How to have assessment without testing—and without losing valuable instructional time

As the school year progressed, we continued to link the insight from the student performance data gathered while students were working in the program to student-specific action plans to inform individualize instruction. We now had an actionable strategy for improved student outcomes in reading, without stopping to administer a test.

From impressions to impact: A new culture of reading instruction

In my opinion, one of the key differentiators was our decision to train our teaching assistants to maximize the value of the data by producing individual class and grade-level reports as an integral part of every grade-level meeting. We also provided workshops for our parents so they, too, could understand what the data reflected about their child’s reading proficiency. Everyone—teachers and parents alike—could see the progress we were making and exactly what we were doing to address any reading skill deficiencies.

Districts like Los Angeles Unified are making huge investments in assessments, but the return depends not merely on the quality of the test but often on what the teachers are able to yield from the data. In our case, we took the guesswork out by investing in a solution that has become an essential component of our reading curriculum.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of our three-year journey: Teachers now can focus the vast majority of their time on teaching—using technology-driven performance data to see which students have hit an obstacle, and providing highly targeted instruction to help them progress.

Although the concept of “test less, teach more” is within educators’ grasp, it requires school districts to make a significant leap from timeworn traditions that have been ingrained in our educational system for decades. We have made that move, and our students are excelling because of it.

Dr. Chiae Byun-Kitayama is the instructional director for the Educational Service Center in East Los Angeles. She’s the former principal at the city’s Cahuenga Elementary School.

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