How to use alternative assessments in the classroom

Did you know that a 5th grade teacher is expected to guide students to mastery of 200 standards each year? Given a typical school year of 180 days, that’s 1.1 standards a day! Of course, standards don’t exactly work like that. You can certainly teach more than one standard a day, but that doesn’t give you time to explore them, unpack them, and revisit them, which is where learning and mastery actually happen. That’s a lot of content to cover, and not much time to do it in.

But this is only the beginning. Not all standards can be treated equally. Some have limited application and require lower levels of critical thinking; others are foundational to future learning and broadly applicable. So, how do we even begin to tackle this mess? How can teachers determine their power standards and assess student mastery in a way that’s both fun and effective?

One way to begin is by utilizing a scoring system to single out the standards that align to the chief priorities in your classroom. Consider implementing the following categories and grading them on a scale of 1–5: …Read More

Curriculum Associates Names 31 Exemplar Teachers to Its 2023 Class of Extraordinary Educators™

NORTH BILLERICA, Mass.—Curriculum Associates recently named its 2023 class of Extraordinary Educators, an annual program that celebrates and connects exemplar teachers in Grades K–8 from around the country. Representing 25 different states, this year’s 31 selected teachers all exhibit best-in-class use of i-Ready, i-Ready Classroom Mathematics, and/or Ready, illustrate growth and achievement via formal assessments, demonstrate innovation and engagement practices for students, are evangelists for high expectations and student achievement, are champions of equity, and have been teaching for at least two years.

“Teachers are true rockstars,” said Emily McCann, vice president of educator community at Curriculum Associates. “This year’s Extraordinary Educators are no exception – they were chosen from hundreds of nominations and represent the best of the best. We are happy to recognize and celebrate these educators’ amazing work and achievements, as well as provide them with ongoing professional learning and networking opportunities to help them continue to grow their craft.”

With nearly 340 years of combined teaching experience, this year’s class of Extraordinary Educators includes classroom teachers, special education teachers, and instructional specialists. All of the educators were ultimately selected by an advisory board featuring leaders from Curriculum Associates, previously inducted Extraordinary Educators, and a college student pursuing a degree in urban education.…Read More

Risk assessments are awful, but necessary

Between 2021 and 2022, 56 percent of K-12 education organizations were hit by ransomware, a nearly 25 percent increase from the previous year. That’s a staggering number, and a clear indication that threats against schools are only getting worse.

While risk assessments are one of the best things a K-12 school can do to understand their cybersecurity vulnerabilities in order to be strategic about how to protect against them, this critical tool is often avoided. After all, they can be absolutely awful to perform, taking up valuable time, involving confusing jargon and often not even seeming to solve any problems.

If this sounds familiar, there’s some good news. Yes, risk assessments are far from sunshine and roses. But you can get through them with less friction and pain, and ultimately improve your security posture, if you adhere to the following guidelines.…Read More

Foundational literacy is key to reversing post-COVID reading declines

Our first look at long-term trends in reading and math assessments since the pandemic began affirm what many education professionals were anticipating. 

The National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” recently issued its signature report, which revealed that students assessed during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced significant declines in both mathematics and reading. NAEP’s 2022 data shows that “average scores at both grades [eighth and fourth] were not significantly different in comparison to the first reading assessment [20 years prior] in 1992.”

And while reading score declines as measured by various student assessments during COVID-19 are alarming, they are not unexpected given the profound obstacles students have faced.…Read More

4 blended learning strategies for better student engagement

A 2019 Gallup study that included 128 schools and more than 110,000 students found that student engagement and hope were significantly positively related to student academic achievement progress in math, reading, and all subjects combined.

This is why it’s even more concerning that we continue to see student performance decline, with the National Assessments of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, reporting that students in the U.S. had the largest average reading score decline since 1990, and the first ever score decline in math in 2022.

Knowing that many students are struggling with learning setbacks can feel overwhelming, but we’re hoping we can help you look at these scores as an opportunity to implement new instructional strategies that engage students, and therefore, help mitigate learning loss.…Read More

Riverside Insights Wins Excellence in Equity Award for Accessibility Features

ITASCA, Ill. – Riverside Insights®, a leading developer of research-based assessments and analytics, today announced that it won Best Accessibility Solution in the inaugural Excellence in Equity Awards program presented by the American Consortium for Equity in Education. The Riverside Insights’ solutions were selected because they are designed to serve learners of all ability levels – from those with physical or cognitive difficulties to gifted students seeking to challenge themselves . All of the Riverside Insights products are designed to maximize accessibility for all learners, including assessments with the options of large print, audio directions and braille, as well as creating versions to accommodate English learners.

