3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Tool to Support Common Assessment
The District

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Tool to Support Common Assessment

The Newsela Team
Jan 4, 2024

Common assessments are an important piece of any assessment strategy. Regular data collection that is analyzed across classes and reviewed as a group helps to inform future instruction and bring creative solutions to classrooms across the district.

Edtech tools have dramatically improved how we can leverage the data from assessments to improve student outcomes. There are tools for diagnostic assessments, formative assessments, interim assessments, etc. The frustrating part? Not all tools are designed to accommodate a common assessment approach.

 If your assessment strategy includes common assessments, here are three key questions to consider before purchasing a tool: 

  • Will it support all assessment data in one place?

  • Is it easy to use for both administrators and teachers? 

  • Does it make collaboration on assessments easier for departments and professional learning communities?

1. Will it support all assessment data in one place?

Everyday interactions with students offer teachers invaluable feedback on learning. Bell ringers, polls, quizzes, homework—there are many ways teachers use formative assessments to inform where they take their lesson. And when teachers use the right tools, they can capture these insights in one place and use them to guide future instruction. 

Interim assessments only provide insights a few times a year on how students are progressing across standards. This data is good in the moment, but fails to support day-to-day learning moving forward in a meaningful way. 

A continuous feedback loop is an implicit component of daily instruction. A tool that spans the spectrum of formative to interim assessment ensures that you’re collecting frequent, ongoing data to better understand student performance on standards throughout the entire school year. When all data on student performance is housed in one easy-to-use platform, teachers and admins are empowered to identify gaps in understanding and provide targeted support where it’s needed, in the moment.

2. Is it easy to use for both administrators and teachers?

Tools used to support common assessments often boast all the bells and whistles an administrator could hope for when creating a district-wide assessment or pulling reports. They can be a great mechanism for administrators to track progress towards standards or other district goals.

But these tools often fall down when teachers are faced with adding them to their growing list of tech to learn and incorporate in daily routines. A lot of assessment tools are not intuitive for classroom use. They’re limited in assessment types and aren’t always accessible to students. What’s more, the tools aren’t conducive to daily instruction. They’re often only suitable for interim or benchmark assessments. They don’t support everyday formative assessment. 

Formative by Newsela enables teachers and administrators alike to build and administer a variety of assessments through a single platform, reducing the number of tools districts need to juggle. The platform is intuitive enough for daily classroom use, and provides the capabilities for higher stakes interim assessments. Formative can also provide daily instructional support through student-friendly activities and a teacher paced mode that enables educators to progress every student through the lesson at a shared speed.

3. Does it make collaboration on assessments easier for departments and professional learning communities? 

Building common assessments can be an empowering opportunity for professional learning communities. They can review their standards or identify a shared goal, and design an assessment to measure students’ progress against these goals. 

But if educators can’t easily collaborate on and create their own assessments, that empowerment is lost. Many tools used for common assessments are based on outdated technology that makes it hard to edit or modify any type of assessment, especially once it has been assigned. This can be frustrating when, for example, teachers notice an error or a question that needs to be rephrased. Tools for common assessments need to be dynamic. 

Formative makes it easy to update assessments at any point—even when it’s already been distributed to teachers. And with a more dynamic tool, it’s seamless for everyone to create common assessments, encouraging a broader scope of usage across the district.

A tool to support common assessments should provide actionable data for daily instructional use. It should have the flexibility to customize and build new assessments throughout the year. The tool should also be engaging and rigorous enough to plug into daily lessons as well as interim assessments, bringing robust and valuable insights to both teachers and administrators. 

Want more information?  

Learn more about how Formative helps power a range of instruction and assessment needs for everything from in-class checks for understanding to district-level assessments.

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