SMARTER BALANCED READY: Big Idea #4

Using the Assessment System Is a Team Effort

Graphic of people holding puzzle pieces and assembling the pieces together.Teamwork is a key factor in successfully using the assessment system. As the following examples show, district staff developed checklists and simplified directions to help demystify the testing manual to help testing coordinators, school administrators, and test administrators understand their roles and responsibilities before, during, and after testing. They developed face-to-face train-the-trainer sessions, video-based step-by-step explanations, and PowerPoint presentations showing how to operate the computer-based test and use the Digital Library.

In most states, logging into the Digital Library is a separate process from logging into the assessment system. This second process has been problematic for teacher involvement. Two districts in California, Kerman Unified and Alhambra Unified, made the implementation of the Digital Library a district-wide focus to help teachers find resources in the formative assessment process—the third component of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. There was a deliberate effort to incorporate the Digital Library in all professional learning events and to make teachers comfortable with the log-in process. Here is what they recommend to other districts:

  • Begin using the Digital Library at the very start of the school year and incorporate the library in all professional development planning.
  • Construct ways for teachers to share great lessons they have utilized in the Digital Library with teachers at different sites.
  • Create more vertical and horizontal planning time to support teacher use of resources in the Digital Library.
  • Provide technical support with passwords and administrative tools by creating instructional screencasts.
  • Provide links to resources in the Digital Library that support units of study or other instructional practices.
  • Ensure that all site leaders and all administrators understand the formative assessment process as defined in the resource module within the Digital Library.

More detailed descriptions of the implementation experiences for Kerman and Alhambra School Districts are in the CAASPP in Action reports on the California Department of Education website.

In Delano Union Elementary School District in Delano, California, some principals felt the testing was “a burden to check off.” The superintendent wanted to change attitudes and build teamwork for the principals to “own” quality assessment implementation so that they would “own” the quality data that followed. The principals suggested the use of a shared Google Doc to keep a log of testing issues and solutions so that the whole group could have access to the latest information to keep everyone moving forward in the process.
Washington districts are supported through monthly meetings facilitated by the Educational Service Districts for district coordinators. Staff is able to share ideas, pros and cons, and helpful hints to foster regional collaboration and the spirit that “We’re all in this together!” Everett and North Thurston Public Schools have sets of tools for school assessment planning to boil down essential knowledge for school administrators. The training PowerPoints, planning templates, and checklists (ZIP) help demystify the process to get ready for testing and point out the purpose of the Training and Practices Test as opportunities for students to become familiar with the test interface features and tools. After testing, they use staff and student surveys (ZIP) to find out what went well and what to improve.
In West Virginia, the state staff has developed two-way communication networks with district test coordinators that help them support school staffs before, during, and after testing. School leaders participate in weekly webinars facilitated by the state education staff and district test coordinators to disseminate the news of the week and answer questions from districts about the assessment system. Every day during testing, the state has a question-and-answer call for districts. District assessment coordinators credit the collaboration and teamwork among the state and districts as a significant benefit that supports everyone to be successful.
Teachers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, school district are trained as testing proctors with a YouTube video to engage them in the testing process and facilitate access to student assessment results. After participating in the 2015 assessments, teachers identified areas of focus to strengthen the curriculum and address gaps in student understanding. The district uses a Comprehensive Curriculum and Assessment Plan (PDF) to update curricular areas on a five-year cycle.