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Stronger Together: Collaboration and Assessment

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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In order to inform instruction and gauge student learning, it is important to consider and solidify a systematic cycle of assessments including initial screenings and formative and summative assessments. For data to lead to meaningful change in student outcomes, teachers and administrators need designated collaboration time to analyze data, identify shifts and changes in instruction to meet student needs, implement intervention strategies, and assess the effectiveness of instructional strategies. This section assists district leadership and school boards as they make reopening determinations related to using assessments to inform instruction for all students, including those with unique learning needs such as students with disabilities, English language learners, students placed in foster care and students experiencing homelessness.

Because parents may have children enrolled in multiple schools across districts, it is vital that communication protocols, online learning platforms, and expectations are coherent and consistent. This also engages parents as partners in learning.

Curriculum Frameworks

California’s curriculum frameworks are guidance documents for implementing the content standards adopted by the State Board of Education. The standards themselves are a resource to inform teachers, administrators, and parents of the skills and knowledge that students should master and learn at each grade or proficiency level. All curriculum frameworks include information on how to ensure access and equity for all students. Much of this guidance includes how to utilize the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices in instructional planning and delivery.

Initial Screening/Diagnostic Assessments

Purpose: Diagnostic assessments are used to identify specific areas where instruction or intervention may be needed to improve student learning.

Due to interrupted instruction caused by COVID-19, local educational agencies (LEAs) should consider scheduling universal screenings at a variety of intervals. For example, diagnostic assessments can be administered at the beginning of the school year (or in summer if appropriate or feasible).

Formative Assessments/Progress Monitoring

Purpose: Formative assessments and progress monitoring take place during the lesson and provide actionable information about students' learning status relative to the desired lesson goal. Teachers can use data from formative assessments immediately to adjust their instruction and ensure students’ progress towards learning goals.

Essential Questions

  • Are there common diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment tools across the district/site for comparative analysis to identify specific targeted student learning needs?
  • If assessments must be given at home, how have students been prepared for and given opportunity to practice the protocols for administration? If parent support or guidance is needed, how have they been prepared?
  • Is there a clearly defined multitiered system of support that includes guidance for implementing Tier 1 strategies before offering Tier 2 interventions? When and how to offer Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports?
  • Do staff have structured collaboration time to engage in improvement cycles including reviewing student assessments, planning instructional shifts and strategies based on data, establishing clear outcome goals, debriefing the lesson as a team, and repeating the process? What might this look like in a virtual setting?
  • How will districts ensure appropriate accommodations are made for students?


  • Consider a data management platform to collect, house, and disaggregate local data on a regular basis.
  • Consider developing a regularly scheduled time for grade-level teams and staff meetings to engage in cycles of inquiry around student data. Rural districts might use this opportunity to connect grade-level teams virtually for collaboration.
  • Establish a common protocol for regular and consistent communication to parents.
  • Develop a plan to meet the social–emotional needs of the student prior to administering an assessment. Examples include greetings and a warm-up game (with physical distancing) to ease anxiety, prior to asking students to demonstrate learning. If diagnostic testing has not been widely implemented in previous years, staff administering the assessments should be sure to clarify the purpose of diagnostic assessments.
  • Interventions may include a regularly scheduled 30-minute session with an intervention provider or specialist through video conference, scaffolding for specific task assignments (e.g., an outline or sentence starters for written responses), pre-highlighted texts, more frequent feedback or check-ins, time management supports, or maintaining a daily written agenda. Students in upper grade levels may be offered guidance for monitoring their own progress and implementing interventions independently, if appropriate. For example, students can implement supports like setting their own timer to chunk assignments, keeping a daily agenda that outlines tasks and goals, or creating a playlist or active routine to help with stress or anxiety management.
  • Formative assessment examples may include collecting exit tickets through a digital platform at the end of each class session, whether online or in person; using an opener to reinforce skills and check for understanding on concepts recently taught; giving students opportunities to share what is working and what is not working; or continuing to provide ample opportunity for discussion and meaningful content interaction with students through high-order thinking questions. As students are given opportunities to participate in engaging activities, be sure to provide students with ample time to think and develop a solid response, as appropriate.
  • When reviewing all assessment data, focus on a continuous learning model.
  • Professional learning for teachers on diagnostic assessments.
  • Existing learning management systems can also provide opportunities to assign students quiz-style assessments that they can complete synchronously (in real time through distance learning) or asynchronously (learning same material at different times/locations). Students can be permitted to complete the assessment multiple times to allow for reteaching.
  • Learning goals should be clearly established and explicitly communicated to students. Providing students with an essential question or learning goal at the beginning of instruction, and frequently referring back to the question or goal, provides transparency for students. In a virtual environment, this can include prominently posting the learning goal or essential question on a teacher’s web page, asking students to keep a learning log to track their key learnings throughout a lesson or unit, or weekly check-ins that require students to respond to the essential question using information from the week’s lessons and activities.
  • Consider using choice boards, which provide students with a variety of options that demonstrate learning and allow students to revise or resubmit work after reteaching or receiving feedback. Feedback should be timely, specific, and actionable, either through written or oral communication, videos or sound recordings, or studentto-student feedback in online breakout sessions.
  • Consider working with students to develop a portfolio (online or paper), selecting their work products to put in an online file, and submitting reflection videos. Resources See Appendix B for Instructional Programs resources.


See Appendix B for Instructional Programs resources

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Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Monday, December 6, 2021
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