School Improvement in Maryland

Developing a Monitoring Plan

You can use monitoring plans for many purposes. The purpose described in this section is to monitor student progress toward proficiency on key indicators/objectives that lead to the attainment of school improvement achievement goals.

What data is useful to monitor?

Is formative or summative data more useful for monitoring?

An NCREL Learning Point web document, entitled “From High-Stakes Testing to Assessment for School Improvement” reports that “The most important challenge for teachers, schools, and districts is to support each student's journey toward proficiency in meeting established learning standards.” However, extracting information from a student that demonstrates his or her progress toward the goal can be difficult. Ongoing observation of a child at the classroom level—day in and day out— may provide the most accurate information about what a child genuinely knows and what progress is being made. Classroom teachers are most qualified to give input on student progress toward meeting academic standards, but they need to be given the time, the training, and the support to provide more than just test scores.

Why can't you monitor with state or district assessment data?

An annual state assessment program doesn't provide the information that teachers need to make daily instructional decisions. A state assessment program should be designed to assess the relative success or failure of schools and school systems. The consequences of making an error in the classification of a school or school system as unsuccessful are serious. The technical goal of a state assessment program is to minimize the possibility of misclassification. Since the state doesn't have an opportunity to take multiple measurements, it must minimize classification errors by strengthening the psychometric properties of the test instrument. School systems are also limited in the number of measurements they can take of students. School system assessments, at best, are snap shots of student performance at a single point in time. They are not designed to monitor progress in real time. In addition, by the time test results are available, schools have moved forward instructionally. The data may be an accurate historical view of a school's performance but they are not very useful in understanding where you are now and what you need to do to keep on track. Furthermore, schools systems may lack the expertise or staff to design psychometrically sound testing instruments. Many systems use norm-referenced tests that are not specifically designed to measure the state's content standards.

What is needed is a monitoring system that is aligned with the state content standards that yields timely, meaningful and diagnostic results for classroom teachers. Teachers can and should collect daily information about where students are in relationship to what is being taught. They can use multiple measurements that may include tests, assignments, presentations, or oral responses to questions. They need the diagnostic information to determine what they need to teach and re-teach and when they need to provide additional interventions. Because teachers can give multiple measurements to monitor students' progress, the consequences of an error in any single measurement are relatively minimal. There are many opportunities to clarify student strengths and weakness and, if necessary, correct misjudgments.

Why can't you monitor with teacher grades?

Report card grades preceded standards-based education and are rarely aligned with state content standards. Furthermore, they are not an indication of whether a student has met the proficient standard but rather an indication of where the student is performing in relation to other students. Assigning report card grades has long been a time-consuming part of a teacher's job. This age old practice raises some new questions in a standards-driven educational system.

  • Can you tell by the grade on which standards students have and have not achieved proficiency?
  • Are the assignments and tests used to create grades designed to elicit information about where the student is in achieving a standard?
  • Does the time spent creating grades yield useful information about teaching and measuring learning on the content standards?