The Brick-to-Click Benchmark Assessment Strategy
Benchmark assessment can be an invaluable tool in every educator’s toolbox to pinpoint student understanding, and help all students have a successful school year—whether they need to catch up, stay on track toward grade-level learning targets, or continue to make advanced progress.
Here are four tips for a successful benchmark assessment strategy:
1. Administer a Subject-Specific Benchmark Assessment Immediately at the Beginning of the Year
At the beginning of each year, your students return to the classroom—whether in person or virtual—having had vastly different learning experiences over the summer.
Getting a fast and accurate read on each student’s current knowledge is critical to starting the school year productively. Of course, building rapport with your students (and identifying any crucial basic welfare or social-emotional needs) comes first, but benchmarking should be your second priority.
Whether you’re teaching all subjects at the elementary level or a specific subject at the secondary level, testing your students on one topic at a time will help them focus their energy and feel more in control.
In addition, educators know that students are bound to lose interest in any long test. Administering benchmark exams in a manageable, single-subject format can help provide a more accurate measure of what knowledge students have already mastered and where they have real gaps in a given subject area.
2. Keep the Benchmark Assessment Experience Low Stakes
Testing is an inherently stressful experience for many students.
Benchmark assessments will provide critical insight and data about your students, but they don’t need to be framed as a “big deal.”
Avoid administering benchmarks for multiple subjects on the same day, and make sure that students understand that the benchmark assessments are only a tool—not a graded assignment or judgment on their progress.
3. Review Effective Test-Taking Strategies with Students and Parents
After several months away from the classroom, students (especially early elementary learners) may not have the same level of comfort with taking tests as they did last school year.
Knowing the right test-taking practices can make a huge difference for students once they have their benchmark assessment in front of them.
Take some class time to review effective test-taking strategies, or if you are learning online, provide a tip sheet for students and parents that covers best practices, like starting with the questions that students feel most comfortable with (even if that means answering questions out of order), not spending too much time on any single question, and skipping questions that they don’t know the answer.
Remind students that benchmark testing isn’t a race and that they can always return to unanswered questions once they are done with the rest of the test.
4. Leverage Benchmark Assessment Results to Craft Personalized Learning Paths
While you may not have control over whether your class must meet virtually (either for the duration of the school year or for short periods of time), benchmark assessment data can provide a great starting point for flexible lesson plans that can be carried out either in person or virtually.
Use subject-specific benchmark results to understand the progress your students made during the spring and summer, and plot out tailored lesson plans that group students by ability and anticipate targeted, independent learning.
Data from benchmarks can help you create truly personalized learning plans that leverage both online and print resources to meet the needs of individual students and allow for smoother transitions between the classroom and at-home learning environments.
Interested in finding out more about how Edmentum can support your online and in-person personalized learning plans for a successful back-to-school transition? Check out Study Island Benchmarks! Our series of fixed-form assessments are built to state standards and aligned to state benchmark assessment blueprints to provide educators with specific insights into student progress.
We’ve even released updated scale-scored forms and reports for select states to enable comparison and growth measurement over time.