Help your students use their data to build confidence

It’s that time of the year again! Students all over the country are anticipating their state tests. Some are busy sharpening their #2 pencils, while others are charging their laptops to prepare for testing online for the very first time. Whether your students have a standardized test coming up in a few weeks or a few months, using diagnostic data to devise a test prep plan will not only help relieve some test anxiety but also allow you to maximize the remaining instructional time.

In the wake of the recent global pandemic, this year’s test prep season looks slightly different from usual. Test prep generally takes the form of practice questions, daily drills at the start of class, and in some cases, a halting of curriculum altogether for the sake of administering entire packets of daily test questions. While many of these techniques still apply, this year, the shift in “classroom environment” has resulted in instructors switching to virtual alternatives in order to assess students’ depth of knowledge, provide differentiated instruction, and equip students with strategies for online testing. For many, as the end of the school year draws near, this feels like a daunting task–but fear not! There are a few simple “teacher moves” you can make now that will result in some bang-for-your-buck test prep without sacrificing too much of your instructional time.

Using technology and student data in a targeted way

Using online diagnostic assessment data helps create a baseline for understanding how much learning has taken place in specific focus areas. Before a test prep unit, these assessments can also be used to establish trends in student performance across grade levels, which can be an extremely beneficial planning tool.

Check out Let's Go Learn's evidence-based online diagnostic assessment tools!

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Assess your learners

Before going any further, you need to know where your students currently stand. Many districts invest in some sort of diagnostic testing service in order to see educational progress well before the end of the year. But even at this late date, one more formative assessment won’t hurt. There is still plenty of time to iron out any shortcomings students may have, but you won’t know those weaknesses are there if you don’t assess.

Study your data and model how to use it formatively

Instructors usually build concepts sequentially throughout a course. A diagnostic assessment provides an opportunity to determine if students have mastered the concepts they need to be successful. If student data shows gaps in knowledge of important concepts, instructors can immediately take action by providing a targeted refresher/intervention through small-group or individualized instruction and/or through an automated online individualized learning course program, such as Let’s Go Learn Edge AP. This allows you to spend more time on your students’ areas of need, both synchronous and asynchronous. In addition, instructors can prioritize concepts for review and create a targeted test prep plan for whole-group instruction.

Show them the data and set individual goals

Student data is not a secret! Ownership is a huge part of success. Have students examine their own data and set goals that are attainable.

Diagnostic assessment data allow students to break things down into concrete chunks. If students can see the specific concepts they have mastered and the areas in which they still need additional practice, they can set tangible goals and focus their energy on improving their scores. Remember, the advice to “keep practicing–you’ll do better next time” cannot be achieved without defining better.

State Test Prep Diagram

Get parents on board

Every year, there are parents who are unaware tests were administered until hearing about it from their child the day afterward. This is a missed opportunity to leverage a great partner in the test-preparation effort. This year more than ever, parents need to be kept in the loop about scheduling, expectations, and ways in which they can best help their child at home, especially if students have access to online individualized learning. Be sure to share student data with parents, as well as plans for the test prep, in order to help them monitor student practice.

Test prep does not have to dominate your classroom schedule this spring. By utilizing diagnostic assessment data and creative practice testing, teachers can provide students with differentiated support without sacrificing time from the standard curriculum (and have some fun, too!).

Suggested links

Special Education/ Goal Setting Report: https://letsgolearn.quickbase.com/db/be2ry46rn?a=dr&rid=7378

Diagnostics Overview: https://letsgolearn.quickbase.com/db/be2ry46rn?a=dr&rid=7187