Remote Testing Guidance

Guidance for conducting Acadience assessments in the fall of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acadience Reading Remote Testing MaterialsAcadience Math Remote Testing Materials

The authors at Acadience Learning have released updated guidance with recommendations for conducting Acadience assessments during the fall of 2020 amongst COVID-19 disruptions to school operations.

Overview and Context

In this time of uncertainty, we need to be especially clear about our purpose(s) for conducting assessment. We want to be explicit regarding the decisions we wish to make and the questions we need to answer with assessment data.

What follows are guidelines from Acadience Learning for conducting Acadience assessments during the fall of the 2020 school year where remote testing or modified scenarios may be necessary. This guidance will describe the purpose for fall data collection, practical and equity considerations related to conducting assessment, and directions for our research that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on student performance, including the impact of adjustments made to assessment. These guidelines are provided in response to requests for information regarding conducting assessments during these unprecedented times.

The primary purpose of collecting fall assessment data is to determine student instructional needs so that instructional planning may occur to ensure growth and development. As such, the fall benchmark assessment is not just a screening for risk. We understand that assessing may be particularly challenging in our current pandemic context and may be impossible for some schools. However, we find that in order to provide the best instruction for students after disrupted educational situations, districts need to be able to identify, support, and evaluate students in need of additional instruction in order to become proficient in critical academic skills. It is best not to make assumptions about learning loss. Not all students will experience skill loss. Expect that school disruption will have varying impacts on student skills. Some students may have experienced growth, while others may have fallen behind in their skills.

Considerations

Practical Considerations

Schools across the nation are planning for a wide range of instructional delivery models in the fall. These models will require teachers to alter many of their typical teaching strategies and routines. Students will learn new protocols and procedures (e.g., social distancing, virtual meeting, a hybrid of remote and in-person learning, and altered schedules or calendars). For this reason, we advise giving both teachers and students some time to assimilate to these new routines and work out any challenges before universal screening begins. We recommend initiating your assessment plan after students have been in school for enough time to establish a rapport and comfort with their new tools or procedures. The need for this adjustment time must be balanced with the need to determine current levels of performance and make instructional and resource allocation decisions quickly. Making assessments a routine part of what is done at the school and not a big deal (e.g., creating an atmosphere of normalization) will help.

Assessment conditions will likely mirror the options for schooling this fall. As such, assessment may be in person, online, or may be a hybrid approach. Conditions may shift pending spikes in the virus outbreak, so it is best to consider how to prepare for each option. We recommend that educators prioritize the assessment of critical skills (i.e., reading/language arts and math) and work toward completing assessment accurately, quickly, and efficiently. Adequate training and pre-planning will maximize the likelihood that this will occur.

With respect to using data to plan instruction, we recommend addressing instructional gaps through a combination of Tier 1 adjustments and small group intervention. In instances where large percentages of students are Below or Well Below Benchmark, Tier 1 intervention is the most practical and efficient target of opportunity. Provide targeted intensive support only for those students with the greatest needs.

Health and Safety Considerations

The need for safety precautions might change as we learn more about the virus. Assessments should be conducted in as safe a manner as possible. The best approach for in-person assessment is to follow school and/or district policy regarding social distancing and wearing of masks. It may take some time to become accustomed to the use of masks, and assessors may want to try clear masks and face shields. Sitting 6 feet apart is new to assessment. Typically, the student and assessor are close to each other. Under social distancing and/or remote assessment conditions, we recommend assessors monitor students and consider the impact of distance on student performance.

Equity Considerations

We want to ensure equity and access for all students. As such, we recommend that schools provide maximum flexibility with assessment options. Considerations include what type of equipment, internet service, adult supervision, and privacy is needed for the assessment options that will be used. Some options may present concerns related to access for many of the children who need additional school support and whose home situations are unable to provide the equipment required to conduct remote assessment. Schools/districts should consider alternative ways to accomplish the assessment, or provide the necessary equipment and materials to families so the assessment may be completed.

Options for Conducting Remote Testing

In-Person Assessment (face to face)

If schools begin the fall with face-to-face instruction, we recommend conducting the beginning-of-year benchmark assessment. We recommend flexibility with the benchmark window. The beginning-of-year benchmark will provide important information for support decisions and will assist in planning for the school year. This benchmark assessment data will provide educators with information about student needs and the impact of school closures on student skills. If availability of in-person assessment is limited, we recommend prioritizing the use of in-person assessment with those students for whom you have the greatest concern and assessing remaining students using remote assessment.

Remote Assessment (not face to face)

We have received requests for information regarding remote or online testing. There is no way to control all of the factors that will impact the assessment results due to vast differences across households with regard to technology and availability of an adult to supervise/monitor the assessment. That being said, we value the fact that educators wish to keep their assessment going and we would like to be supportive. As such, we offer a number of ideas for accomplishing assessment remotely. Options are described in greater detail with the information specific to each of the Acadience assessments that follows this overview. For each option, parent/caregiver support is recommended, at least for setting up the environment, but also for monitoring to help the assessment goes smoothly. Basic set-up options might include:

● Screen sharing where the student is on a computer or tablet with sound via computer, tablet, or phone. With computer screens and an internet connection, some tests may be conducted by showing student materials on a computer or tablet screens, similar to how a Kindle book may look. Assessors may use a mouse cursor or remote pointer for tracking assistance during the assessment when screen sharing.
● Paper/pencil assessment provided to the student at home, with the student on a smart phone or other device using tools such as FaceTime or Skype.

