Wyoming Teachers Will Have a High-Quality Interim Assessment to Help Identify Learning Gaps from Covid-19

Over the past two and a half months, it has become glaringly evident that interrupted classroom instruction due to Covid-19 is causing major learning gaps for students. Even though our district was prepared to distribute iPads and Chromebooks to the majority of students for online learning opportunities in K-12, not every student had access to the internet or the capacity to learn from home. Teachers are working tirelessly to find ways to reach every student in their classrooms and to not only continue to provide learning opportunities tied to priority standards but to also ensure students’ safety and well-being. Regardless of the effort put forth, as pointed out by the Collaborative for Student Success, “…there is simply no substitute for in-class instruction—learning loss is inevitable and must be countered.”

Our Wyoming state superintendent, Jillian Ballow, reached out multiple times a week to district superintendents for support, data collection, and feedback. She became well aware of the immediate importance of providing resources and guidance to districts so they could begin planning to address learning loss and remediation. Our state offered many supports, such as a template for individual district adapted learning plans, adjusted attendance and grading requirements, and weekly network call between districts. Governor Mark Gordon also formed an education task force to specifically address Covid-19 issues related to school closures, assessment, and re-opening protocols. Arguably, the most important support that the Wyoming Department of Education is providing is the opportunity for districts and/or teachers to provide high-quality interim assessments next fall. These assessments can help teachers immediately identify gaps in grade-level learning.

Organizations, including the Collaborative for Student Success, are calling for states to “begin preparing assessments—non-punitive and unrelated to school accountability requirements—that can effectively determine the breadth and scope of learning loss.” Wyoming has answered that call. In their May 8, 2020 assessment newsletter, the Wyoming Department stated that they will be offering their high-quality, optional, interim assessments for both on-grade, and off-grade. “In an effort to support teachers in assessing student progress, students will have the opportunity to take interims in their previously attended grade level (off-grade) in addition to the on-grade interims, during this extended assessment window. The interim assessments remain optional to school districts.”

These interim assessments illustrate the definition of high-quality assessments as defined by Dale Chu on his Testing 1-2-3 blog. The assessments are aligned to the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards, are informative and meaningful and are actionable and transparent. According to the Wyoming Department of Education, “the interim assessment is adaptive and offers instant, detailed reporting at the domain level, and educators can see each student’s response to items.” Armed with this data, Wyoming educators can instantly begin working on overcoming learning loss from Covid-19 when schools reopen.

Amanda McAdams, a former practicing attorney and 2011 Arizona Teacher of the Year, is currently the Director of Elementary Education and K-12 Literacy for Lincoln County School District #2 in Star Valley, Wyoming. Amanda earned her bachelor’s degree from Claremont McKenna College, her Juris Doctorate degree from the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at Brigham Young University, her teaching certificate from Utah State University, and her Doctorate of Education (EDD) from Argosy University. She has also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Northern Arizona University. Most importantly, Amanda and her husband Don are the proud parents of three children.