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Teachers providing valuable input during assessment development process

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teacher Input

Hundreds of teachers have been essential in creating the Dynamic Learning Maps™ Alternate Assessment System. DLM™ project staff members have continually sought input from master teachers on DLM™ project activities including the following:

For more information on the DLM™ project, visit dynamiclearningmaps.org.

Educators Participate in one of the formal reviews of the Dynamic Learning Map in 2012. More than 170 teachers have been involved in developing and refining the map since the DLM™ project began.

Lawrence, Kans. — Hundreds of teachers across the country have provided their insights and expertise during ongoing development of the Dynamic Learning Maps™ Alternate Assessment System (DLM™-AAS).

Since the project began work in February 2011, more than 300 teachers have been involved DLM™ development activities.

Significant teacher involvement is necessary to design and implement an assessment system that helps students learn, according to Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE), which leads the 14-state DLM™ Consortium developing the DLM™-AAS. It is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.

“Learning and assessment occur in the classroom and without teacher involvement, even good ideas well supported by research can be implemented in ways that do not lead to the intended results,” Kingston said. “We need feedback from educators on whether our assessment ideas, processes, and procedures are going to work in the real-world environment, and we will continue to seek their input throughout the life of the project.”

The Consortium is creating the next-generation, computer-based, online assessment for the 1% of the K-12 public school student population with significant cognitive disabilities for whom, even with accommodations, general state assessments are not appropriate.

Students taking the alternate assessment represent a wide range of academic, communication, and social needs. The unique nature of the DLM™ project, combined with the diversity of the alternate assessment student population, call for constant reflection and feedback from individuals who know both assessment and special education.

Assessment Item Development

Items will be built on models of effective classroom instruction and assessment practices. DLM™ took master teachers’ ideas to create prototype items, known as instructionally relevant testlets, that present short activities designed to gather information on students’ achievement.

Starting in October 2012, DLM™ project staff began traveling to DLM™ Consortium states to gather teacher input on the testlets’ content, format, and accessibility. A trip to Utah marked the first of several opportunities to share testlets with DLM™ stakeholders. Following each trip, DLM™ staff will review the stakeholders’ feedback and make any necessary revisions.

“This iterative process will inform the design of the DLM™ assessment and hopefully impact in a positive way classroom instruction because the assessment items will model activities that are going to be good for teachers to be doing,” Kingston said.

Common Core Essential Elements

132 educators from DLM™ Consortium states participated in two working meetings to develop the Essential Elements, which are specific statements of the content and skills that are linked to the Common Core State Standards grade-level specific expectations for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Dynamic Learning Map

Teachers participated in multiple reviews of the Dynamic Learning Map. Their reactions were captured on video and can be found online at dynamiclearningmaps.org /news/vids_01.html.

The map (which covers mathematics and English language arts) is made up of networks of sequenced learning targets (nodes) based on research on how students learn critical concepts and skills. Intensive reviews by expert educators in DLM™ Consortium states were necessary to ensure that the map also reflected key instructional milestones and the diversity of the alternate assessment population. In all, 177 teachers, including 90 special education teachers, have contributed to map development and refinement.

Content experts and educators in mathematics and English language arts provided feedback on the content and inclusiveness of the map during formal map review meetings in fall 2011 and winter 2012.

Summer of 2012 brought special educators to Kansas City for a map review for accessibility. Teacher leaders and experts in the fields of intellectual disability, deafness/blindness, blind/vision impairment, autism, motor impairment, and other sensory needs assembled to review nodes and pathways (connections between the nodes) that might be inaccessible to students. Some students cannot learn through typical pathways to gain access to content if they have sensory or motor disabilities. Several days of working with the map resulted in alternate pathways to capture the ways students with significant cognitive disabilities learn academic content.

Student Data Collection

Between November 2012 and May 2013 educators from the DLM™ Consortium will complete the First Contact Student Characteristics Census Survey to collect accurate data on students who will take the alternate assessment.

Information will inform DLM’s™ understanding of student needs and DLM™ assessment system design. The survey will capture student characteristics at a fine-grain level: student demographics, sensory skills, motor skills, expressive and receptive language, computer access, use of alternate communication devices, academic skills, and engagement with attention to instruction.

Educators from seven DLM™ Consortium states also assisted in the survey’s development via an inter-rater reliability study in the spring and summer of 2012.

Professional Development

With extensive input from member states in the DLM™ Consortium on materials’ content, length, and release, DLM™ has developed professional development materials in a variety of formats to provide states flexibility and choice in implementation. It is left up to states to decide how best to implement professional development to suit their needs.

Supporting teachers of students with significant cognitive disabilities in their efforts to teach and assess are the focus of DLM™ professional development materials, which are being created by Karen Erickson at the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, a DLM™ partner.

"DLM™ professional development emphasizes that teachers understand the Common Core State Standards, but, most importantly, the bulk of our professional development is going to focus on how to teach children with significant cognitive disabilities in a multitude of ways that is conducive to student learning and in ways that allows them to learn relative to the Common Core,” Erickson said.

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