Hybrid Approach

A hybrid approach means that some assessment might be conducted face to face and some might be conducted remotely. This option would most likely be used if schooling is conducted via a hybrid approach (e.g., some in person and some online). If the availability of in-person assessment is limited, we recommend prioritizing in-person assessment with those students for whom you have the greatest concern and assessing remaining students using remote assessment.

How to Conduct Remote Assessment

Logistical considerations for remote assessment include management of materials required to conduct the assessment, scheduling the meeting time, and understanding and communicating the roles of the people involved in the assessment process.

Configurations for remote scoring may vary by the assessment (see assessment-specific guidance) but may include the following:
● Scoring on an ALO touch-enabled tablet while using another computer device for the meeting to see the student and to screen share.
● Scoring with paper/pencil while using a computer device for the meeting to see the student and to screen share.
● Either of the above plus a phone for audio. If using a phone, it is ideal for both the assessor and student to be hands free. The child should not need to hold the phone but rather use the speakerphone option or earbuds/headphones.

Materials needed for remote testing with paper/pencil include the following:
● Assessment booklets and scoring booklets
● Timer
● Pen or pencil
● Computer with camera and speaker for video conferencing
● Virtual meeting software (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, Skype, Join.me, Adobe Connect, or any other district/school recommended and supported meeting platform)

Materials needed for remote testing with Acadience Learning Online include the following:
● Touch screen tablet administration and scoring device equipped with the ALO app
● Computer with camera and speaker for video conferencing
● Virtual meeting software (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, Skype, Join.me, Adobe Connect, or any other district/school recommended and supported meeting platform)

We recommend creating a schedule for assessment meeting times. Consider creating a sign-up via Google Docs or offer parents/caregivers at least three possible times to choose from. Once a time is determined, send a meeting invitation with the link.

Roles

Everyone involved (e.g., school personnel, students, and parents/caregivers) has a role to play. We recommend specifying and communicating the expectations for those roles so that an optimal experience occurs. We recommend that schools/districts attempt to standardize their approach within the school or district. In order to create an optimal testing environment, the roles of each participant are described here:

School personnel/assessor role:

We recommend that school personnel provide information and notification regarding remote assessment to parents/caregivers in advance of conducting the assessment. Consider sending home a letter explaining the caregiver/parent role in assessment. Ask parents/caregivers to provide a space with minimal distractions for the student and to have the computer or tablet device ready along with a phone on hand. A sample letter is provided below.

Before starting the assessment, be sure the student has any necessary assessment materials. Materials should be placed in a sealed envelope marked to indicate that it should not be opened before the assessment. Materials may be sent home via mail or delivered to families via school-based pick up.

If screen sharing, check that the format of the document will fit the available screen. Keep in mind that while the student materials may be made available digitally/electronically, the assessor needs to have either paper/pencil scoring booklets or a tablet for scoring purposes (e.g., Acadience Learning Online). Finally, when entering data, note if the assessment was completed in person or remotely.

Parent/Caregiver role:

A parent/caregiver/adult in the home may need to assist with set-up. A quiet, distraction-free space for the student to complete assessment tasks without interruption is best. Families should plan for 15 minutes per student. Many assessments include the support of a proctor – someone to help with all technology issues and help the student to do their best. Parents/caregivers together with the assessor should identify who the proctor is. The person who serves as the proctor or adult helper during the assessment must understand the limits of the support they may provide (e.g., they are not allowed to provide extra prompts).

Child role:

We want students to do their best during the assessment. During remote assessment, students must let the assessor know if they cannot clearly hear and/or see during the assessment, just like during an in-person assessment.

Maximizing Assessment Fidelity and Validity

To maximize the likelihood of obtaining useful assessment data, aim to limit or minimize departures from standardization as much as possible. Document any departures from standardization for consideration when interpreting the assessment data. Consider how adjustments made to administration conditions may impact the reliability and validity, and appropriately adjust conclusions or recommendations adding notes of caution where needed. The standards (i.e., benchmarks) used for interpretation will remain the same.

For all assessments, we recommend that assessors review the information in the Assessment Manuals relevant to accommodations used during the assessment. For each assessment the information is located in a section labeled “Approved Accommodations.” These sections explain accommodations that may be provided to students. For example, enlarged print for students with visual impairments. Accommodations that are unapproved and may impact interpretation also are discussed. In instances where unapproved accommodations are used, intra-individual comparisons may be considered more appropriate than comparing student data relative to benchmarks.

Everyone must be trained to administer with high fidelity. We recommend using the assessment accuracy checklists and Acadience Mentors in the school/district to support training needs, provide booster training sessions, and conduct fidelity checks. Examine fidelity of data collection in an ongoing fashion. Ask how confident are you in the data collected once the data are collected?

Pre-correct for parents/caregivers providing too much support during the assessment. We recommend communicating the purpose of the assessment to parents and other caregivers (see previous section). Consider the use of an analogy. For example, at regular physical health check-ups, parents want an accurate estimate of where their child is at so that the doctor knows whether or not the child needs intervention to improve their physical health. The same is true for these educational check-ups. Without accurate data, needs may not become known and addressed. Obtaining accurate data helps us to know where we are at so we can move forward from there. Parents/caregivers need to understand the important role they play and the scope of that role. Make sure the parent knows that the data will not be a part of the student’s grade.

Finally, we realize the challenge of doing an assessment remotely that would have normally been done in person. Assessors may miss the opportunity to obtain information that would have been observed during an in-person assessment.

For more information, please email us directly at info@acadiencelearning.org or complete the form below.

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