Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with educators nationwide about the challenges they've faced this year and the inequities that were recently uncovered in K–12 education.
As a former educator and principal, these are issues that I've known about for most of my career, and if we all learned one thing from the recent paradigm shift to online learning, it’s that providing equitable access to all students is not achieved by simply handing them a device or access to WiFi.
True equity is achieved when students can learn at their own pace and educators have the tools and instructional methods to support personalized learning—whether learning happens face to face or from afar. To achieve this, educators must have access to tools that allow students to demonstrate what they know in multiple ways.
With the help of the CARES Act, edu leaders have had the opportunity to rethink school as it is today and adopt platforms that can support the future of education, while also mitigating the loss of learning from earlier this year.
An effective assessment management system allows educators to conduct ongoing, frequent check-ins with students to gain insight into what they know and adjust instruction to meet their individual needs. This contrast of frequently assessing students for continued learning will require specific capabilities to ensure a) teachers are receiving data efficiently and b) students have the flexibility they need to demonstrate learning wherever they're learning from.
To guide you on your quest for the right assessment tool, I’ve identified what I consider to be five AMS (assessment management system) non-negotiables that will support teaching and learning however you're assessing this fall.
1 | INSTANT & ACTIONABLE DATA
Sorting through data from a variety of tools often lengthens the feedback loop, making it difficult for teachers to use the data they collect to guide their instruction. An assessment platform should allow teachers to view student data in an intuitive, visual way. This facilitates in-the-moment decisions that will drive learning forward and help teachers:
- Target students for interventions on one or more standards.
- Identify which standards should be revisited for the entire class.
- Determine the standards that have been mastered by all students.
2 | POWERHOUSE COLLABORATION TOOLS
As the achievement gap continues to widen as a result of the nationwide remote-learning transition, it's essential to ensure all teachers have equitable access to the standards-aligned resources they need to help students get where they need to be. Your AMS should have teacher-centric tools that offer:
- Integrated reporting features to compare standards-based data.
- Easy-to-use tools for sharing and discovering standards-aligned resources and assessments.
- Integrated authoring tools for creating both simple and technology-enhanced items for common formative assessments.
3 | FLEXIBLE ASSESSMENT OPTIONS
One size does not fit all when it comes to assessing students. As school and district leaders seek to provide equitable access across all learning channels, tech tools must be flexible and provide multiple modalities for students to demonstrate what they know. Make sure your AMS supports the following assessment formats:
- Online: An intuitive experience for students to complete their formative or interim assessments using any desktop, laptop, or mobile device through a variety of methods.
- Scanning / Paper and Pencil: An easy process to print plain-paper bubble sheets that are quickly scored with instant-grading technology using a webcam/document camera or mobile device.
- Performance-Based: The ability to score a variety of performance-based and rubric-based assessments with an intuitive integrated grader.
- Evidence-Based: Laptop, tablet, and mobile tools to quickly add assessment data by using a rubric, scanning paper bubble sheets, capturing performance-based evidence of learning, or entering mastery scores from any device.
4 | BENCHMARK & CURRICULUM-MAPPING TOOLS
When teachers and administrators have the ability to make valuable data connections between formative and benchmark assessments, they'll be better equipped to make timely adjustments to instruction that address their school's or district's current challenges.. To keep all stakeholders on the same page, your AMS should include the following functionalities:
- A curriculum mapping tool to help teachers deliver vetted content at an appropriate scope and sequence across the district.
- Benchmarking capabilities to help you keep a pulse on student performance throughout the year.
5 | SCALABLE, INTEROPERABLE, & SECURE
More than anything, you need an AMS you can count on. An AMS should be able to grow with you and support you as you switch between in-person, blended, and remote learning, and it shouldn’t interfere with other tools that your teachers are required to use on a daily basis. As you evaluate AMS vendors, be sure to ask these three questions:
- Does the AMS vendor guarantee an uptime of 99.9%, and have they maintained that uptime over the past three years?
- Are there surcharges for connecting to an SIS or LMS by another vendor?
- Does the vendor strictly adhere to both FERPA and COPPA regulations?
To learn more about these five functionalities, and how they can support student growth, download our AMS Buyer’s Guide.