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At a fundamental level, many children must for the first time develop academically-oriented identities. Climbing this mountain successfully will be possible only when educators recognize that students acquire knowledge and skills best when their developmental needs are understood and addressed by the teachers and other adults they interact with every day at school.

Today, one in four children in the United States is growing up in poverty.

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Many of these children are exposed to violence, chronic insecurity, loss, hardship and disruption. Here is another, perhaps more vivid picture of that challenge. They show up in the classroom in the form of traumatic stress, which has unique and often profound effects on the developing brain. Such stress causes children to be tuned out, preoccupied, impulsive, unable to concentrate, distrustful and nervous.

It interferes with their ability to focus, to interact with others, to tackle rigorous academic material and progress in school successfully. Now imagine a classroom filled with children who experience this kind of stress, or an entire school. The profound impact of the trauma that stems from poverty has huge implications for the way children learn and behave the design of classrooms, the preparation of teachers and what is measured as part of school improvement. For children growing up with the stress of poverty, the cognitive, social and emotional barriers to learning are enormous, but they also are predictable and recurring.

They form a pattern of unreadiness for students, teachers and schools that is precisely what makes it possible to design an intervention to address them. To reach the new standards, much less the full potential of each student, schools can no longer ignore these barriers and challenges to teaching and learning. If anything, our school partners tell us, standards have brought them into even greater focus. Schools must face obstacles to learning squarely, focusing not only on innovative curricular and human capital reforms, but also on strategies and supports that mitigate the risk and stress associated with poverty.

They must employ powerful practices that foster the development of motivation and persistence, productive engagement with learning, and resilience. Schools and classrooms that do this offer a fortified environment for teaching and learning that fosters healthy growth and performance in all children. To design a fortified environment, educators should become familiar with research depicting the effects of stress and trauma on student development. Even though many children are resilient in the face of extremely difficult circumstances, many others develop toxic stress responses that derail their ability to learn.

For example, a performance task in English language arts might include reading passages from primary documents, analyzing the set of passages, and writing an essay in response to a prompt. In a mathematics class, a performance task might ask students to analyze a graph based on actual data and describe the linear relationship between the quantities. Using the technology offered in performance-based assessments, students can enter their responses in the online interface. For tasks that require hand scoring, scores can be merged with machine-scored items in the same system, thus providing complete test results.

PISA is a triennial international survey that aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of year-old students. For additional information, visit www. A recent convening of the National Research Council NRC underscored the importance of broadening the focus of assessment to include non-cognitive competencies and the importance of technology in measuring knowledge, skills, and abilities.

With funding from the U. Through animations, assessments, and classroom activities, students learn a growth mindset—the understanding that ability develops with effort. Pilot research in nine middle schools showed significant increases in student growth mindset, which related to increases in learning goals, positive beliefs about effort, and positive academic habits and behaviors such as resilient responses to failure and better learning strategies. Since launching in , SchoolKit has been used by tens of thousands of students around the country, including all middle schools in Washington, D.

Such assessments can enable educators to see, evaluate, and respond to student work more quickly than can traditional assessments. Similarly, learners and their families can access this information almost in real time.


Technology-based summative assessments also facilitate faster turnaround of results. Certain formative assessment platforms allow educators to provide feedback to students via in-line comments through video, audio, or text , engage in online chats, e-mail feedback directly to families and learners, and connect learners to additional resources for practicing specific skills or developing key understandings. These technologies also can increase the efficiency of the process of giving feedback, allowing educators more time to focus on areas of greatest need.

For example, for giving feedback on areas of frequent concern, educators can pre-populate a menu of responses to use as comments, allowing them to shift focus to areas of feedback unique to each student. Automated responses can be generated as well when assignments are late or incomplete. Although this is still nascent technology, in recent years, advances have occurred in automated scoring of essays that may make it a more powerful tool to generate timely feedback.

Three Key Questions on Measuring Learning - Educational Leadership

Advances in technology grounded in UD and systems that align to UDL have made assessments more accessible and valid for a greater number of students, including those with diverse abilities and language capabilities. These advances have allowed a greater proportion of the population access to assessments. Special features include the ability to increase font sizes and change color contrast, text-to-speech, bilingual dictionaries, glossaries, and more.

These features can be embedded in assessments and made available to students, depending on what the assessment is measuring and identified learner needs. Seamless accessibility features embedded in technology-based assessments reduce the need to single out individual students for extra supports, providing an added benefit for students and educators alike.

Similarly, assistive technology, such as text-to-speech, alternate response systems, and refreshable braille, supports students with disabilities in accessing learning. These technologies continue to advance and can make it possible for students to interact with digital learning resources in ways that would be impossible with standard print-based assessments. When both assistive technologies and assessments effectively interoperate, students are better able to demonstrate what they know and how to apply this knowledge.

