[Making the Case for Diagnostic Assessments] Using Equity and Efficiency to Accelerate Growth

Oct 19, 2023
Diagnostic assessments Edmentum article

In the midst of a profoundly difficult academic year of learning, strong advocates and sceptics are making their feelings known regarding the role of assessment in schools. While many people are coming down hard on summative testing requirements, even the most critical state education agencies are uniting behind the use of benchmark or interim tests to pinpoint individual learning needs. At present, Michigan, Colorado, and Georgia are all voicing their frustrations regarding end-of-year state tests and elevating the use of benchmark assessments designed to provide immediate actionable data to target student support.

Edmentum’s adaptive diagnostic assessments represent one half of our diagnostic-driven individualized instruction program, Exact Path, which supports K–12 learners in reading, language arts, and math. In this post, let’s zero in on the assessment—what it is, how it works, and why it’s an important tool to help build school around each individual learner’s needs. You can also watch this short adaptive diagnostic assessment video for even more information.

What is it?

Exact Path’s diagnostic assessment is a computer-adaptive test designed to precisely measure what students know and what students do not know across a vertical K–12 progression of skills in order to communicate a student’s learning level in a valid and reliable way. With multiple administrations, it is also an important tool for precisely measuring growth over time.

How does it work?

The assessment begins by asking questions based on a student’s system grade level (for the first assessment administration each academic year). As students answer more questions correctly, the questions increase in difficulty. The opposite is true if students answer questions incorrectly. It uses the answers students give to tighten the confidence interval, reflect a precise ability estimate, and determine when to exit the student from the test. Each student’s experience will be different from one another, as the test works efficiently to determine what each learner knows and does not know.

Why is it important?

An efficient and equitable assessment gives educators a look into where students are performing and growing so that the next steps in instructional support are always data informed. Following each assessment experience, Exact Path reports back critical metrics such as scale score and national percentile rank to help everyone from administrators down to classroom educators and caregivers get the right level of data to discern performance.

It’s also imperative that these testing experiences don’t stop with simply reporting a score and grade-level placement within each learning domain. Instead, every assessment experience informs an individualized and automatically created learning path that starts where students are ready to learn and targets those specific needs with a combination of instruction, practice, and formative assessment check-ins.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum Exact Path? Check out this overview and demonstration. For recommendations regarding assessment administration, check out 5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic.

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