How Do We Use Assessments Efficiently and Effectively at MELA?
-Ms. Lynsey Fleck, Instructional Coach
The Purpose of Assessment
There are several purposes for assessing, or testing, students. One is to understand the overall level of performance that a student is currently exhibiting: this helps teachers design instruction to meet each student where he/she currently is from a skills standpoint. Another is to understand where the specific student is performing in relation to grade-level expectations. This helps teachers understand how to pace instruction for optimal growth. A third purpose of assessment is to identify specific areas or skills where a student exhibits strength or potential for growth. This helps teachers design and deliver instruction that targets specific skills or content areas.
Balance is Key
When it comes to assessment, achieving a balance: between types, frequency, and settings, is critical. At MELA, our assessments are carefully balanced to minimize instructional interruptions and maximize growth and impact. Below you will find more information about the assessments that MELA uses.
With the support of an Instructional Coach, MELA teachers meet with students 1:1 to set goals in major academic areas. Goals are set with students and shared with families, as is progress toward those goals, which is measured bi-weekly or monthly. In addition, goals are adjusted and modified as needed based on student participation, progress, and growth.
Monthly 1:1 Informal Running Records
Each month, MELA teachers take informal running records of every student. This consists of having each student read with his/her teacher 1:1. As the student reads, the teacher listens and monitors student reading to determine strengths, areas for growth, and overall reading level. This information is then used to plan targeted small group instruction, ensuring that each student has access to the specific learning needed to continue progressing as a reader.
Educational Software for Guiding Instruction (ESGI) Assessment
This assessment, which is administered 1:1 to all PreK and Kindergarten students, gives teachers specific information regarding which reading and math readiness skills students have mastered and which they are still working on. The information from ESGI allows teachers to design and deliver instruction that helps students build off of their prior knowledge to acquire new skills.
This nationally-normed assessment is taken by students several times each school year in the areas of reading and math. It is a comprehensive assessment that determines which grade-level standards students have mastered and which are still in progress. The data from this assessment helps teachers track student growth over time and provides vital information as to which standards and skills should be targeted during daily small group instruction.
AVMR Screeners and Assessments
When a student is identified as needing extra instruction in mathematics, he/she is given a brief 1:1 assessment to determine specifically which lagging skills, including number identification and sequences, place value, and others, are causing an obstacle to his/her growth towards math proficiency. Once these skills are identified, students receive specialized 1:1 and small group instruction to build these skills, opening up access to achieving grade level proficiency in math.
Embedded Writing Assessments
Student writing is scored according to grade-level rubrics, which are explicitly introduced and explained to students. Using rubrics to score student writing does two things. First, it makes what “good writing” looks like clear to students so they can understand what proficiency means and what they need to do in order to show they are proficient. Second, it allows teachers to target specific areas--spelling, ideas, etc.--for instruction when they meet with students in 1:1 writing conferences.
Normalization of Assessment
At MELA, we embed assessment into regular instructional routines as often as possible. This results in fewer instructional interruptions, increased normalcy and predictability of assessment for students, and a sense of safety and pride, rather than anxiety and avoidance, around test-taking.