True progress monitoring is tied to what a student is supposed to be taught based on their individual needs. For example, progress monitoring in special education is tied to the individual education program (IEP) of each student. The plan is set, teachers know what they will teach, and then they test to see if each student is making progress on their personalized plan. Progress monitoring in pull-out intervention programs is based on the intervention plan developed after a diagnostic test is given to the students.
If progress assessments are not implemented with an understanding of true progress monitoring, the move that we are seeing in Florida may just be a continuation of accountability: rather than a painful test once a year, there are three smaller painful processes each year. Am I being a little harsh? I don’t think so. While I actually do believe in accountability testing, I also know that if your goal is a summative test with only a few outcome variables, you don’t have to make the tests as long as they are. If the goal is to assign each student a percent-ranking score in ELA and math, you don’t need a 4-6 hour assessment to do so. Part of this dilemma is caused by the big business of testing. Industry revenues and general inertia keep tests long and reporting slow.
Florida has one part right: break state testing out into small chunks. The next step should be to acknowledge that testing has to also inform instruction because of the sheer number of students who are non-proficient. Wouldn’t it be better to shift the test design from accountability to diagnostic/prescriptive?
By defining progress monitoring correctly, Florida can break the cycle of non-proficiency. \This is a great opportunity to make testing more logical. What about making the first test of the year a K to grade-level computer adaptive diagnostic test? Adapt all the way down to kindergarten if necessary or up to grade-level based on the actual student’s ability which is similar to what is done in special education. Then the mid-year and end-of-year tests can be grade-level progress monitoring tests to meet the needs of the “grade-level standards” focused stakeholders.
Final thought: learning is sequential. Yes, you can leap frog and get some concepts out of order but most learning such as upper grade English Language Arts and mathematics is sequential. Would you ever put a second year French student into a fourth year French class and expect them to learn and catch up without special support? No, you would not. And yet this is what we do to our current students in most general education classes. A few years ago, too many students in New Jersey were failing Algebra I in 9th grade, so some districts pushed Algebra I down to start in 8th grade. How did this make sense?