Professional Learning

Making Assessment Efficacy More than Just Tick Marks

“How do I have to grade this? By when?” With the amount of assessments that teachers are required to design and administer, where do they find time to grade them, analyze the assessment efficacy, and use them to make decisions?

It all started my first year of teaching. 2002. We were told to attend a training on “Efficacy.” Until that day, I hadn’t understood what efficacy was. I had to look it up: “Efficacy is defined as the power to produce a desired effect.” After the training, I spent hours making tick marks and looking at which test questions the majority of students got correct and which the majority got wrong. But, afterwards, we never did anything with the information. I remember not understanding why these tick marks were important. It didn’t truly make sense for me until I started learning how to design quality assessments and using the data from those assessments to see how the students performed, as well as how the test design performed.

Fast forward to 2015 … as a faculty, my school focused on learning how to develop quality assessments. As a result of that intense focus, St. Lucie educators could talk for days about what you need to design quality assessments. But, after refining our assessment skills, our educators wanted to see how the students were doing. We began by developing a spreadsheet for each assessment, for each teacher, for each class period, and then hand entered the students’ scores question by question. Together my Principal, Assistant Principal and I tackled this task … which took forever! We knew for this to work, we needed to help the teachers by entering the data for them, so all they had to do was review the data and use it to drive instruction. I was having flashbacks from my “efficacy days” but something seemed different. I was excited by what I was seeing.

While we spent long hours and days entering the assessment data, we kept saying, “There must be an easier way!” Eventually, we learned about a beautiful solution called Unify that could do all of this for us! I was intrigued and wanted to know more. Together with our district-trained assessment guru, Charles Hatherill, we decided to pilot Unify at our school.

We were all very excited at the possibility of what we were going to be able to do! This program had been used at the district level to analyze how benchmark assessments were as a district, but it had never been used at the building level. We asked for teacher volunteers who wanted to be trained and supported in using this new program, and we ended up with a handful of teachers that wanted to see what Unify could do. We added all of our assessments to Unify, but what was next?

Throughout the year we used Unify to make online assessments and scansheets to match the assessments we had designed ourselves. Then we developed a data chat process, held data chats, and used the data to drive instruction.

Why was this all worth it?

  • We were able to use our own assessments that WE had designed.
  • We were able to have the students’ assessments graded and entered in the data system almost immediately (…or in the time it took you to walk to the scanner).
  • The team could now spend the time working through the data chat process to see how the students did and what to do because of it.
  • Teachers are now able to see the full circle of the planning process.

Where do we go from here?

Now that we have had time using the program, we are working to improve our data chat process, make adjustments to the assessments as we learn more about the standards, and work on using Unify to help with more frequent formative assessments. We will be sharing how this whole idea of “Efficacy” can come full circle for you and your school in our upcoming webinar. We will show you how you too can develop a culture of formative assessments to improve student achievement!

Interested in learning more about create a culture of formative assessment in your schools? Join us as we invite three seasoned educators to share their best practices and tips and tricks for creating a positive climate for formative assessment in your schools. Register for our September webinar today!


Kathleen Manchester – Assistant Principal – Port St Lucie, FL

After 9 years in the classroom, I was pleased to become a Math Coach. As Math Coach, I was part of the school’s leadership team where together we guided and supported our teachers. Currently, I am the Assistant Principal of Southport Middle School.