Overview of PLATO Test Packs with Prescriptions
PLATO Test Packs with Prescriptions is an on-grade, subject-based remediation solution for grades 3-11 that assesses for individual areas of need against standards, targeting instruction to fill each student’s skill gaps. The result is that student assignments specifically focus on their individual instructional needs.
PLATO Test Packs provides educators with a tool to measure student achievement based on state or national standards at a given period of time. Teachers may choose to use PLATO Test Packs as an assessment instrument, as instruction, or both. When used as both an assessment tool and instructional tool, students take assessments and are given assignments, or prescriptions, based on their areas of need. Students then complete modules, or assignments, in which instruction is delivered in an online, interactive format.
Educators can monitor student progress through instruction and assessment reports. Instruction reports display student information on instruction module use, such as seat time, and completion. Assessment reports display student information on test performance. For more information on reports, see Monitoring Student Progress.
Types of Tests
PLATO® Test Packs tests are designed to provide information about the strengths and needs of individual students, classrooms, schools, and districts.
PLATO Test Packs tests include
- state-specific fixed benchmark tests
- Common Core and/or national cumulative fixed benchmark tests
State-Specific Fixed Benchmark Tests
State-specific fixed benchmark tests are designed as series of multiple, comparable tests per grade. Fixed benchmark tests are developed using state standards for that state.
National Cumulative Fixed Benchmark Tests
National cumulative fixed benchmark tests are designed as series of two to three comparable tests per grade in five subjects—reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. These assessments allow for cumulative testing over an entire course. Each national test contains 25–70 test items. The PLATO National Cumulative Fixed Benchmark tests are available in Writing, English, Math, Science, and Social Studies and span several grades.
Criteria for Test Content
The criteria used to develop PLATO National Cumulative Fixed Benchmark tests are drawn from national standards and respected professional organizations, such as state departments of education and these national standard-setting sources:
- The Thomas Fordham Foundation
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
- National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS)
- The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)
In addition, PLATO Learning follows a rigorous development procedure based on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, as set forth by the following organizations:
- American Educational Research Association (AERA)
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME)
Cumulative Tests for Annual Progress Measurement
Targeted Posttests for Knowledge Acquisition Measurement
Q: How are tests designed?
A: Subject matter experts (SMEs) create test structures for each subject area of the tests by synthesizing information from state and national standards and national standard-setting bodies. The standards are analyzed, objectives are determined, and test items are developed using best-practice criteria emphasized by leading assessment experts.
Q: What are reporting categories?
A: Reporting categories are topics taken from the standards on which students are tested. In both the state-specific fixed benchmark and national cumulative tests, reporting categories represent organized, summative headings of the objectives recorded in detail in the frameworks (see below).
Q: How are frameworks different from reporting categories?
A: Frameworks are high-level groupings of related reporting categories. Frameworks cover broad topics. There is a framework summary for each framework that may be used for reporting and other tasks.
Q: What does it mean when you say tests are comparable?
A: The term comparable refers to each test version measuring the same standards with different test items.
Q: What does PLATO Learning do to ensure test items are of high quality?
A: PLATO Learning has defined quality by following principles set forth by leaders in the assessment field. Subject matter experts, national standard-setting bodies, Fordham Foundation A-rated state standards, and assessment experts’ best practice guidelines are consulted and synthesized into rigorous guidelines.
Q: How do I know that test items are an appropriate readability level?
A: Determining readability is not a precise metric or science. PLATO Learning approaches readability in three ways: 1) by consulting several key professional educational resources (e.g., EDL Core Vocabularies, common language found in textbooks and state-released tests) 2) by developing criteria for evaluating readability (e.g., text length, word usage, structure, genre, etc.) 3) by using this criteria coupled with computerized leveling tools (e.g., Lexile, Flesch-Kinkaid, etc.)
Your school has an implementation plan in which the intended implementation details for Test Packs with Prescriptions on PLE are defined. Teachers may choose to use PLATO Test Packs as an assessment tool, as instruction modules, or both.
Implementation as Assessment Tool
Students are assigned an assessment instrument (a state-specific fixed-benchmark test or a national cumulative fixed-benchmark test).
Developed around the most critical and foundational state or national standards and current Fordham Foundation A-rated state standards, these tests include two to three comparative versions with the same testing categories.
Percentage point increases between test versions can provide insight into student strengths, needs, and progress. The percent of correctly answered items can point to areas that require continued remediation and provide guidance to teachers to modify classroom instruction.
Implementation as Assessment Tool and Instruction
- Students take assessments and are given assignments, or prescriptions, based on their areas of need.
- The assignment process offers a choice to either allow the program to automatically assign the prescription or to do so manually.
- Selecting the automatic option means that students will receive their assignments the moment they submit a test for scoring, with the prescription being generated solely based on their test results.
- Selecting the manual assignment means that teachers start with the prescription recommendation, consider other student performance, and then manually override the instructional modules when and where appropriate. This approach allows teachers to consider what they might not yet have taught in the classroom.
- Once the test is submitted for scoring, an assignment for instruction is generated based on individual test item performance.
- Students then complete modules, or assignments in which instruction is delivered in an online, interactive format.
- The prescribed instruction, or prescription, is a set of instructional modules generated as a result of those skill gaps identified by the assessment.
- The sequence of prescribed modules is fixed, based on PLATO Learning’s organization of how the modules relate to one another in terms of difficulty.
- The learning activities included in the prescription are matched to both the appropriate age level and the skill level of the student.
- Prescriptions may be sizeable given that they are somewhat cumulative for each specific grade level.
- NOTE: Test Packs for NGSS and Social Studies from 3rd-5th grade are currently only used for assessment and do no produce prescriptions at this time. This is explained in further detail in our Test Packs for NGSS and Social Studies knowledge article.
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