Educators across the country are talking about through-year assessment, and many states and districts have adopted the term. But what does through-year assessment actually mean?

At New Meridian, we have spent the last few years building and testing a high-quality through-year assessment model. We have gathered input from scores of educators and piloted the system with tens of thousands of students.

The result is the ProgressGuide™ Assessment for school districts and the MasteryGuide™ Assessment for states. Both provide flexible, curriculum-aligned assessment in math and English language arts throughout the year, which can directly help teachers, while enhancing the summative data that helps administrators make decisions.


Defining Through-Year Assessment

The problems with traditional assessment models are well known. While summative testing is important, the results are often too little, too late to have a meaningful impact on classroom learning. Many interim assessment programs fall short because testing is not based on timely classroom instruction. These low-quality assessments can reinforce low-quality instruction.

“I want to call out one critical benefit of testing what is taught when it’s taught,” said New Meridian CEO and founder Arthur VanderVeen. “Some through-year progress monitoring assessments test the same blueprint throughout the year before students have had an opportunity to learn the material. Of course, students don’t perform as well on content they haven’t learned. That produces a false measure of growth. It also frustrates students, and research has shown that testing what is taught in the classroom when it’s taught provides a fair, more equitable measure of student learning.”

Through-year assessment can solve these problems when schools follow a high-quality model based on research and field testing. What defines a high-quality system? To meet the highest standards, a through-year assessment should:

  • Measure the Skills That Matter. Through-year assessment should test more than superficial recall. Instead, it should focus on problem solving, creative thinking, and effective communication. Tests should be compelling and engaging.
  • Allow Dynamic and Flexible Curriculum Alignment. Through-year assessment should align to local curricula, allowing teachers to choose which state standards are tested and when. Everything from assessment windows to test content should be configurable, and teachers should be able to make changes as needed throughout the year. The system should take a “classroom-up” approach.
  • Offer Immediate, Actionable Insight. Through-year assessment should offer tests that can be administered in a single period with timely results available. This captures learning as it happens. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate mastery. Teachers get granular information about student learning, allowing them to adjust classroom instruction in real time.
  • Test Only What is Taught. Through-year tests should focus only on what is taught in the classroom. This gives teachers a better picture of learning progression, and students a more fair experience that can reduce testing anxiety.
  • Emphasize Cultural Inclusion and Access. Through-year tests should reflect a broad range of cultural diversity and should be thoroughly reviewed for bias and sensitivity. Tests should be reflective of a student’s lived experience. They should also include the broadest set of accessibility features, allowing English learners and students with disabilities to demonstrate their skills.
  • Support at All Levels. A high-quality through-year assessment program should feature support for everyone involved in the educational process. That extends from test management and professional development for educators to assessment literacy efforts designed for parents.
“We have the opportunity to create a system that delivers more than a snapshot and a number. We can connect assessment to the real work being done by teachers and students every day.”

Supporting Summative Assessment

Of course, through-year systems should also support summative testing. New Meridian’s systems offer as many as 14 micro-tests, or “testlets,” throughout the school year. All are flexibly aligned to local curriculum, can be administered in a single class period and offer fast results—and summative testing is not left out of the mix.

The ProgressGuide Assessment, which school districts can adopt to implement through-year testing quickly, uses sophisticated scoring models to transform testlet results into a forecasted summative score, allowing administrators to monitor growth and direct instructional resources.

The MasteryGuide Assessment allows states to aggregate testlet scores into a final summative score that meets federal accountability requirements and eliminates the need for a separate end-of-year test. That can eliminate a major burden on school districts, which no longer have the labor-intensive drill that comes with annual assessment.

“We have the opportunity to create a system that delivers more than a snapshot and a number,” said VanderVeen. “We can connect assessment to the real work being done by teachers and students every day.”