Rolling out a district wide assessment solution is no small task. Williamson County Schools in Middle Tennessee has gone through the process multiple times with previous vendors over the years, so we’ve learned the hard way on what to do and what not to do. If your district is looking to implement an assessment solution, here are some suggestions to help you find success and avoid some of our challenges!
Like many districts, we had a very specific assessment plan and vision that we were looking to achieve. Most importantly, we wanted to build a bank of test items aligned to our local curriculum. Teachers would be able to write the items, but specialists at the district would vet them before placing the items in the bank. We felt this was a good balance for getting teacher buy-in through ownership, while still having quality control in place. And we planned for the same item bank used for district formative assessments to also be open to all teachers for classroom use.
Our first step in the implementation process began a full year before an assessment platform was even in place. We needed to collect items to be a part of the item bank. Specialists salvaged some items from our former platforms, but most of the work involved having teachers create new items. We had no idea which platform we would be using yet, so we simply collected item content through shared documents.
In January of 2017, we committed to implementing PM Assessment platform and contracted to have limited access to the item writing components initially. This gave our specialists six months to begin entering vetted items into the item bank before the start of the next school year. This was a huge advantage for us because it allowed everyone time to learn best practices for creating some of the newer interaction types.
The next big step in the implementation was to come up with a game plan for rolling out PM Assessment to the schools. In a nutshell, we worked with the following process:
- Train two teacher leaders from each school on the administration of online tests. Those teachers would then turn that training around to their staff.
- Administer a district-wide practice assessment to all students in all core content areas. This allowed us to locate and correct technical issues, but it also gave the students an opportunity to interact with the newer item types. We were able to use the “fake” data from the practice assessment in our next steps.
- Train two teacher leaders from each school on reading the item analysis reports available in the platform, and they would in turn that training around at their schools.
- Administer our first district-wide benchmark assessment to all students.
We’re proud to announce our rollout plan worked. Our teachers successfully administered over 122,000 assessments in just two weeks!
Looking forward, our next steps are to train teachers to build tests for classroom use and then train them on how to create items directly in PM Assessment. Given how smoothly our first steps have been, I’m optimistic what lies ahead will go well, too.
Looking to find a new assessment solution? Check out these tips!
Kevin Deck has spent 13 years teaching high school mathematics in Cobb County, Georgia, and Williamson County, Tennessee. He is currently the Assessment Analyst for Williamson County Schools, responsible for a variety of district and state assessments for its 44 schools.