Using Data: Interim Assessments

Interim assessments: what are they good for?

Created By

EL Education

Topic

  • Professional Development

Type

Online Learning

One recommendation for data inquiry teams is to regularly analyze interim assessments. Unlike the high stakes standardized assessments, regular interim assessments can gauge student progress when there is still time to act and impact student achievement. Unlike daily class assessments, interim assessments are given at scheduled intervals, often quarterly. They are used to gauge student progress on specific learning targets and to identify trends in errors to inform instructional planning.  Though ideally interim assessments are analyzed by multiple teachers who share students, sometimes a teacher must analyze these assessments on her own.

Created By

EL Education

Topic

  • Professional Development

Type

Online Learning

One recommendation for data inquiry teams is to regularly analyze interim assessments. Unlike the high stakes standardized assessments, regular interim assessments can gauge student progress when there is still time to act and impact student achievement. Unlike daily class assessments, interim assessments are given at scheduled intervals, often quarterly. They are used to gauge student progress on specific learning targets and to identify trends in errors to inform instructional planning.  Though ideally interim assessments are analyzed by multiple teachers who share students, sometimes a teacher must analyze these assessments on her own.

Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be, and if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. C.S. Lewis

Learning Target

I can describe effective interim assessment practices.

Defined: Interim Assessments

So, what’s an interim assessment anyway? Assessment terminology can sure be confusing! Please see the definition, graphic, and samples below to support your learning while on this page. 
Interim Assessments: Assessments given to students are at pre-determined intervals. The purpose of these assessments is to determine student achievement on standards. They are often used to identify patterns of both strengths and weaknesses in learning for groups of students so that teachers can re-teach critical content and skills. Interim assessments can be given electronically and scored automatically, or with paper and pen, and scored by teachers.

Review: Characteristics of Interims

For a review of assessment terminology and the role of interims, check out The Role of Interim Assessments from the Aspen Institute and the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. 

Review: Principles for Effective Interims

According to Bambrick-Santoyo (2010), and other expert educators, some commonly held principles for effective interim assessments are below. Please note, that these are relevant for “test-in-hand” interim assessments: the ones that allow teachers to see the test items beforehand. Unfortunately, many high-quality computerized interim assessments do not provide this opportunity. That does mean they are not effective; they are simply different and require different processes for teachers to analyze results.

While reviewing, consider the following questions:

  1. What are the interim assessments that your school currently uses to collect information on student learning?
  2. Which of these principles do your school’s interim assessments meet? Where are there opportunities for growth?

Bambrick-Santoyo, Paul. Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Try it: Analyzing Interim Assessment Items

A commonly held misconception regarding interim assessments is that the “standard” itself is what teachers should unpack and focus on in order to make instructional decisions. We disagree. The standard, though critical, by itself does not define grade level rigor. It is the assessment of the standard that does this. 

Read this Common Core English Language Arts Standard for 8th grade:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
The following are two different ways of assessing this standard:

  1. Analyze the two samples against the standard.
    1. Which sample is more aligned with the standard? Explain your thinking.
    2. Describe what kind of information each sample provides on student learning.
  2. Which sample reflects the “alignment” criteria from the Principles of Effective Assessments above?

ELA Interim Assessment Sample

Read this Common Core Math Standard for 8th grade:

CCSS.MATH.3.G.2

Partition shapes into parts with equal areas. Express the area of each part as a unit fraction of the whole. 

The following are two different ways of assessing this standard.

  1. Analyze the two samples against the standard.
    1. Which sample is more aligned with the standard? Explain your thinking.
    2. Describe what kind of information each sample provides on student learning.
  2. Which sample reflects the “alignment” criteria from the Principles of Effective Assessments above?

Math Interim Assessment Sample

Watch: Results Meeting Protocol

The video below illustrates a group of EL educators engaged in the Results Meeting Protocol, analyzing a 4th grade interim assessment. While viewing, please consider...

  1. Why is “common across all grade level teachers” considered a principle of effective interim assessments as noted above?
  2. How does this type of protocol support a teacher’s instructional decision making process?

Dig Deeper

WHEELS Feedback on Interim Assessments:  This checklist from Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, guides teachers in designing quality assessments and providing descriptive feedback to other teachers.

WHEELS Interim Assessment Guidelines: These guidelines explain the timelines and expectations for staff as part of WHEELS’ commitment to ongoing school-wide interim assessments.

Synthesize and Take Action

For Teachers...

  1. In your own words, what makes interim assessments effective?
  2. What are the next steps that make the most sense for you and your school to increase the use of effective interim assessment practice? What will you do next?

For School Leaders...

  1. What resources will you use to ensure quality interim assessments at your school? Will they be teacher-designed? Will they be purchased? What support will your staff need to use interim assessments effectively at your school?
  2. What is your very next step regarding interim assessment implementation?