Guest Post: Assessments are a piece of the puzzle of a student’s progress

By Alisa Louie (@AlisaLouie), NBCT — ELL Specialist, Interventionist, Teacher Coach at Evergreen Heights Elementary and a 2017 Washington Teacher of the Year Finalist.

The students where I teach in south King County have worked hard this year improving their skills in math and English language arts by writing stories, reading books and solving math problems. Now they get to demonstrate what they have learned and can do when they take the Smarter Balanced assessments this spring.

The Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned to Washington’s K-12 learning standards, which establish what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The standards ensure our students are ready to succeed after high school with skills like critical thinking, writing and problem solving. At my school, we view the Smarter Balanced assessments as a teaching tool. They are a piece of the puzzle along with report cards, teacher feedback and classroom work that creates a complete picture of a student’s progress in school.

Before students take assessments each spring, we encourage them to do their best, and we share with them that the test is one way to know if they are on track in school. Last year, educators at my school got results back in three weeks. We were able to adjust our instruction accordingly based on the skills students had mastered and where there were learning gaps.

For example, test results for one of my students last year indicated she was in danger of falling behind in reading. Her other teachers and I knew, based on her classroom work, that she could do better. We created a space to talk with her about her score and how she felt about reading and school overall. Our conversation with her, in tandem with our classroom observations and her course work, gave us the information we needed to create an improvement plan for her personal and academic growth.

Smarter Balanced offers my fellow teachers and I a consistent, objective measure of our students’ progress, and a tool to help fill out the full picture of where each of our students stand.

During the remaining weeks of the school year, we put the plan into action to make sure our student was ready to start her new school year with success. We will use the same process this year to monitor her progress and provide her with additional challenges or support as she needs them.

Smarter Balanced offers my fellow teachers and I a consistent, objective measure of our students’ progress, and a tool to help fill out the full picture of where each of our students stand. The assessment helps me become a stronger teacher because I know just where to direct additional help or extra learning opportunities for all of my students so they are ready for a successful transition into middle school and beyond.

I am deeply honored on a daily basis that parents trust me with their children’s education. My colleagues and I take pride in our school’s culture and that kids love coming to school each day to learn. We owe it to our students to put all the puzzle pieces together and provide them with every possible chance at successful futures. Smarter Balanced assessments help my colleagues and me make sure that classroom experiences are translating into meaningful skills and knowledge that our students will need to thrive in life after high school.

Follow Alisa on Twitter: @AlisaLouie

Click here for more information about the Smarter Balanced assessments.