Ed Focus Initiative

Standards-Based Benchmarks

Districts are choosing one of two courses of action in developing Quarterly or Benchmark Assessments: (1) they develop their own from local items; or (2) they rely on a commercial, on-line company with pre-developed tests.

(1) As districts look for validity and reliability in the assessment of standards, it is essential that the benchmark tests used as measures of progress district-wide be quality measures of student learning. To guide them in this effort, EdFOCUS will develop the tests based on the district Curriculum Maps / Pacing Guides and after meeting with teachers to determine precisely what has been taught and how. In addition, we prepare an in-depth analysis of student results once the testing is completed. For districts who cannot afford or elect not to use an on-line testing program, yet need to have valid common assessments, EdFOCUS provides an excellent and cost-effective solution.

(2) On the other hand, many districts have purchased some type of test item bank that accompanies an on-line testing program. In these cases, EdFOCUS conducts an analysis of the test items selected by the district to determine:

  1. The quality of each test item in conjunction with the standard(s) being measured: [1] the match in terms of content; [2] the reflection of cognitive demand; and [3] the degree to which each item is validly and appropriately constructed;
  2. The appropriateness of the number of items chosen; one is too few, but (say) eleven of the same type is superfluous.
  3. The appropriateness of the distractors for the multiple-choice items, and the degree to which they yield information that the teacher can use to intervene with students;
  4. The sophistication of short-answer and extended-response items that are used on the test as they relate to the types of items that students see on high-stakes tests, rather than as fill-in the blank questions; and
  5. The types of reports that the program provides the teacher and how the district can use the data to improve what teachers do in the classroom.

When districts purchase a testing program, they often assume that the items in the Item Bank are of equal quality and are a valid match to the standards they are teaching. In the past, Testing companies have tried to use an Item Bank and “fit” the questions to each individual state’s standards. With the Common Core, this will no longer be an issue, because so many of the states will be using the same curriculum, and the Test Item Banks should be stronger because they are not trying to serve so many masters! However, we find that when teachers are assigned to build the Benchmark tests from the Item Bank, they are not properly trained to do so, and the task is very time-consuming and the results are often disappointing. EdFOCUS can work with teachers on how to select items and assemble tests that address the standards taught in the district’s classrooms.