Computer adaptive testing has facilitated the ability of assessments to estimate accurately what students know and can do across the curriculum in a shorter testing session than would otherwise be necessary.

For example, if the student answers a question correctly, a slightly more challenging item is presented next; if the student answers incorrectly, he or she receives another opportunity to demonstrate knowledge in a different manner. Achieving the same level of precision in a traditional paper-and-pencil test would require students to answer many more questions, potentially impacting instructional time. Moving forward, these assessments can benefit from increased interoperability so that the data from these adaptive measures can be pulled into a centralized dashboard that allows a more integrated understanding of student performance.

Embedded assessments are woven directly into the fabric of learning activities students undertake. Such assessments may be technology driven or simply a part of effective instruction, and they may appear in digital learning tools and games. They are generally invisible to the instructional process because they are embedded in the regular classroom activities.

Open Schooling Broadening Access to Learning Opportunities

Embedded assessments have the potential to be useful for diagnostic and support purposes in that they provide insights into why students are having difficulties in mastering concepts and provide insights into how to personalize feedback to address these challenges. Game-based assessment is designed to leverage parallels between video game design and next-generation learning and assessment. GlassLab creates and supports high-impact games that make learning visible by creating games, conducting research, and building infrastructure that lowers entry costs for new developers.

For example, GlassLab has conducted a number of studies investigating the efficacy of games as a tool for learning and unobtrusive assessment.


While learning how economic and environmental issues influence one another, students are assessed on their ability to problem-solve and understand relationships in complex systems. To support teacher facilitation, and enrich teacher-student interactions, the game also includes lessons plans, teacher and student dashboards, and student data reporting.

Stephen N. Elliott and Brendan J. Bartlett

Valerie Shute, the Mack and Effie Campbell Tyner Endowed Professor in Education at Florida State University, is studying the impact of video games on learning, with a focus on building a greater understanding of the future of embedded assessment. Players guide a ball to a balloon across a set of increasingly challenging two-dimensional environments involving the placement and manipulation of ramps, pendulums, levers, and springboards.

After taking a traditional pre-test and answering a background questionnaire to assess prior knowledge, students played the game during six class periods—about four hours in total—and concluded their participation by completing a traditional post-test. On the basis of analyses of the pre- and post-test data, game log files, and the background questionnaire, Shute and her colleagues demonstrated the following:. Technology provides students with multiple pathways to create assessable work throughout the year. To demonstrate their understanding, students can create multimedia productions, construct websites to organize and analyze information, and design interactive presentations to serve as products for assessment.

These pathways allow teachers to understand how students access and understand information across given categories. For students who need individual accommodations, advances in technology allow for dynamic and personalized presentation and assessment using alternative representations of the same concept or skill. For example, alternative text can be provided for images through the work of the Diagram Center to make graphics accessible to learners with print disabilities. Moving forward, increasingly sophisticated technology-driven assessments will enable more powerful personalized learning, likely accelerating the shift from time-based learning to competency-based learning.

Although the process is often challenging, in many places, transitioning to technology-based assessment is well under way. Such assessments will continue to improve across time in the following ways. Traditional paper-and-pencil tests, and even some first-generation technology-based assessments, usually are reviewed and updated only on a designated schedule, often driven by printing and distribution cycles rather than when test items need to be updated. Online delivery of assessments allows for continuous improvement of test items.

Technology has the potential to move assessment from disjointed separate measures of student progress to an integrated system of assessments and personalized instruction to meet the needs of the learner.

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Technology can integrate more fully student classroom experiences, homework assignments, and formative and summative assessments, all of which are tied closely to academic standards. Online learning platforms can display effects of missing assignments, progress toward goals, and channels for communication with mentors and teachers. We also should expect to see integrated systems that make the learning process more seamless for students and educators. As students progress along personalized learning pathways, they will be assessed when they are ready to demonstrate mastery over particular skills and content rather than when the calendar indicates there is a testing date.

At the same time, we have a responsibility to ensure that all students are held to high standards and offered excellent educational experiences. Ensuring equity while also providing accelerated personalization is the one of the greatest challenges and opportunities moving forward for technology in assessment. To realize the vision of sharing data across student information systems, we need to address several challenges. On the technical front, formidable barriers to the development of multi-level assessment systems are created by having several student data systems running side-by-side, coupled with disparate data formats and the lack of interoperability across systems.

Student and program data today are collected at various levels and in various amounts to address different needs in the educational system. State data systems generally provide macro solutions, institution-level performance management systems offer micro solutions, and student data generated by embedded assessments create nano solutions. Providing meaningful, actionable information that is collected across all of these systems will require agreement on the technical format for sharing data while attending to student privacy and security.

Note: Version 5 was released in January For more information on protecting student data and privacy, see Section 5: Infrastructure. Although systems that support real-time feedback can increase educator and learner understanding of progress toward learning goals, the feedback is even more valuable if it is available in one easily accessible place.