School Improvement in Maryland

Monitor Student Progress

The only way for teachers and schools to identify which students can demonstrate proficiency on state content standards is to continuously assess and monitor students as part of their classroom instruction. Teachers must know on a day to day basis where their students are in relation to the content standards to have the necessary information to inform instruction. Schools have to identify the student achievement data they need to collect to determine if they are making progress toward the attainment of their priority goals.

What do you need to monitor?

The ultimate goal for monitoring student progress is to ensure that all students are successful in attaining proficiency on state and district standards. Teachers need to teach and assess the indicators they are responsible for teaching on an ongoing basis so that they will know where their students are at any given time in relationship to those indicators. Teachers need to regularly ask these four questions:

  1. What do I want my students to know and do?
  2. Where are my students?
  3. What evidence do I have to know that?
  4. What do I plan to do about it?

This on-going monitoring is also the way teachers determine whether their instructional strategies are working for all students and which students need instructional interventions. An examination of student performance on assignments and assessments enables teachers to make informed instructional decisions regarding teaching and re-teaching specific indicators. It is probably obvious, though not always practiced, that classroom instruction and assessment must be aligned with the state's content standards if a school wishes to attain state standards and meet their state accountability target.

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 a 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 system use norm-referenced tests that are not specifically designed to measure the state's content standards. We seem to have the worst of both worlds: tests misaligned with the state's content standards and information that is so dated that it is of little relevance to the classroom. What is needed is a monitoring system that is aligned with the state content standards that yields timely and meaningful 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 shouldn't teachers use grades for monitoring?

Assigning report card grades has long been a time-consuming part of a teacher's job. To produce a grade, teachers design and grade assignments, tests, homework, and projects that they deem are important. This age old practice raises some new questions in a standards-driven educational system.

  • What relationship do the grades have to the standards students are asked to achieve?
  • Can you tell by the grade on which standards students have and have not achieved proficiency?
  • What information do grades give that would help parents (and students) understand what a student knows and can do in relation to a standard?
  • 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 the content standards?

Until school systems implement a grading policy that aligns and reports student progress against the standards, on their report cards, we will not be able to use report cards to monitor student progress on standards.