Bridging the Gap

by Lisa Chubbic, Student Assessment Program Coodinator, and Karrie Edwards, Textbook Training Coordinator

How has the COVID-19 instructional shift affected the academic achievement of students? Predictions from last spring, as well as recent benchmark findings this fall, indicate negative academic impacts for students in reading, and even more in math. This reminds us of the importance of making the effort to understand what students know—establishing a baseline and identifying gaps.

Under the current conditions, it is important for educators to strategize and think about what has been covered since March 2020 and identify the most important standards or learning targets for each grade level in the current school year.

Next, standardized testing, along with common formative assessments, will correctly determine student understanding, and educators will be able use those assessment results to further inform, modify, enrich, and differentiate instruction to meet student learning needs.

Instructionally, teachers need to effectively differentiate learning more than ever before, not slowing the instruction down, but using the recently acquired data that has identified gaps to formulate personalized strategic learning plans.

To help inform instruction and bridge the gap, teachers will need even more tools and strategies to differentiate learning and accelerate growth because their students’ needs will be greater. It is important, as well, to consider the social and emotional impact of blended and remote learning.

Teachers often plan, implement, gather feedback, and make changes as they go. This process will be imperative to meeting students’ needs moving forward.

Given the ongoing disruption of COVID-19, it is likely that blended learning will become the new norm. Moving forward, teachers will need to provide online options that include best practices while also providing support for students, as well as addressing the needs of the students that will have stayed on course through the disruption.

In addition to regular textbook use, teachers will need to add instructional technology to their curriculums. With its ability to adapt instruction to the individual, this technology can provide crucial support for both teachers and students. Well-designed and researched adaptive programs, particularly for reading and math, may be part of the solution to address learning gaps and accelerate all students toward grade-level proficiency.

As educators use standardized assessment data to inform instruction, teachers and administrators should analyze the criterion-referenced scores, which are standards-based scores that are very diagnostic and provide baseline data. These scores are easily analyzed because there is a national cut score that indicates proficiency based on specific criteria for each standard. All test publishers have similar reports with criterion-referenced scores that can be used to evaluate grade level proficiency. Standards-based data analysis is as simple as looking at objective scores for the TerraNova 3 or the domains for the Iowa Assessments.

First, it is important to be strategic in using the data to identify strengths to determine where students have achieved mastery and celebrate those successes. Next, educators should address areas of critical need, so they can focus more on the areas where students need to improve. This process will help reduce the instructional time for mastered content that can be easily spiraled into a modified instructional plan and allow time for teachers to address content that is crucial to closing the gap and improving student proficiency. Teachers can strategically dig into the curriculum to find the identified standards that need to be addressed and adjust their pacing guide to build time into the teaching schedule to intentionally address gaps.

Here is an example of what teachers might do. These simple steps will allow you to analyze and act on the criterion-referenced scores to set goals and track improvement.

  1. First, compare class/group and individual student scores to the national cut score for each content objective, domain, or standard.
    • For both a class/group and individual student, to identify strengths, simply put a checkmark next to any score that is above the national cut score.
    • After the strengths have been identified, circle any score that is at or below the national cut score.
  2. Next, determine which objectives, domains, or standards need to be addressed.
    • For a class/group, count each circled score for each standard.
    • For individual students, count the number of students circled for each standard.

As you continue the analysis, you will obtain a clearer picture of how to provide additional intervention to close identified gaps.

The following guidelines are provided to assist you when looking at each content standard to determine the level of intervention:

  • Individualized instruction—25% or fewer students at or below the national cut score
  • Small group instruction—between 25-50% of students are at or below the national cut score
  • Whole group instruction—more than 50% of students are at or below the national cut score

Classifying students into these three categories will allow you to plan instructional time wisely for each content standard that needs to be reviewed.

For more information about ACSI's Student Assessment Program, click this link or complete this form.