“Equity is foundational to our mission of elevating the potential of all learners,” said Dr. Sarah Holman, a former special education administrator and bilingual evaluator who now serves as a marketing director for Riverside Insights. “We live out our commitment through our people, our processes, our products and our professional development to ensure each learner has the chance to lean into their strengths.” 

“This category is particularly meaningful to us. Across our portfolio, accessibility, translation, adaptation, as well as local, regional and national norming, are core tenants of our product development roadmap as we seek to ensure that teachers, learners, families and communities are not left behind,” said Anna Houseman, former elementary school teacher and assessment director, who now serves as a product director for Riverside Insights. …Read More

Learning Without Tears Showcases Assessments to Guide Instruction for Get Set for School®

Washington, DC Showcasing as part of its new literacy solution at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) annual conference,   Learning Without Tears’ acclaimed Early Childhood curriculum, Get Set for School® (GSS), now includes Assessments to Guide Instruction (AGI), an addition to the complete program that provides greater value and more complete foundational learning. This new assessment tool allows educators to easily assess, track, and remediate student performance over the course of the school year.  With AGI, teachers can easily provide updates and suggestions to families, building strong school-to-home connections, an important element of young learners’ success. 

“Learning Without Tears has built a powerful literacy solution, based on the success we have had in early childhood education for more than 40 years,” said Terry Nealon, CEO of Learning Without Tears. “Get Set for School is a central component of that literacy expertise and is already being used by thousands of schools across the country for kindergarten-readiness. Expanding GSS to include Assessments to Guide Instruction increases the impact LWT’s literacy solution can have on very young learners. With a clear, individual assessment of what their students need at this early point in their education, teachers can create a lifelong learner and lover of reading, by understanding and then meeting students where they are.” 

The award-winning Get Set for School complete curriculum is divided into six learning areas that seamlessly create a better academic outcome for pre-K students. Students are taught developmentally, learning the easiest skills first, then building on that knowledge as learning progresses. Multi-sensory activities provide hands-on learning and play-based opportunities for students to learn.   …Read More

Riverside Insights Continues to Lead Innovation in Assessments for English Learners

ITASCA, Ill. – Riverside Insights®, a leading developer of research-based assessments and analytics, today announced the launch of the Battelle Developmental Inventory, Third Edition (BDI-3) in Spanish. This early childhood solution continues Riverside’s strong tradition of developing leading assessments to support deeper understanding of English learners (EL), who are often over- or under-identified for special learning accommodations.

“We are on a mission to elevate the potential of every learner by helping evaluators and educators understand each student’s aptitude, skills and strengths,” said Dr. Sarah Holman, a former EL teacher and bilingual evaluator who now serves as a director for Riverside Insights. “Given the unique and often overlooked challenges of English learners, Riverside Insights has focused on providing multi-dimensional, research-backed insights that help evaluators and educators differentiate between language/exposure learning barriers and academic/cognitive learning barriers to help meet students’ personalized needs.”

Through its product development and design process, Riverside Insights aims to ensure that assessments are accessible to diverse learners, especially those for whom English is not their native language. Riverside Insights offers a comprehensive suite of solutions that have powerful tools to help support English learners in their native language.…Read More

What matters most for our special education teachers?

We all know the problem. There is a frightening shortage of special education teachers and it’s getting worse. Even prior to the pandemic, 98 percent of school districts and 49 states reported that they had a shortage and a recent RAND report found that six months into the pandemic over one-third of school leaders were experiencing special education teacher vacancies.

Compounding the problem, the number of students receiving special education services is predicted to increase sharply as students who are overdue for evaluations seek help and others who have fallen behind during COVID will need additional assessments and revised services. Increases in diagnoses, particular in children diagnosed with autism, are also having an impact. Today 1 in every 44 children in the US have autism and students with autism now account for 11 percent of all students in special education, more than double the rate of a decade ago.

The Special Education Legislative Summit Council of Administrators of Special Education has called for “all hands on deck” in addressing the shortage. Speakers at the Summit highlighted three crucial areas that need to be addressed: competitive pay, stronger recruitment, and more effective professional development. But what does effective PD look like for special educators? Is it different from what other teachers need? What works? What kind? How much? And, most importantly, what types of PD will support these educators and keep them from leaving the profession?  …Read More