SMARTER BALANCED READY: Big Idea #1

Students Benefit from Taking Interim Assessments

A teacher helps students working on computers.

Kiki Korakis’ 4th-grade class at Robert Sanders Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., takes a Smarter Balanced practice test, March 26, 2014. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

In addition to the instructional benefits to teachers of the Interim Assessment Blocks (IABs), students benefit in many ways from taking interim assessments during the school year. Students were exposed to the testing platform and the accessibility and accommodations resources, and they were able to gain an appreciation for the depth of the questions. Most districts also heard from students that the assessment was more interesting and that they liked using the computer technology.

Although these benefits are possible with the Smarter Balanced Practice Test, the usefulness of IABs extends further. Teachers used data from interim assessments to talk to students about the next steps in their own learning.

The following sections describe specific examples of how students benefited from taking interim assessments.

Shana Hosteller, a 4th grade teacher in Lakeland School District, Idaho, found that the students felt better prepared for the summative assessment after engaging extensively in writing using sources and citations while taking the IABs and during classroom instruction. For example, she used Socratic seminars to let students discuss a topic without teacher interruption. In math, students spent considerable time writing justifications for their answers to math problems.
In Pocatello/Chubbuck School District, Idaho, a majority of elementary grade teachers voluntarily administered interim assessments in 2015–16 after a pilot program showed positive results. In addition, the district purchased more technology equipment and added curriculum requirements in keyboarding to help students improve their ability to type long essay responses. Student performance on the 2016 summative assessment improved at all grade levels in both content areas and exceeded the state averages in all areas.
In 2015, in Norwich, Connecticut public schools, two schools held a “cognitive lab” after students took the interim assessments to ask individual students questions about what they were thinking when responding to questions and whether the technology hampered them. The students clarified that the wording of the question caused them to pause, but the technology was not an issue. This anecdotal information was positive feedback for the district’s technology training program that starts in 2nd grade with iPad and Chromebooks.

The district’s technology training program includes training students to care for the devices—keeping them clean, wiping the keyboards, and not stacking devices. They learn about charging and carrying devices and how to report issues with an online ticket system. When students enter a classroom, they identify the strength of the wireless access point, and they help peers log on to devices using the “hands-in-pockets” philosophy of talking peers through the process instead of doing it for them.