Using Data to Prevent Learning Difficulties

Assessment data plays a fundamental aspect in identifying and supporting students who are at-risk for school failure.

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Identifying Learning Difficulties Early in Academic Career 

Assessment data, in the form of Universal Screening, can identify a learning difficulty early in a student’s school career.

Universal Screening in the elementary grades, even as early as kindergarten or first grade, helps identify students who have started behind their peers or who may be falling behind. Once a student has been identified as needing intervention in the form of additional support or a change in curriculum, the appropriate steps can be taken to help the student catch up. 

For example, a grade one student who is identified as six months behind her peer group in key numeracy skills will likely have difficulty accessing the core curriculum and is at risk for falling further behind. A six-month gap in numeracy skills might increase to a gap of several years in a wide variety of domains by middle school. Resolving a six-month learning gap in numeracy for a first-grade student is far easier than dealing with a situation where a middle school student is several years behind in multiple domains.

Identifying Learning Difficulties Early In the School Year

When universal screening is administered at the beginning of the school year, gaps in learning can be identified in the fall and followed by appropriate interventions when necessary. Nearly the entire school year can be structured around the remediation and monitoring of the learning gap between a student and his peers. 

If a student is not assessed until the spring, and if results are not immediately available, nearly the entire school year may pass without the opportunity to solve the problem for the student. 

Determining if Intervention is Working

Assessment data can help answer one of the most important questions; “is our intervention working for this student?”

Identifying a student in-need, and prescribing and implementing an intervention is not enough. We must make sure that intervention works for the student. The goal of the intervention is to help the student catch up to her peer group. If the student continues to lag behind classmates, it will be frustrating and difficult to benefit from core instruction. If the student continues to fall behind, the learning gap may be nearly insurmountable in later years.

Benchmark assessments provide a window into the rate of progress over the course of the year. Depending on the circumstances of a student we might set a goal of progressing at one and a half or twice the rate of the average student. As the school year unfolds, we consult our assessment data to determine the rate of progress and then evaluate the efficacy of the intervention for the student.

This data can help spare students the perpetuation of interventions that provide little to no benefit or provide the rational to parents, the student and colleagues the importance of continuing the intervention.

Collection of Assessment Data Must be Unobtrusive

The collection of our assessment data must be relatively unobtrusive to our core mission of teaching and remediating. 

The assessment process itself must be relatively painless and inexpensive in terms of student and staff time and energy. Lengthy and complex assessments that overwhelm staff and demoralize students may not provide an accurate picture of student performance or may not leave sufficient time and energy to implement the interventions themselves.

Assessments need to be efficient, easy to administer and simple to understand. If the data returned by the assessment is so complex that much of our team meeting time and intervention delivery time is used to decipher the data, our interventions won’t be as effective.

How Track My Progress Supports At Risk Intervention 

Track My Progress is a fully computer adaptive test program that allows teachers to quickly and easily evaluate a student’s performance on key common core domains and subjects. Used at key intervals during the year, it acts as a guidance system for implementing and evaluating interventions. The assessments are easy to administer and the data is straightforward and meaningful. 

By giving teachers the tools needed to intervene well before a summative assessment, Track My Progress empowers both students and teachers to succeed with an accessible, easy to use tool. 

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