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New Perspectives in Assessment

Perspective1 We all know that wading through a pile of student assessment results can not only numb and otherwise active teacher’s mind, but can provide a misleading view of what a class, school or its individuals are capable of. We have to test to provide feedback for students, parents and administrators but Meg Litts, Professional Development Specialist at Minnesota’s Onamia Public Schools has found a better way to interpret and distribute the data.

For the past year her district has been using Pearson’s Perspective to provide accurate data on students and makes reporting this information to parents much easier. The good news is that rather than a complex program that needs to be installed on computers, Perspective is Web-based so that any recent computer with an Internet connection can just log on to use the program.

As a result, none of the district’s computers or those used by parents to check on their child’s progress needed to be upgraded. Just make sure that it does have the most recent version of Adobe’s Flash player installed. “That’s a huge benefit because it relieves much of the stress of using technology for families and teachers alike,” explains Litts. 

Even better, the program doesn’t require any specialized training other than familiarizing parents, teachers and district paraprofessionals with what Perspective is capable of. To get parents up to speed, the district, which has about 750 students in rural central Minnesota, sent a letter home about Perspective with some simple how-to instructions on getting started. Beyond that, the program has an informative built-in Flash-based tutorial that shows how to get the most out of the program.

Learning locator Key to Perspective’s usefulness is the Learning Locator, which puts together specific curriculum materials based on assessment results. For Litts and the Onamia school district, it works well because the locator is aligned with Minnesota’s Academic Standards. “This is a great way to differentiate within and outside the classroom,” observes Litts.

The Onamia Public Schools uses Pearson’s assessment exams as well, although Perspective works just as well with a variety of tests from other providers. The district uses Perspective to create an annual Learning Locator number for each student in math and reading.

Perspective and Learning Locator is not an end to itself or a substitute for classroom work. In fact, Litts, thinks it helps teachers identify at-need students and tailor a growth plan for each of them. “Perspective is not a tool to replace teacher instruction and assessment,” she adds, “it is a fantastic resource to enhance teacher instruction and assessment.”

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