Benchmark Advance Assessments in Distance Learning

I recently polled teachers in my Benchmark Advance Planning, Organization, and Tips Facebook group to learn about how they are assessing students during distance learning. I asked teachers specifically about how they are assessing for Benchmark and if they were using the Benchmark Advance assessments. 

I found that some teachers are not giving the assessments at all, some are assigning them just to monitor progress (not record actual grades), and others are using them for true formative assessment. 

Virtual Benchmark Advance Assessments

The benefit of using the Benchmark Advance assessments included in the curriculum is that students can actually complete them online. Simply assign it to be completed online and it shows up on the student dashboard. Once the students are done taking the test, it will automatically grade and provide you with the data.

Now I know that you’re probably thinking, “That’s nice, but it’s not that easy.” We have students who are struggling readers, we have technology that doesn’t always work, the Benchmark online platform (Benchmark Universe) can be glitchy at times – all of these issues complicate things and create a lot more work for teachers.

Here are Some Tips for Giving Benchmark Advance Assessments Online

We are resilient. Despite all the challenges, there are teachers who are making the most of the test-taking experience during distance learning. Try these suggestions out!

Assign the Benchmark Advance assessments online and have students take it live during your Zoom/Meet session as opposed to taking it on their own time. 

Robyn Brauer Arnold, a third-grade teacher writes, “I have them take the test while online with me to make it as authentic as possible.”

A couple of other teachers mentioned that before students begin taking the test, they create individual breakout rooms for each student. When the students are taking it live in their own breakout room, they can press the “help me” button you can jump in and provide support. It’s also more quiet during the session. When students are done, have them join the main group again to begin working on independent tasks. 

Update: I posted about this particular idea on Instagram and there were some teachers who thought this strategy was stressful, so if it doesn’t make sense for you, please just disregard it!

Alternatively, you can give tests whole group with everyone muted, but then pull smaller groups or individual students into breakout rooms to provide support if needed.

If provided, you can use Go Guardian to monitor screens. “I watch them [take the test] via Go Guardian which allows me to see everyone on their screen with kids using a district device.” – Jennifer Eggers

Scaffold in whole group before having students take the test.

The weekly Benchmark tests are easier to give than the long unit tests, even in a regular classroom setting. Some teachers have been ditching the unit tests and only giving the weekly ones. Stephanie Lockhart, a teacher who is giving both the weekly and unit tests, shared with us that she previews and discusses the weekly tests whole group before allowing her students to begin taking the test. For the long unit assessments, she breaks the test up into sections (passage per day, then cross-text analysis response the next day, writing conventions and essay response the final day). She follows the same protocol of discussing the assessment during whole group prior and even spending time going over the rubric for the written responses.

Use other online platforms like Google Slides, Google Forms, Kami, Schoology Test Builder, and Microsoft Forms to modify and administer the tests. 

Many teachers have shared that they are staying away from Benchmark Universe altogether because of the tech issues involved and so they can customize the tests. You can use Google Slides to create assessments and assign each student their own copy of the slides. Some teachers have gotten very creative using Peardeck and/or Nearpod which are Google Slides add-ons. You can also use Google Forms and set up auto-grading and built in student feedback. 

Related: See Google Forms: A Powerful Assessment Tool for Teachers to learn how to create adaptive Google Form quizzes. 

I have created my own assessments using the Apply It! Questions from my Close Reading Companion line. There is a question that goes along with every comprehension lesson and it is worded the same way the questions are worded on Benchmark and state tests. They come as Google Slides, self-grading Google Forms, and paper/pencil. 

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    Stick to paper and pencil.

    For some teachers, a paper/pencil Benchmark test makes the most sense. It’s not always easy or possible to print out the tests and give them to students, but many teachers have this option and are enjoying having the students take the tests on paper. One teacher shared that she customizes the paper tests before running copies.

    The test-taking experience is typically done during a live Zoom/Meet meeting in small groups or individual breakout rooms. Then, the tests either get delivered back during the next pickup, or the tests are scanned/photographed and uploaded for review. 

    Benchmark Advance Assessments Apply It Resource
    Benchmark Advance “Apply It!” Comprehension Questions

    Do you have any other tips or ideas to share? Or do you need help with assessment during distance learning? Leave a comment on this post below!


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