Assessment During School Closures

Nicole Rigelman, Chief Academic Officer and Patrick Vennebush, Chief Learning Officer

As the school year begins, students, educators, and schools face numerous challenges. One of these challenges is how to handle assessment. We’ve received variations of the following question from many Bridges educators in recent weeks:

How can we effectively assess students in a remote learning environment?

Along with that question, teachers and administrators have expressed concerns about how tests can be delivered online and how to ensure students don’t receive assistance from family members.

In our Guidance Documents (login required), we suggest Number Corner may be more important this year than ever before because of its role in reinforcing and extending skills and concepts. Similarly, formative assessment is more important this year than in the past. Gathering and using evidence of what students already know and understand is vital to guiding decisions about where to focus attention and potentially reengage students with essential content.

Informal Assessment

In 2020–21, because our time to focus on mathematics with students will be limited, we need to blur the lines between instruction and assessment. We should use every interaction as an opportunity to learn more about our students and their thinking. We can do this by observing and listening as they interact with one another, share their thinking, and submit their work for feedback. Having clear expectations for what it looks and sounds like to use a productive strategy is every bit as important as the correct answer.

While the Bridges curriculum offers myriad assessments, including unit pre- and post-assessments, checkpoints, Number Corner assessments, and the Comprehensive Growth Assessment (CGA), it may be appropriate to  use none of them  during this school year. Instead of using instructional time for testing, we need to become students of our students.

Recommendations

We recommend using assessments formatively; specifically, using observations, conversations, and work samples to determine what knowledge and skills your students have in place and where they may need more support. Instead of testing, focus on:

  1. Using the unit screeners in our Guidance Documents, in lieu of the longer pre-assessments, to quickly determine your students’ prerequisite knowledge related to upcoming content.
  2. Incorporating rich mathematical tasks where students show their thinking and reasoning.
  3. Using digital resources, such as those highlighted in the Tech-Enhanced Activities, to collect more than just answers.
  4. Listening to your students and watching them as they work.

First-grade Bridges educator Sarah Carey stated, “One of my favorite Bridges' assessments is the interview. It reveals so much about what my students know and how they are thinking.” Such conversations — even through Zoom or Google Meet — will communicate your care for students and show your interest in their thinking while helping you plan the best next steps instructionally.