At Home Testing

At-Home Achievement Testing: 5 Key Insights for Educators

As schools around the world navigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, one of their many considerations is how to administer tests of learning, or “achievement tests,” like the CTP5. As the first organization to offer at-home achievement testing, ERB has worked with dozens of member schools since the beginning of March to devise testing plans, and fielded questions from hundreds more. During the past few weeks, we have proactively analyzed all of that data to provide better service and insights to members.

 

As we look towards the 2020-21 school year, here are five key insights about remote testing that educators should know, regardless of whether schools are beginning the year in their buildings as normal, using staggered scheduling, or teaching remotely.

 

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Remote, on-demand testing is viable!

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, testing students individually through Internet-connected devices at their homes would have been a nonstarter for many schools, with concerns ranging from cheating to ensuring students have equitable access to the necessary devices. Moreover, many schools test on paper, and are not familiar with online test administration.

As of the beginning of March, ERB achievement tests had been administered to very few students in their homes. As of May 31, 2020, more than 4,000 students have been tested at-home, nearly half of whom attend schools that have historically tested on paper. In practice, educators are not finding the transition to remote testing logistically challenging, nor have there been widespread reports of cheating or students missing exams. Many of the concerns that educators had imagined about remote online testing were just that—imagined!

 

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Preparation is critical—for students and educators.

Remote testing is viable, but the experience may still be bumpy if staff have not reviewed the administration instructions prior to testing.  Just as students are encouraged to prepare for exams ahead of time, educators are similarly encouraged to study up. The process is not difficult, but there is an essential sequence of steps, some of which must be completed prior to test time. Proctors should review all procedures at least one full day in advance of assessments to ensure that they are fully prepared.

ERB also recommends running at least one practice session with students ahead of actual test administrations to ensure that all parties are prepared. The first attempt at anything will generally be more chaotic than subsequent attempts; working out the wrinkles in a low-pressure situation will make the actual testing experience better for all involved.

 

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Plan for questions from families.

One aspect unique to testing students at home is that parents are an essential part of the process, from ensuring that students have the necessary equipment and are properly set up, to certifying that students have taken their exams independently. Effective communication with families is always critical, but this is especially true around remote testing.

Educators should prepare for disparities in parents’ readiness for testing, and be proactive in communicating about expectations with them.

 

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Students will stay calm, educators should too.

After thousands of tests, we have observed that when challenges occur, most of which are technology-related, students typically remain calm while teachers and parents get flustered. As with any web-based activity, and, any exercise with young people more generally, unexpected issues and distractions can occur. The best thing educators can do for their students and their families is to stay calm.

If needed, tests can be paused, time can be added, students can switch to a different device, and they can even retake the test on a different day. If issues can’t be immediately addressed, the ERB team is always available to provide support. It will be ok!

 

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The future of testing is here.

When ERB introduced Milestone Assessments, our new interim assessment option covering the critical subjects of mathematics and reading comprehension, we did so with an eye toward giving schools more flexibility while providing more valuable student growth data for educators and families. We envisioned a future in which teachers have the information they need to design unique instructional and interventional strategies for every individual class and student, and the ability to adjust as needed.

The coronavirus pandemic has stretched this thinking. Although the importance of high-quality, meaningful testing remains the same, the way in which we test is most certainly changing. Moving forward, testing at home, even outside of normal school hours, will be more common. Schools will have the flexibility to design testing programs that fit around their schedules, and best position their students for success.  And with more regular assessment touchpoints, we can also reduce the length of assessments while making student data timelier and more meaningful.

 

To that end, ERB is taking an important step this fall to forge stronger relationships with educators by launching 360 Access™, an interactive web-based portal with dynamic data reporting tools that teachers can use to impact student learning in real time—regardless of whether they are at-home or in school.
 

Should there ever be another situation where students are out of the classroom, schools will retain the flexibility needed to assess student progress already built into their testing programs. The use of technology to administer assessments to students remotely this spring may not be the exception; it might be the new normal!