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Insights In Action

Measuring Academic Achievement During a Pandemic

Testing 101: Q&A with the ERB Experts

The Question

Our school is trying to determine the best way to assess our students amidst the ongoing pandemic and competing priorities. Help us!

Frequently Asked Questions

with the ERB experts:

  • Glenn Milewski, Ph.D. | Chief Program Officer
  • Ryan Downey, Ph.D. | Exec. Director, Achievement Assessment Programs
Glenn Milewski headshot

Q: Our school typically tests each spring, but did not test in 2020. What are our options this year?

A: If you opted not to test during spring 2020, that's ok! You can pick up this spring and will simply have a gap in your achievement data. Schools that employed Milestones in the fall and/or winter were able to close this gap.

Ryan Downey headshot wearing blue collared shirt and dark blazer

Q: Our school typically tests CTP in the fall but opted not to test this year. Should we test in the spring instead?

A: We do not advise switching CTP testing seasons for a single year, as that disrupts your ability to track trends over time.

Instead, a winter and/or spring Milestone Assessment will help bridge the gap in your assessment data and enable you to gauge your students' learning progress, including any coronavirus-related learning losses.

Glenn Milewski headshot

Q: We tested CTP in the fall, how soon can we test Milestones?

A: We recommend testing CTP and Milestones exams approximately 14-16 weeks apart. For more details on Milestones testing seasons, click here.

Ryan Downey headshot wearing blue collared shirt and dark blazer

Q: Our school is still operating on a distance/hybrid basis? Can CTP and Milestones be administered to students remotely?

A: Yes! Both CTP and Milestones can be delivered to students at home. Full instructions can be found in the Comprehensives Portal, and our ERB Support group is always available to help.

Even for schools that have traditionally tested on paper, switching to CTP online for at-home (or in-school) testing is seamless and fast.

Glenn Milewski headshot

Q: How do we interpret our assessment data considering how atypical the last two school years have been?

A: In addition to the usual norm comparisons, we have examined test data from 2020 to identify the slowing of learning momentum generally in independent schools.

Click here to see how your results might compare to those of other schools.  We will update these analyses to include the spring 2021 testing season as data become available.

We are also working with our Technical Advisory Committee to create policies for how to adjust the norms we calculate based on students who tested during the pandemic, and, due to insufficient data, "froze" the norms for the spring 2021, which do not include the smaller-than-usual number of students who took the CTP.

Ryan Downey headshot wearing blue collared shirt and dark blazer

Q: Given that Milestones is a new program, how are the norms for it set?

A: The Reading Comprehension and Mathematics subtests of the Milestones program use the same scale and comparable test specifications to corresponding CTP5 subtests.  Thus, Milestone norms are based on the same, large sample of students who took CTP over the past three years.

Glenn Milewski headshot

Q: If my school adopts Milestones in addition to CTP, are there reports I can see that include results from both programs?

A: Yes.  Our new data and reporting platform, ERB 360 Access, includes longitudinal reports that plot CTP and Milestones results on the same chart and drill into skill-level results for the same student on both exams.  Roster reports also allow educators to see Milestones performance alongside CTP results in a single table.

Ryan Downey headshot wearing blue collared shirt and dark blazer

Q: What is the value of testing during such an atypical year?

A: There is significant value in sustaining your assessment program during this highly pandemic year. In the short run, it is critical to identify learning gaps so that you can meet students where they are today. Long run, preserving your longitudinal assessment data will enable you to see how learning disruptions presented by remote teaching, decreased classroom time, and other coronavirus-related challenges impact students' learning achievement down the line.

Glenn Milewski headshot

Q: How can my school reasonably administer tests this spring when time in school is such a scarce resource?

A: For schools seeking to maximize limited classroom time with students, ERB has implemented two innovations to reduce the tradeoff impacts between assessment and instruction:

(1) We have introduced Milestone Assessments, which are CTP-aligned formative assessments covering Mathematics and Reading Comprehension in 40-minute modules. For schools reticent about dedicating most of a school day to testing, Milestones may be a great option. More information here.

(2) CTP and Milestone Assessments can both be administered to students remotely, at home, as well as individually or in small groups. This gives educators more flexibility to design lesson plans around assessments, and use traditionally "off-hours" for assessment purposes. More information on at-home testing here.

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