The Quarantine Slide - Assessing Students after School Closures

55.1 million students are currently engaged in some form of distance learning

The research is mixed on the ‘Summer Slide’; the commonly held belief that students regress in learning when they take three months off for a summer break. The research describing the summer slide is mixed, and most focuses on socio-economic status in younger students.  Very little research describes the validity of a summer slide in high school students. 

If the summer slide exists, we’re in for the biggest slide of our lives. 55.1 million students are currently engaged in some form of distance learning. Many will spend more than five months outside of the classroom. Participation in distance learning is mixed, we are confronting the reality that not all students are prepared to learn autonomously. 

We trust that our students are putting their best effort into their coursework.  While students are doing the best they can, school leaders are looking at a dearth of actionable student data.  The common summative and diagnostic assessments we rely on to inform our planning will be scarce.  Most states have canceled standardized testing, and common local assessments must move online.  The data that we use to place students and plan a master schedule will be unreliable.  School leaders are starting to realize that when students return to campus in Fall of 2020, the system will need to show lots of flexibility and patience while we re-sort students into their best placements.  While high school teachers are accustomed to teaching students with different levels of readiness, the gaps may be wider in the coming school year. It will be much harder to assess if a student is ready to move to the next level in math or is equipped for AP/Honors coursework. 

When considering the potential ‘quarantine slide’ and the lack of reliable student data, some schools are searching for a common assessment to administer when students return to school. Common assessment results can be used to establish a new baseline, and inform student placement decisions. After five months of learning independently, both students and teachers will appreciate a clear understanding of their academic readiness. 

There are several considerations when planning a common assessment for the return to school in Fall 2020: 

  • Use of Instructional time: After months away from the classroom, is a common assessment the best use of instructional time? Consider how teachers and students will feel about testing near the return of school.  Select a common assessment that can be administered in a timely manner
  • Actionable data that serves a broad audience:  One way to conserve instructional time and get the most out of a common assessment is to select an assessment that can inform instruction at multiple levels and in multiple subjects. Select a test that measures reading and writing across content areas. Select a math test that can apply to a broad range of math abilities. 
  • Timely results that don’t require human scoring: Identify an assessment solution that doesn’t require hand-scoring of items. While constructed responses are a great way to diagnose individual student’s learning needs, this is not the time to ask your teaching staff to read and score student responses.  Select an assessment solution that is scored by technology and provides data quickly. 
  • Assessments that matter to students: Assessment data is only useful if the student puts in an honest effort.  Selecting an assessment that will provide value to the student is one way to ensure that we collect accurate data. 

Illuminate Education and Horizon Education have a solution for schools that are concerned about the ‘quarantine slide’. The College Readiness Package provides practice SAT/PSAT or ACT/Pre-ACT assessments to meet the need for common assessments.  Users receive actionable data at the student, classroom, site, and district level. The Fall assessments will help teachers and students set a baseline, while Winter and Spring assessments can measure growth over time. Help your students prepare for college admissions exams while collecting actionable data at every level. 

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