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One-on-One Testing

ChartsWe usually think about classes taking online tests all at once, but what about for the smallest students who can’t yet read or understand what an assessment is? ESGI has a guided approach for teachers and assistants to gather information on how well a student is doing with structured one-on-one sessions. It comes with more than 700 guided assessment outlines, including preschool, Kindergarten and several state tests. It’s easy to create your own tests that’re tuned to your school or range of students based on what you want to examine. After the test ESGI shows its worth by compiling reports for the school and parents, but its real worth is that it can create a set of individualized practice cards (in both Spanish and English) for the areas that the kids need to work on. There’s a 60-day trial, but after that a teacher’s license for up to 35 students costs $199 and the company offers discounts at the school and district level.


Big Data Gets Schooled

BigData_2267x1146_whiteThere’s nothing worse than giving children a battery of tests and then not knowing what the results mean for the students, school and its teachers. That’s where applying the lessons of big data analytics come in. Used to predict what we buy and where we want to travel, the technology can help in schools as well.

Based on a deep dive into the data, teachers and administrators can not only spot those who are leading or lagging, but find school- or district-wide trends. The latest additions predict educational outcomes, both good and bad.

More than mere trend-mongering, data mining at schools can be a valuable tool in identifying students who are at risk or spotting places that need new resources. A server filled with test results, grades and demographic information is meaningless unless you can lift out what’s important and act on what it is telling you.

In a very real sense, the trends are all there waiting to be spotted. All you have to do is have the right software to see both the forest and the trees.

Guide K12

Quick 12Composed of four parts, Guide K12 is an all-in-one analytic package that can help districts to visualize the raw data with graphs, charts and especially maps. To start, Explorer is for quick trend spotting and trying to see how the numbers – such as test scores or student demographics – relate to each other and are changing over time. By contrast, GK12’s Planner package can create hypothetical what-if scenarios at school and the program’s Adviser can deliver reports that administrators can use and distribute to staff, state officials and parents. Finally, GK12’s SchoolSearch is a window on your district that the community and parents can use to see what’s going on at the area’s schools.

Panorama Education

PanoramaBig data is at the heart of Panorama Education with the goal of making every bit of student information count toward their future. Behind the scenes, Panorama churns through reams of test and activity results to create comparisons among students within a school, district or against national averages. The program is pwoerful enough to not only use your district’s current information but it produces good looking informative reports that are personalized for each recipient for everything from state officials to parents.

                            Renaissance Learnalytics

Renaissance aIf your district uses Renaissance math and literacy programs, there’s already a big data engine at work behind the scenes. Called Learnalytics, the database securely stores the results of problems and quizzes and analyzes them for student-by-student and class changes as well as big picture trends. Behind the scenes, the Learnalytics program also tracks what each child likes to do academically, how they learn and can even suggest new books for individual students that would not only fit right into their educational goals but ones they just might enjoy to read.

SAS Enterprise Analytics for Education

SasThis company’s software helps just about every manufacturer and retailer deliver the right mix of goods on time to customers, and it can help to create a data-driven school. SAS software can provide a unique view of every student based on the totality of what he or she does. In addition to always having the right data at your fingertips, the SAS software slices and dices your district’s data and let you decide how its presented without the need for programmers. The SAS school analytical software is secure, can work with Office and the results can be distributed to mobile devices. 


Hide and Seek

NewsfeedThe Web can be a game of hide and seek with more irrelevant items that what you want. That’s where Declara comes in. Using its CognitiveGraph engine, the service uses the latest big data techniques to separate a school’s IT wheat from the chaff. It uses the artificial intelligence methods to program bots that sift through everything the Web has to offer and delivers a report that eliminates extraneous items. When everything is compiled, Declara creates a customized report that teachers and students can comment on in a collaborative space.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Ixl reccommendationsThe latest update from IXL Learning is a new page of personalized recommendations for each student that covers areas that could stand some extra work or practice. It’s available for all IXL K-12 adaptive learning programs and presents students with problems in areas where earlier work wasn’t up to grade or for the student to try out a new task. The program’s personalization works with each skill that IXL’s software covers.

Teacher Collab

Waggle. Growth MapWhile the emphasis lately has been on getting students to work together to complete tasks, teachers need to collaborate as well and Waggle can help get them on the same page. The Interactive Growth Map and new Dashboard can help teachers work together to monitor a student’s progress. Users can slice and dice the data on demand to show who’s succeeding and who’s lagging in any class so that a school’s resources can be best deployed. The key is that rather than just test data, Waggle provides teachers with access to their and other classes practice problems for a more holistic view of each student.

Freebee Friday: Stop the Copy and Paste Essay

Traffic tools aPlagiarism checking software is de rigueur these days to prevent the copy-and-paste essay from dominating an English or Social Studies class. You can use Traffic Tools’s Plagiarism Checker to look for similarities to popular and obscure texts that are on the Internet by copying anything into its window. It’s good for up to 1,000 words, so the typical school essay should fit. It found four major passages were plagiarized in a 250-word passage I checked out, reporting “0% Unique.”

The good news is that the site has a slew of other tools, like for checking grammar and spelling, but the bad news is that it’s also chock full of banner adds that you’ll have to ignore. Be careful if you use this plagiarism checker because the site also has an Article Rewriter to avoid direct plagiarism. Just paste in the passage and it rewrites it, although the online app delivers gibberish on occasion.

Custom Quizzes

Assessments-gradebookKids Discover Online has just added an Assessment module that lets teachers create customized multidisciplinary quizzes and tests. All you do is choose categories and the program compiles the assessment from the more than 5,000 questions available in social studies and science. If there’s nothing to your liking, go ahead and write your own. There are the expected multiple choice and true/false questions as well as short answer and ones that are meant to foster wide-ranging discussion. The grading of multiple choice and true/false questions is automatic and teachers can mix science questions into a social studies quiz.

Making the Most of Tests

116003bThere’s nothing better for a teacher or district than a good test that provides the needed feedback about the school’s instruction, and Susan’s Brookhart’s How to Make Decisions with Different Kinds of Student Assessment Data” can help interpret what the numbers say and don’t say about students, schools and districts. She explains how her four-quadrant framework for reading into assessments works. It includes examples and specific instances of how actual schools looked at specific test scores. The print and ebook versions edition go for $18.95 and $17.99 for ASCD members and $24.95 and $23.99 for non-members.

What They Really Know

I-ready masterWith Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready Standards Mastery you can plumb the depths of every student’s knowledge on key areas before the big stakes tests are given. Set up on a state by state basis, the assessments cover Common Core reading, math and language requirements and dovetail with i-Ready’s Diagnostic offering for those needing extra help. The program has a variety of question-response formats and its reports show which students are leading and which are lagging.


Freebee Friday: Q&A

Graded_quizzesSchools run on tests, quizzes and all sorts of assessments, but sometimes you need to write your own. iSpring Solution’s Quiz Maker has a free assessment creator that does the basics of asking questions of students well. The full version adds the ability to branch questions and a greater variety of question types. You can try it out for a month, but the quizzes will have an annoying watermark or pay $697 to get the full version. There are educational discounts available.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.