Fall is in the air and classrooms are full of new students. While everyone in the room may be in the same grade, students have a diverse set of learning needs. Before diving into the first lesson, teachers need to understand who knows what so they can adjust their instructional plans accordingly. That’s where benchmark assessments come to the rescue.
The Importance of Benchmark Assessments
Benchmark assessments give teachers a roadmap for the year ahead, identifying students who are on track, who are not quite where they need to be, and who are further along than expected. With benchmarking data in hand, teachers can tailor instruction and design interventions to ensure that each learner’s needs are addressed, giving every student the best chance for success in the year ahead.
Typically, benchmark assessments are given at designated periods throughout the school year to measure student growth — often in the fall or at the start of the school year, again in the winter, and finally in January ahead of the spring testing season. Some districts may benchmark as often as once a month. Benchmarking provides the opportunity to adjust curriculum so that every student stays on track to meet curriculum goals.
Students can also be empowered by benchmarking. Their results can inform them of which areas they need to concentrate on improving and give them a boost in confidence when they see improvement during the next round of benchmarking.
Tips on Using Benchmark Data
Fall benchmarking data provides a baseline of where students began, and subsequent assessments administered throughout the school year show how much students have improved and where they may still need support. Looking at individual student benchmark data gives teachers insight into who needs alternative instruction, deeper modeling, additional practice, or other forms of intervention.
Besides understanding the needs of individual students, benchmark data also helps teachers monitor the collective needs of the whole class. For example, if benchmark results show that one or two students are struggling with a particular lesson, a teacher may decide to give extra attention or remediation to just those individuals. But, if the benchmark data shows that the majority of the class is struggling, the teacher may decide to adjust her instructional plan to spend more time on a particular concept.
Assessment data is only powerful if teachers know how to collect it, if they understand it, and if they feel empowered to use it. Teachers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of data they have so it often ends up having little impact on instruction. To maximize the effectiveness of benchmarking, teachers need training and support in how to use the resulting data. Professional learning on how to analyze and act on data is critical to the effectiveness of benchmarking.
Benchmark assessments can be viewed as regular checkups to see how students are progressing throughout the school year. Just as we rely on periodic checkups with our doctors to maintain good health, benchmark assessments can be relied up to ensure students stay on track academically throughout the school year.
The benchmark assessment and data analysis process can be streamlined and simplified with software platforms and scanning tools like the ones Apperson offers. Contact an Apperson assessment specialist to learn more about how our products and services can help teachers better understand the needs of their students, tailor their teaching strategies, and provide every student with the support they need to be successful.
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