Part 3: Making Your Own Common Assessments; Start with the Standards
Mar 26, 2013
David Kierski, an OnHand Schools senior level consultant, is writing a blog series about developing for your district a transition road map to the common core standards.
We've been talking about K-12 assessments. Specifically, writing assessments that are aligned to the new Common Core standards. As the Common Core transition gears up (see the PA timeline), districts all over the country need to begin creating K-12 testing aligned to the Common Core. While your state probably has some of their year-end assessments ready, you'll want to hit the ground running with assessments of your own.
In the last post we talked about why it's important to be creating your own assessments. In this post, we'll begin walking you through how to actually do it.
The best place to start creating your own assessment is the standards. If you are not familiar with the new Common Core standards, make sure you have a good Common Core standards map, or crosswalk. Your life will be so much easier. If you are a PA educator, you're in luck: OnHand Schools has developed a crosswalk of the reading and math standards for you, all the way down to the eligible content level.
Maybe you already have some assessments you or your colleagues created based on the old standards (all right!). These would be the best place to start. Using the crosswalk, see which of the standards are exact matches, and which are partial matches, and use those assessment items first to start building your assessment. Some questions can be copied verbatim, and some will need to be tinkered with.
When I make a test, I think of the standards as an outline or a map. What I'll usually do is take my state's assessment anchors document and copy it into a new document. Then, I'll work my way through the standards, creating questions that assess a specific standard, keeping in mind the difficulty level, content, etc. If this is the stage where you tend to get stuck, don't worry, we'll cover question-writing in a future post. To get you started, you can review this previous post.
When you have finished and you have all the questions you need, you'll have an assessment tailored to your classes, and you'll be able to find out exactly where they are struggling and where they are doing well. You can adjust the focus if you need to: for example, if you know your students are struggling with identifying synonyms, you can make a test with more questions targeting synonyms to pull out exactly where they are having trouble. Let's see your big-box, one-size-fits-all assessments do that!
It's crucial to start with the eligible content anchors, rather than a willy-nilly approach of starting with whatever content you happened to have covered since your last assessment. You can work in that content (in fact, you should!), but always use the standards as a blueprint. This will help you and your school analyze the student assessment data, and allow them to make better-informed decisions.
Making Your Own K-12 Assessments: Finding Content
We are continuing our discussion of making your own tests. Once you have the assessments mapped out with the eligible content anchors you want to assess, you need to find content to include on the assessments. Whether you're writing a reading, math, geography, history, or other assessment, finding content can often be the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. But you're in luck, because you have me on the case!
I have written my fair share of reading assessments, and in my opinion, finding the content for these is the most arduous of tasks, because you have to not only find content that is appropriate for your students' level, you have to also find content you are legally allowed to use.
Fear not, because I have taken my experience and written a guide for finding content. This one is a little bit longer, so we are offering a free white paper for you to download. It has lots of useful info, like how to understand copyright law, how to use Google and Wikipedia to find free images, and much more. Go here, fill out the form, and download it. You'll be up and running with fresh content in no time!
Best of Luck!