How Are Students Assessed in WSESU?

Assessment of student progress in WSESU takes many forms. Broadly speaking, we can identify four basic types of assessment:

Formative Assessment: this is the most prevalent form of assessment, and is part of teachers’ daily practice. Formative assessments are not graded, but rather are used by the teacher to determine next instructional steps. A formative assessment might be an “exit ticket” that is a short response to a question the teacher poses at the end of a lesson. The teacher uses student responses to gauge how well the lesson was learned and to identify what areas might need review and additional instruction the following day. Similarly, a teacher might ask for verbal responses to a question at a pre-planned moment in instruction, knowing from experience that students might be still harboring misconceptions. Next instructional steps in the lesson would be determined by the kinds of response the teacher receives. Homework is often used to determine if students are sufficiently understanding a lesson.

Screening Assessment: Screeners (or Benchmark Assessments) in reading and math are given a few times (WSESU screens three times per year) over the course of the year, and are used to help identify those students who are struggling. Screeners are generally brief, and results should be highly correlated with success on large-scale assessment. If a screener is fairly brief, we can use the same assessment to track individual progress over shorter periods – weeks or months – to fine tune the support being given. This is called “progress monitoring”. Finally, we also use results from screening assessments to track the progress of whole classes over the course of the year. If our instructional program is working, we expect to see fewer students struggling as the year progresses.
Summative Assessment: Assessments in this category include quizzes, end-of-unit tests, essays, “projects”, or portfolios, and statewide tests. We can identify two types of summative assessment: Classroom summative assessments, which are graded, and intended to allow teachers to make judgements about student learning for report cards and other reports to parents/families; and large-scale summative assessments, which are administered to larger groups of students (statewide or national), and seek to determine overall student achievement of many standards. The statewide SBAC assessment is an example of a large-scale summative assessment.
Diagnostic Assessment: Once students are identified as potentially struggling, we can use diagnostic assessment with these individual students to help understand what specific areas of support are needed.
Benchmark Assessment: If educators need to know whether students have mastered a subgroup of standards (perhaps covering multiple units of study), a benchmark assessment can be used to answer that question. Benchmark question types are similar to those encountered in large-scale assessments, and often provide students with additional practice in taking those sorts of tests. Educators in WSESU use benchmark assessments occasionally, and take them from the state-provided assessment bank associated with the SBAC assessment.
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Current Benchmark Assessments

For reading starting mid-year in first grade, students are asked to read a standard passage for that grade level, and the number of words read correctly in one minute is used as a predictor of overall success in reading. We are not seeking to have students read as quickly as possible. Rather, we want to use students’ natural reading pace as an indicator of general reading to determine if additional support might be needed. For elementary math, we use an interview where each student is asked a set of math questions covering grade-appropriate math concepts and procedures. At older grades, an online-delivered assessment asks a series of questions designed to predict overall math performance.

Large-Scale Assessment

Students in WSESU in grades 3-9 have taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) for Math and English Language Arts every spring for several years. This assessment takes two or three sessions of about an hour to complete. Results included an overall scale score for all standards and a sub-test score for different components of the assessment. Vermont has removed itself from the Consortium and will be administering a different assessment in Spring 2023. We anticipate providing additional information as the year progresses.