Leveraging Education Assessment Systems to Improve Schools and Teaching
New tech and software apps are also changing the nature and utilization of assessments in innumerable ways, given that digital-assessment systems usually offer an array of features that traditional paper-based tests and assignments cannot. For instance, online-assessment systems may let learners log in and take assessments during the out-of-class time, or they may make performance results available to learners and educators immediately after an assessment has been finished (historically, it might have taken hours, days, or weeks for educators to review, score, and grade all assessments for a class).
Also, digital and online assessments usually include features, or “analytics,” that give educators more detailed information about learner performance. For instance, educators may see how long it took learners to answer particular questions or how many times a learner failed to answer a question correctly before getting the right answer.
Some advocates of digital and online assessments tend to argue that such systems, if used properly, could help educators “personalize” instruction. Because many digital and online systems can provide far more detailed information about the educational performance of learners, educators can utilize this information to modify educational programs, learning experiences, teaching approaches, and educational-support strategies in ways that address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of personal learners.
Many large-scale standardized tests are now administered online. However, states usually let learners take paper-based tests if computers are unavailable, if learners prefer the paper-based option, or if learners don’t have the tech skills and digital literacy required to perform well on an online exam.
Since assessments come in so many forms and serve so many diverse functions, a thorough discussion of the purpose and utility of assessments could fill a lengthy book. The following descriptions provide an illustrative overview of a few of the significant ways in which assessments—especially assessment data—are used in an attempt to improve schools and teaching:
Teacher evaluation and compensation: In recent years, a rising number of elected officials, policymakers, and education reformers have argued that the best way to improve educational results is to ensure that learners have efficient educators and that one way to ensure efficient teaching is to assess and pat educators, at least in part, based on the test scores their learners achieve. By basing an educator’s income and job security on assessment results, the reasoning goes, administrators can find and reward high-performing educators or take steps to either help low-performing educators improve or remove them from schools.
Growing political pressure, coupled with federal grant’ promises prompted many states to utilize learner test results in educator evaluations. This controversial and contentious reform strategy generally requires complicated statistical strategies—known as value-added measures or growth measures—to decide how much of a positive or negative effect personal educators have on their learners’ educational achievement, based primarily on learner assessment results.
Instructional improvement: Assessment results are used as a mechanism for improving teaching quality and learner achievement. Since assessments are designed to measure the acquisition of specific knowledge or skills, an assessment’s design can decide or influence what gets taught in the class. Formative assessments, for example, give educators in-process feedback on learner learning, which can help them make teaching modifications during the teaching process, instead of having to wait until the end of a unit or course to find out how well learners are learning the content. Standards-based assessments encourage educators to teach similar content and assess learner performance in more consistent, reliable, or comparable ways.
Learning-needs identification: Educators utilize a wide range of assessments and assessment methods to find specific learner learning needs, diagnose learning disorders (such as autism, dyslexia, or nonverbal learning disorders), assess language ability, or decide eligibility educational services. In the last decade, the early identification of specialized learning needs and disorders, and the proactive provision of educational support services to learners, has been a significant focus of numerous educational reform strategies. For a related discussion, see educational support.
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