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March 12, 2019

How to Access Standards-Aligned, Premade, K-12 Assessments in 5 Easy Steps

I’m an English Language Arts teacher. I give standards-aligned tests to my students. They take the assessments. I grade them. Not much has changed in that basic interaction since I was a student.

What has changed is the implementation of standards like the Common Core State Standards. Whatever you think about the standards, they are here. The standards can be restricting in that there is more to the learning process than achieving mastery as the standards define it, yet there is some value to standardization. I’ll let others debate that topic, I have students to teach.  

Such is life as a teacher now. Your administration demands that test questions be “standards-aligned” so that it can prove to the state that students are improving in the required skills and knowledge. So that means that all tests should be rigidly standardized, right?  

I don’t think so. Teachers still have the agency to guide their students by creating and curating their own tests. Digital assessment tools have adapted to standards-based learning and let us link the specific questions to the standards and, as a result, let us measure student growth in those areas over the school year.

Pear Assessment (formerly Edulastic), the digital assessment tool my current school uses, makes the process easy. It has a bank of pre-built and pre-approved assessments that are already tied to the Common Core Standards.  

Follow me down the rabbit hole, and I’ll guide you through Wonderland, or Pear Assessment if that’s where we end up.  

Getting started with the Pear Assessment Database & Search Engine  

Why take the time to create your own bespoke assessments and then laboriously tie them to the Common Core Standards, when Pear Assessment gives you the tools to make that much, much easier? There are reasons, of course, but Pear Assessment has a bank of questions and assessments that you can search through and filter based upon the needs of your classroom.  

You need to make sure your students are performing well in CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.4 so that you can ensure they achieve mastery of CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.10? It’s easy with Pear Assessment.  

First you can search for assessments and questions for the exact standard you need to test by selecting standards using Pear Assessment’s filters.  Then, you can modify or make use of an an entire, already published and vetted assessment to make sure it meets your specific classroom needs on top of hitting the required elements of the standards-based learning environment.  

Gladly the filtering system goes beyond the CCSS standards and lets teachers dive deeper into the pre-built questions and assessments by filtering them for specifications like grade, standard set, content area, and Depth of Knowledge (DOK).  

Effective search methods: Pear Assessment's assessment libraries and question banks  

Pear Assessment is an amazing interactive and collaborative tool because of the high quality and rigorous standards based content / questions / assessments contained in its libraries and banks. There are just 5 steps a teacher needs to consider to narrow down options and get to the point of the assessment design process.

  1. Determine what standards your students are being tested on or practice with
  3. Select question types to find content aligned with your standards and student needs
  5. Familiarize yourself with Pear Assessment’s variety of assessment libraries and question banks
  7. Select questions from your school or district library: “Tagging” questions for teacher collaboration
  9. Conduct a focused search using your “filters” in Pear Assessment’s question bank

By creating digital assessments using these functions, you are actually breathing specific standards-aligned content to life in a digital setting. Students will master important skills and learning objectives aligned to the standards being addressed in the assessment.I will outline those five steps and will go into detail about each during the remainder of this article.

1) Determine what standards your students are being tested on or need practice with

Before creating an effective assessment using Pear Assessment’s content, you must know exactly what you are looking for. For example, I teach secondary English Language Arts in the state of Ohio, and am looking for content to help my scholars build the skills, knowledge, and stamina required to nail their state tests in April. In my situation, I simply visited the Ohio Department of Education’s website and searched for resources.    

Teachers need to research the websites their states provide to disseminate the content that provides testing blueprints for each grade level and subject by standard. This will provide insurance that they are implementing the “big rocks” into their assessments to best prepare their scholars for success in high-stakes tests.

It is important to remember that “questions” typically employ the use of a variety or combination of standards and skills. This is what makes Pear Assessment an efficient, personalized platform to aide teachers and curriculum experts while they locate, vet, rearrange, and assign content for their students.  

