The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

It Is Just One Test

As the instructional technology specialist in my building, I have taken it upon myself to try out a lot of different online learning tools over the past few years. One of the tools that I have used most frequently has been Front Row. (And no, I have not told them I am writing this post nor have I asked them for any kind of compensation for it.) I have written about Front Row a handful of times in the past, discussing some of the different features that are available.

One feature that was not available on the free teacher edition has been the assessment tool. This allows teachers to select specific standards or all of the standards and administer an online test of student knowledge. Due to a special promotion, I was able to gain access to this special feature between now and the end of the school year, so I decided to try it out. Because we are approaching the end of the third quarter, I wanted to get a wide-angle view of where my students are at in their progress toward our end of the year math goals, so I created an assessment that covered every single math standard.

I knew that the assessment was designed so that the students would be given one problem per standard, which meant that a lot of them would be scored on a pass/fail. I also knew that there were many standards I have not explicitly taught in my classroom yet, but I wanted to see what my students have picked up since they have been working on all five of the foundational domains in math all year long.

What I found was that many of them did not perform very well. In fact, the class average was 46%.

But this was also just one test. Just one assessment. Just one quick snapshot of what they were doing at that time. One test does not tell the whole story. It never has and it never will.

When I looked at the results, some of them were incorrect because the students did not mark every correct answer on problems that had more one. Sometimes it was a simple computational error. (I took the assessment myself and scored a 95% because I misread a few of the problems and had at least one computational error). Do such poor results mean that my students have not been learning? Do the results indicate that I have been failing to do my job as a teacher? Do they mean that my school is underperforming? To all three of these questions, I respond with a resounding no, of course not!

What it means is that this was just one test taken the day after an unexpected day off that came as the result of a severe snowstorm that itself had come on the heels of a weekend in February during which the temperature reached close to 70° F! It also means that I now have a better sense of where I need to focus my energies over the next several weeks.

I use a lot of different tools to assess my students’ knowledge of our fourth grade math standards. I appreciate being able to try out this tool that Front Row has available and am looking forward to using it in different ways in the coming weeks and months. (For example, I am going to be creating new math groups soon and I will be able to have differentiated assessments for each group to monitor their progress.) I just hope that my students remember that, when it comes to testing, it is just one test. One test never tells the whole story.

What online assessment tools have you found to be useful?


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