Begin with a written plan
Investing in benchmark assessments is a costly, time-intensive undertaking. A written district or school accountability plan can help your school or district reach goals and save time. At a minimum, we suggest that your plan include the purposes of the benchmark assessments, individual responsibilities, reporting, data use, professional development, resources, and evaluation. A professional learning community, data expert, teacher leader, or accountability officer may be tasked with the effort of developing a plan.
Click here to see an example plan for benchmark assessment use.
Identify systems for analyzing and reporting data
Whether an organization purchases a program to deliver benchmark assessment data or develops their own tool, it is important that data are quickly and easily available to all stakeholders. Clear rules should be established and communicated widely regarding access to data (who, when, how, and for what purpose). Guidelines should also be established to protect confidentiality and to ensure users have access to the data they need without compromising confidentiality or the data system.
Provide quality, on-going professional development
Schools and districts can do much to encourage the use of data from benchmark assessments by providing high-quality, ongoing professional development to educators. Teachers, school, and district personnel require assistance in building their technical skills to access, organize, and interpret benchmark assessment data. Professional development should include content and pedagogical skills that help teachers differentiate instruction and revise instructional strategies and approaches based on data.
Plan time for learning
Districts and schools should carefully build time into their calendars to make effective use of benchmark data. Consider the following needs for learning:
There is little value in pinpointing gaps in student understanding if the pace of the district curriculum mandates that teachers forge ahead to the next topic, regardless of student performance and needs.
Good benchmark assessments are one component of a quality comprehensive assessment system. A comprehensive system should be coherent and provide a continuous stream of information to guide and improve student learning. For benchmark assessments to function well in an assessment system, they must be purposively designed or selected and used to serve specific purposes. Educators and policy-makers must understand in advance the intended purpose(s) of benchmark assessments, and more importantly, what these assessments can and cannot do. The multiple purposes are addressed below:
Benchmark assessments, if selected and used well, can provide valid and reliable information about teaching and learning in an organization, and strengthen student achievement and learning