Assessment Tests Provide Feedback For Elementary Teachers and Parents

n Dr. Sandra Edwin's experience, conventional standardized tests are filled with limitations. The principal of Parkview Elementary in Chula Vista, Calif., feels that these tests do not provide the kind of feedback that leads to better student performance. They tend to be graded weeks or months after being administered and simply compare the scores of groups of students -- providing few specifics on individual performance.

It was this dissatisfaction with "norm-referenced" tests that led her to volunteer Parkview as a beta-test site for Tudor Publishing Company's computer-adaptive assessment software, Grade Level Evaluation (GLE).

Reasons for the partnership between Parkview and San Diego, Calif.-based Tudor Publishing were many. "Our interest was initially sparked because we could use our school's existing hardware to administer a computerized criterion-based reference test," Edwin recalls. Parkview would be able to use its own computers since GLE runs on both DOS and Macintosh platforms.

Also, it was soon clear that very little training was required to get started with GLE. As Edwin explains, "You don't have to be computer literate to run the test; you just shove the disk in and the kids take it from there."

Variety of Reports

Edwin had anticipated GLE's ability to score tests instantly, but was surprised by the evaluation's comprehensiveness; tests incorporate basic computational and critical-thinking skills.

Numerous reports help instructors and administrators track student performance. Specific skills that have or have not been mastered by each student are identified in an Effective Skills Mastery Report and an Actual Skills Mastery Report.

At the individual level, the Parent Report informs parents of their child's skill masteries and deficiencies and also prepares an easy-to-follow tutorial for the parents to use at home. Remarks Edwin, "The teacher merely presses a button and the complete Parent Report, with tutorials, appears. The positive response from the parents has been fantastic. My staff saves time preparing for parent conferences as well."

The fact that the Parent Report is available in Spanish as well as English was particularly beneficial to Parkview, whose student population is 46% Hispanic.

The Grouping of Students by Skills Not Mastered Report allows children who need to re-learn a particular skill to be quickly identified and regrouped for remedial teaching. Just as important, students who have mastered a given skill can move on, rather than sitting through repetitive lessons. "And if the test result is less than acceptable for most of the kids," Edwin notes, "this sends a message to the teacher that he or she needs to re-teach that topic."

The completeness and immediacy of the feedback also impressed her. According to the principal, "Because GLE grades exams on the spot, the teachers were able to regroup kids for re-learning this year, rather than having to waste months of classroom time teaching the wrong-level skills."

In-Depth Analysis

Edwin explains that trying to produce this kind of in-depth analysis by hand is just not practical for her school of 540 students. "It's extremely labor-intensive for one teacher to correct and analyze results for a whole class. Basically, you've got 30 kids times five subject areas. The feedback we have received from teachers is that the system frees up time. No more Sundays [spent] preparing or grading tests; plus, there are several reports, such as the Grouping of Students by Skills Not Mastered, that the teachers can use to save time in their classrooms."

Parkview's participation in the beta-testing of GLE provided Tudor Publishing Co. with valuable feedback. Based on this input, Tudor refined the product and added new features, including an Assessment Management System (AMS), a comprehensive database of information about the students, classes and school. Today the GLE and the AMS are both incorporated into the Integrated Measurement System (IMS). The IMS is a quality-control tool that combines curriculum, assessment, training, reporting and evaluation.

The commitment felt by teachers is enhanced both by the product's ease-of-use and by the fact that GLE can be aligned to match their school's specific curriculum. This ability to customize the assessment to meet the exact needs of a school or district is a unique feature. This is achieved through the Curriculum Alignment Guide, a detailed listing of skills sent to the district before the software is shipped. The district uses this document to select the skills and levels to be included on their customized assessment.

In addition, Tudor Publishing Co. provides each school with on-site inservice training on test administration and managing the information generated. Training on GLE includes step-by-step instructions as well as hands-on practice. Teachers are tested and the results reviewed.

Edwin comments that "Both the teachers and the students found the system very easy to use." Tudor also offers an 800 number teachers and principals can use to ask questions.

Useful Innovation

Edwin offers the following summation on IMS: "The Integrated Measurement System by Tudor Publishing Co. is a very useful innovation for educators. It d'es not claim to have answers to all of the problems facing education today, but the system can help the process by efficiently providing important information to improve the education of our children."

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.