to be seen as "a part of," rather than "apart
from" the schools and teachers. Consider the point of view of all involved
in the assessment process.
Communicate continuously with assessment staff, building administrators,
central office, and as much as possible with the test coordinators and
teachers. Convince them of the benefits of improvements in the entire assessment
process more usable information, at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
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