Last year, Mark Beckwith and Sarah Wittmeyer collaborated on a project to create an online database of every test question that has been assessed on the 3-8 ELA and Math state assessments in the last few years. This database, the NYS Assessment Item Notebook, allows teachers to easily click a standard that has been assessed, which in turn generates a list of every released question that is connected to that standard. The Notebook is tremendously helpful because it contains all of this public information in one place, rather than having to open a myriad of PDFs.
Districts in our region have been using this tool in numerous ways. At Cuba-Rushford, middle school ELA teachers have been analyzing the question stems to notice patterns in how standards are being assessed. For example, teachers noted that many questions reference specific paragraphs, such as “How do paragraphs 3 and 4 contribute to the story?” By mirroring their own questions to students in this format, students will be more familiar with the structure of the state exam. Additionally, analyzing question stems can uncover vocabulary that students may need to help them succeed. For example, if students don’t understand what is meant by “contribute”, they may struggle right at the beginning of attempting to answer the question.
In Fillmore, middle school ELA teachers have created a mid-year benchmark assessment using the Assessment Item Notebook. Teachers reviewed their data to determine standards that are commonly assessed. Then they selected two passages and ten multiple choice questions to assess students with in January. The benefit to using these questions is that it will give them an indication of how students will perform against the rigor of the state assessment. Also, because they know which questions are connected to which standards, data analysis is easier and can offer areas for them to focus on before the state assessments.
If your district would like support in using the NYS Assessment Items Notebook to guide data analysis and instruction, please reach out to our team!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development