5 tips for managing low-tech assessment with high-tech tools

An assessment expert shares best practices for districts looking to streamline online test management

While most large-scale assessments are moving toward online delivery, many still integrate a traditional pencil-and-paper element. In today’s digital world, paper may seem comparatively low tech, but there are high-tech tools available to help manage all that paper. Here are five ways to help your paper assessment systems run more efficiently by using an online test-management platform.

1. Use a pre-identification (Pre-ID) system. Pre-ID systems improve the accuracy of student data collected during testing and make distributing test materials more efficient. Use student data from the district’s student information system to prepare a Pre-ID data file and supply it to your testing vendor or printer. The assessment vendor will print the student-identifying data on the answer sheets or prepare barcode labels for the answer sheets.

Hand-bubbling student data onto scannable answer documents is error-prone. Because this information is used to identify student test results and is sometimes merged with existing data sets, accuracy is critically important. Occasionally hand-bubbling data on a document is necessary, but using Pre-ID for the bulk of your students will greatly improve accuracy.

To make the job of distributing test materials prior to testing easier, be sure to identify how you want the preprinted answer sheets or labels sorted. Generally, testing vendors are flexible in providing sorting options, such as by school, grade, and alphabetically by last name. Identifying your desired sort order means your answer sheets or labels will be packaged ready for distribution, and supplying your teachers with their test materials should be quick and easy.

(Next page: More ways to streamline assessments)

2. Use online materials-ordering and tracking systems. An online materials-ordering and shipment-tracking system saves time in managing the logistics of obtaining, storing, inventorying, distributing, and collecting test materials.

Online materials-ordering platforms—similar to online shopping carts—allow teachers or administrators to indicate the quantities of each type of test material they need. As some assessments have hundreds of test-material options across different grade levels, managing materials needs across multiple schools can be challenging. Online ordering platforms keep options and orders clear and organized.

After testing, whether through a common carrier or inter-district request, school and district coordinators can use the platform to request a pickup of completed test materials. Assessment vendors or the district office can use the shipment request data to communicate to shippers to retrieve the materials, pre-pay the shipping fees, and/or identify and anticipate shipments coming into the central warehouse for processing.

3. Digitize student responses. Since the 1970s, assessment vendors and districts have scanned multiple-choice tests for automated scoring. In the last 10 to 15 years, imaging technology has improved to allow scanning of tests that include constructed-response items. Online platforms can store high-quality images of student work and facilitate online reading of student writing. Digitized student-assessment responses can be stored alongside other student work in online portfolios or electronic cumulative folders that stay with students across grade levels.

4. Score online. Online platforms can electronically distribute digitized student responses to trained readers for online scoring. Features and benefits of an online scoring platform include:

• Electronically distributing student work to scorers, removing the need to shuffle papers to physical scoring sites.

• Anonymizing student work so readers don’t know whose papers they are scoring.

• Randomizing papers so teachers don’t always score their own students’ work.

• Electronically distributing training papers and quizzes to train readers to score.

• Throughout the scoring process, presenting “calibration papers” with known scores to test readers on their ability to score against the rubric, and lock scoring for readers who do not meet calibration standards.

• Selecting papers to be double- or triple-scored.

• Concealing the first reader’s score to prevent bias in the second reader’s score.

• Routing student responses that get two different scores (e.g., non-adjacent scores such as a “1” and a “3”) to a scoring expert for review.

• Reporting results immediately after scoring.

• Providing statistics on reader scoring rates, remaining papers to score, reader scoring reliability, and other data collected in the scoring process.

5. Post score reports and data files online. Accessibility to data is one key to getting teachers and others to use it. Online reporting platforms offer a place for easy storage and retrieval of student-assessment data and reports. Reports can take the form of dynamically filtered and sorted on-screen reports, PDF files, or downloadable student data files in formats easily importable to student information systems. Keeping a record of test results over time and across thousands of students can be made simple using an online reporting platform.

An ideal online management platform integrates all of these management functions. It takes some initial setup but provides big advantages over lower-tech management systems and can contribute to a more successful assessment program.

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