Engaging Students in Their Learning

Benchmark Testing Reports

With benchmark testing occurring throughout the state, this is a good time to consider how the information is used to improve student learning from the student perspective. Teachers generally examine the data to identify where they may need to re-teach or identify students who need additional instruction. However, what do the students get out of the benchmark testing process?

In my work as a data coach, I rarely encounter instances where a complete report of the student performance is provided to the student. This is an unfortunate situation. SchoolNet provides a student benchmark report. The last time I saw the report it was 7 pages long, really too long to be printed and distributed for each student.  Additionally, I wondered if it provided the information students really needed.   

Therefore, for some guidance on the topic of making learning “real” for students, I turned to Chapter 7: The flow of the lesson: the place of feedback from the book Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie.

Student Feedback

Here are some points Hattie makes:

  1. The quality of the feedback provided to students is a critical characteristic of successful teaching and learning.
  2. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see their successes and track progress to mastery.
  3. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see learning gaps between their performance and expected achievement
  4. The focus is on building self-understanding and self regulation of learning within students.

I would add that it is essential to provide information that encourages a growth (improvement) mindset; therefore I would add these characteristics to student feedback in two or more assessments of learning during a course:

  1. Feedback should include the learning targets in the form of skills list for the entire course, so students know what they have learned in relation to the “big picture”.
  2. The essential skills (high impact skills) are identified so some understanding of the relative importance of the skills is communicated in the student report.
  3. Item-level feedback is provided so that students gain an understanding the nature of the errors and what to do to improve.

Added Features of a Student Report

In the student reports I have created, students have a space for the student to write a reflection by answering the question:  What did I do to get these results?  Below that is a space for the student to write an action plan describing what will be done differently to improve results. 

Creating the Student Feedback Report

  • Some assessment tools include the ability to export item level data along with the standard or skill each item tests, if not then performance by standards will have to do. The data steward will export the data from the data assessment.
  • Put this data in a table in perhaps a Microsoft Access database.
  • Add the average score for each standard or skill, or the correct answer for each item if you have item level data.
  • In Access create a report template, to accept the data from the table as it “fills in the blanks”. Make sure you include the average score or the correct answer for each item.
  • Run the report so that data from the data table is inserted into the Access report.

Evaluation of Curriculum Using Data 

The Need for Data
With the EVAAS data on growth being released now, curriculum leaders can use this information for evaluation of programs and curriculum.  Unfortunately, due to the timing of the release of the growth information, making a change in direction after school has started is problematic.

Instead of waiting, your district could compute NCE Difference growth in July and use this data to gain some insight as to what is happening in the schools and answer some program evaluation questions.  Here is an example:

A school uses a math program which is intended to help students maintain skills already acquired and to build skills using a spiral approach. It is an older program and must be supplemented to meet the more rigorous math standards. Overall the EVAAS math growth has been negative for the last few years.

The Data
To add data to the analysis, the student NCE Difference scores in both reading and math were aggregated based on the PREVIOUS achievement level. For grade 7 the NCE Difference scores looked like this:

Previous Level       Count     Math NCE Diff          Count RD       Reading NCE Diff

1                      16                    -3.5                              16                    9.4

2                      26                    -3.4                              19                    5.4

3                      7                      -9.8                              10                    0.4

4                      24                    -9.54                            31                    2.4

5                      12                    -9.42                            9                      -7.2


It is worthwhile to note that all of the middle school grades had scores which followed this same pattern, and that there was not a big difference between teachers’ growth who taught these grades. Based on the information, math performance in terms of growth is a problem area. It is possible that all of the teachers tended to teach in “remediation mode” focusing on the students who had scored level 1 and 2. If that is the case, it is still likely that the math program is not meeting the curriculum needs of the students who are scoring level 3 and above, especially when the same pattern is found in all three grades.

Because the district has a historical data system, the district was able to go back one year and examine the pattern of growth. The district found that the same pattern of low math growth in performance levels 3 and above.

Timeliness or Information
Having this information available in early July provides the opportunity to use the summer months to investigate the situation and make changes in the curriculum and materials.  This is why having a historical data system is so important for school leaders to make curriculum and materials decisions.

If you are interested in hearing more about creating a historical data system for your district which can provide timely data analytics and reports feel free to contact me at Lew.Johnson@data-smart.net