Moreover, Pear Assessment offers a wide variety of standards-aligned resources for teacher users. With these tools teachers create digital assessments that will support student achievement through mastering their content using the same environment and computer functionalities as the actual high stakes digital state EOY assessments.  

Below is an image of the Ohio Department of Education “Ohio Grade 7 English Language Arts Blueprint”, which lists the standards addressed on this particular test, as well as their weight in points within a student’s overall score on the assessment. Use resources like these, as well as your own curriculum maps, to find the exact standards you want to type into the Pear Assessment search engine to start building your assessments and other activities that help guide students to mastery of specific, basic computer skills; standards.  

Ohio Department of Education State Test Rubric

2) Select question types to find standards-aligned content to fit your students' needs

Edulastic's question bank

The Pear Assessment platform and database allows educators to choose and practice the use of different question types that align with whatever standards your school uses and state testing protocols.  

To help illustrate this process, in Ohio, which is a Common Core State, several item and interaction types are used on EOY course tests. Luckily for teachers, Pear Assessment has those very same item and interaction question types, vetted and labeled by standard, DOK, and grade level etc., available within the apps “Assessment Libraries” and “Question Banks.”Ohio teachers can research the testing protocols, processes, and tech skills required by visiting the Ohio Department of Education’s website and conducting a short search.  

Within these state resources, question “interaction” types are explained in some detail. On the site dedicated to the ELA End of Year exam for my 7th graders (these are the same for all tests, though) the website states, Ohio’s State Tests are composed of items containing one or several interaction types. An interaction type is the manner in which a response to an item is provided.

The items on each ELA test are computer-delivered response items that require students to interact with test content to select, construct, and/or support their responses. These interaction types are designed to assess deep levels of understanding.  

Currently, there are five interaction types that may appear on an ELA computer-based test: • Selectable Hot Text (HT) • Table Matching (MI) • Multiple Choice (MC) • Multi-Select (MS) • Extended Response (ER)

These interaction types can stand alone or be combined to create an item” (“Introduction The English Language Arts (ELA) Test Specifications” 4-6).  

All of these question interaction types and many more, are included within Pear Assessment’s libraries of pre-built content.

3) Familiarize yourself with Pear Assessment’s Assessment Libraries and Question Banks

You might be wondering what it means to select the “collection” type within the content filter in Pear Assessment “Question Bank.” To properly utilize and understand the empowering tools that Pear Assessment brings to the table, teachers have to have a basic understanding of how content is organized, created, vetted, stored, classified, categorized, and finally utilized as a means of assessment.  

Moreover, the basic concept that the complete assessments come from “Assessment Library” and that individual questions come from the “Question Bank” is further broken down by designations that show users’ endorsed & vetted content, vs content that has been contributed and published by Pear Assessment users.  

Content Collections are broken down into several subgroups of content contributors and contributions, including: Pear Assessment Certified Library & Question Bank “Collection”, Public Library & Question Bank “Collection” School Library & Question Bank “Collection”, District Library & Question Bank “Collection.”  

Questions and assessments in collections labeled “Private, Public, School; District” are not vetted by the experts from the Pear Assessment team. Pear Assessment’s assessment library contains all the pre-built assessments that are authored by you or shared with you by your colleagues or Educators from other PLNs and districts.

While this is an amazing feature, when conducting a search to find items quickly, the Pear Assessment Certified Collection is where you can count on the materials and their credibility regarding the content itself, the way it is labeled and presented, and the grammar, mechanics, and overall aesthetics and accuracy of the assessment.  

4) Select Questions from your School or District Library: “Tagging” questions for Teacher Collaboration

Sharing assessments with your colleagues is a great way to collaborate on assessment and get teachers on the-same-page as one another and administrators regarding how best to assess your student population’s performance in regards to state EOY assessment.  

After you've established what standards you are using in your assessment, figure out which question types you would like to use to best meet the needs of your students’ learning objectives. You're now establishing a design outline for the rest of your curriculum map. You can build on and supplement or tweak content. You also have the flexibility to modify, add, and tweak activities.  

