|Jinny Hurdle of Riverside Publishing leads a workshop for diocesan elementary school teachers and administrators about how to better use the data from the Iowa Assessments and Cognitive Ability Tests diocesan students take each year. Photo by Andy Telli
Teachers and school administrators can drown in data from standardized test scores if they don’t have the tools to make sense of them.
“There are so many different ways to look at the scores and so many uses” for the data the tests produce, said Jinny Hurdle, an assessment consultant for Riverside Publishing, who led a recent workshop for diocesan teachers and administrators on how to use the data from the Iowa Assessments and Cognitive Abilities Test.
When teachers and administrators understand how to interpret the data from the tests, they can use the information to tailor their instructional methods, to evaluate programs, and for other uses, Hurdle said.
“What we want to do is to make the data more accessible and make it manageable,” she said.
Riverside Publishing is the assessment arm for Houthon Mifflin Harcourt. It collects and manages the data from the Iowa Assessments and Cognitive Abilities Test, both of which have been developed by the Iowa Testing Program.
All diocesan elementary schools use the Iowa Assessments, which measures student achievement and growth. Many of the schools also use the Cognitive Abilities Test, which measures students’ verbal, quantitative and nonverbal reasoning abilities. The Cognitive Abilities Test identifies a student’s relative strengths and weaknesses, Hurdle said.
By using Riverside’s Data Management System, educators can see how the scores from the two tests relate to each other, Hurdle said during the workshop held Tuesday, June 9, at Christ the King School.
Using the information from the tests, teachers and school administrators can build a profile of individual students, groups of students, grades and the entire school. “As a tool it helps you appeal to how a student naturally learns,” Hurdle said.
The ability profiles “let you know if a student works better with hands-on or do they do better in a group setting,” said Anna Grehan of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who helped with the workshop.
At St. John Vianney School in Gallatin, Principal Jennifer McCormick and her staff have used the student profiles from the Cognitive Abilities Test for about five years. They meet with students and their parents to explain the scores, McCormick said.
“When you sit down with the parents, we can show them what it means and how to use it at school and at home,” she said. Some families use the information to enroll their children in summer enrichment programs to shore up relative weaknesses or to continue developing the student’s strengths, McCormick said.
Teachers can also use the profile to adjust their teaching strategies to better fit how an individual student learns, McCormick said.
She also uses the profile for the entire school as a selling point with prospective families, McCormick said. “I share that with every parent I tour the school with. … Parents understand the value.”
Diocesan schools already have the data but the teachers and administrators need more training in how to use it, said Dr. Therese Williams, diocesan superintendent of schools, whose office organized the workshop.
“A lot of times teachers don’t know what they have and how to use it,” Hurdle said. “These administrators and teachers are very invested in studying and making sure they’re using the information to their best ability.