The impact of remote instruction on students has been discussed a great deal during the past ten months, while our nation’s teachers grapple with the complexities of implementing distance learning. As teachers and students engage daily in e-learning, with some schools pivoting back and forth between a hybrid model of remote and in-person schooling, the topic of what it actually means for students to be at “grade level” has been trending. Prior to COVID-19, students were considered to be on “grade level” if they had mastered the skills and concepts at their expected level of difficulty as measured by formal assessments and district/state standards.
I often think about an afternoon many years ago when I took my daughter to our local coffee shop to treat ourselves to a special dessert. She was around four or five years old, and as she stood in front of the enormous display of pies, cakes and puddings, she became overwhelmed and said, “What to choose? There is too much of much!” Too much of much... I found such meaning in those unexpected words and as a result, the phrase has stayed with me throughout the years.
Effective progress monitoring is critical for a successful MTSS/RTI practice. In addition to universal screening assessments--which are given to all students three times a year--students receiving tier 2 or 3 levels of support should be given a progress monitoring assessment every other week or weekly, respectively. These data allow us to have better visibility into whether or not our support is working for a given student, and more importantly, when it is not so that we can adjust the intervention approach quickly to better meet the needs of that student. Assessments used for progress monitoring should be quick, skill (not content) based, and valid and reliable (i.e., having demonstrated to accurately and consistently measure what they are supposed to be evaluating). The Center for Intensive Intervention has a helpful chart that evaluates and compares these qualities for common progress monitoring assessments.
Among many of the COVID-19 and remote learning struggles for educators, understanding students’ assessment data has been one of the most common challenges. Interpreting student scores from universal screeners and benchmarks, and using the data to inform instruction and support, is an essential component of any MTSS framework. Without this information, educators must rely solely on their own observations of students to determine who is keeping up and who is falling behind. And of course, this becomes even more of a struggle when teachers aren’t able to observe and work with their students in person. These types of issues will likely stick around for a while, but as long as we continue to have students learning remotely it is essential to figure out ways to work with the data and information that is available. Below are common concerns that educators have with assessment data from their remote learners and suggestions for how to address them.
There is often a lot of confusion over the use of assessment data in an effective Response to Intervention (RTI) / Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) practices. Largely because… Each assessment type has a different function…
A formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of a student’s status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics (Popham, 2008). To build an effective system, Tier 1 instruction may look different from school to school depending on the predominant needs of their population (e.g., LEP, FRL, Gifted). For example, one school may require intensive ESL support as a part of Tier 1 instruction to meet the 80 percent criterion and another school may require enrichment to ensure progress for high-achieving and/or gifted students as a part of Tier 1 instruction. For those schools that meet the 80 percent criterion, it is still essential to examine the effectiveness of the core and ensure growth of all students.