online assessments

9 steps to better online assessments

As online assessments increase across the nation, tools and guides are helping administrators navigate the sometimes-confusing assessment landscape.

A new tool helps district leaders plan and create online assessments in the wake of their growing popularity.

The Online Assessment Planning Tool, supported by the Learning First Alliance, is accompanied by a report summarizing the best practices in online assessments.

The new report, which comes from CoSN, provides an update on the state of online assessments. It explains the different approaches taken by the national assessment consortia, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, and also discusses the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act on technology and online assessments.

Online assessments offer a number of direct benefits to different stakeholder groups, according to the report.

(Next page: Benefits to stakeholders; steps to best practices)

The report offers an in-depth look at how different groups are impacted:

  • Administrators: They create collaboration among district departments; deliver improved security models for assessments and student data; offer the ability to move beyond percentage of student proficiency to data that helps students learn
  • Teachers: Provide test results quickly to inform instruction and personalize learning
  • Students: Increase student engagement; offer the ability to use real-world tools
  • Superintendents: Accurately reflect school and district performance against standards; provide tools to quickly and easily disaggregate and interpret test data; provide the data needed to support students, teachers and principals

“Online assessments are no longer the exception – they are commonplace in districts today. With this innovative shift, however, come promising opportunities that can further enrich learning environments,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “These new resources are important for school leaders to ensure they put the right pieces in place to use online assessments effectively and powerfully.

The report offers nine key recommendations for assessment best practices:
1. Create a cross-functional strategic planning team
2. Secure funding sources for modern learning environments
3. Embed technology in instructional practice
4. Invest in robust and ongoing professional development for teachers, administrators, and technical staff
5. Build out a robust infrastructure
6. Select devices meeting instructional needs and assessment consortia requirements
7. Communicate—a lot
8. Pay attention to logistics
9. Prepare to use the assessment data effectively

The assessment tool draws from best practices that have emerged after districts around the country successfully moved to digital instructional materials, classroom assessments, and data that enables personalized learning.

The tool features four components. A self-reporting survey focuses on eight key elements of online assessment readiness, including strategic planning and technology infrastructure. Survey results help district leaders map strategies to build an effective online assessment program. Readiness level descriptions give an overview of the progressive stages of evolving online assessment practice. Planning worksheets are designed to help districts and schools identify a path to complete online assessment readiness.

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Laura Ascione

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