This best practice provides students authentic exposure to sophisticated; modern day testing environments and content as we shift into a paperless age. Pear Assessment provides teachers and students with an environment in which they can grow as learners, track their progress, and demonstrate mastery of content.  

When a user/teacher-author “tags” a question with a searchable term, it is turned into a piece of the giant Pear Assessment puzzle (aka the question bank). If shared publicly, it can be accessed by other teachers or colleagues in need of quality content. This makes for an easy search later, as teachers can thoughtfully tag their questions when creating them.  

Personally, I recommend Pear Assessment Certified assessments and questions from the item bank and banks.  

The assessment content and questions labeled within this subset are endorsed by Pear Assessment, and written by experts in the field who are cranking out content that contains the high amount of rigor and accuracy to meet the needs of all learners. Pear Assessment authors are users who have demonstrated an ability to create standards-aligned items and rigorous assessments using the various functions on the app and meeting the needs of many groups of learners.

This saves teachers the time of having to carefully look over an assessment for typos or errors in the way the teacher author created the assessment/learning activity.

Edulastic's assessment library

5.) Conduct a focused search using your “filters” in Pear Assessment’s Question Bank

Before you start diving into searching for questions, get to know the question bank and filters. You can use filters to further refine your search by setting the filters on the left-hand screen of the “Question Bank” to meet your students specifications for any assignment.  

The filters include the following options that will help broaden or focus the scope of your content search when you apply the proper values to the filters listed below:  Grade: K-12; other  

Subject: All Subjects, ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Other Subjects  

Standard Set: All Standard Set, Common Core, OhioELA and many others  

Standard: For example:. RL.7.10 (Common Core, Reading Literature, Grade 7, Standard 10)

Question Type: Passage Based, Multiple Choice, Essay, ELA Tech Enhanced, Math Tech Enhanced, over 30 question types to choose from  

Collection: Pear Assessment Certified, Public, Private, School, District  

Depth Of Knowledge (DOK): Recall, Skill/Concept, Strategic Thinking, Extended Thinking  

Difficulty: Easy, Medium, Hard  

Putting it all together: Finalizing, Publishing/Assigning Assessments  You simply: Compile questions, proofread and reorder or reorganize content as needed, then: PUBLISH and ASSIGN.  

To break this down, you first select filter settings that meet your class’s needs and populate your search. Then you’ll see a wide variety of items appear. Hovering your mouse over the assessment or question that has been populated by your individual search will allow you to either “Preview” the question(s) and assessments so that you can assemble your own assessment content from the pre-built items, or modify an existing assessment that you can use and have determined meets your needs.  

Last, but certainly not least, you need preview, edit, and revise your questions and then“Save as Draft” or “Assign and Publish” your new assessment. It is always important to consider the learning curve when using new edtech tools, and trust your own discretion, as well as the discretion of others in your field, when finalizing assessments that district administrators pull data from.  

Pear Assessment allows us as educators to take ownership of our assessment design and implementation. If you are looking for ways to improve your instruction and provide students with rigorous and authentic state test prep, give Pear Assessment a try (if you haven’t already). Build awesome standards-aligned assessments for your students using the amazing tools provided within the Pear Assessment app. Begin to build your district library so you can tag questions and reuse / share them with teachers from year-to-year.

About the Author

Samantha is a secondary English Language Arts Teacher at Millennium Community School in, Columbus, OH. This is Samantha's 12th year in the ELA classroom within an urban charter school setting, where she has also held a variety of administrative positions including director of blended learning and and district testing coordinator. Samantha has a passion for blended learning program/assessment design and implementation of best practices within the field of ELA education, and is an active/contributing member of both the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) as well as the Ohio Council for Teachers of English Language Arts (OCTELA).

Samantha enjoys writing and conducting research about cutting edge EdTech tools and applications. She is a member of the the 2018-2019 Pear Assessment Innovator Team, as well as serves as a Wakelet Ambassador. Connect with Samantha on Twitter.


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