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Every Ranger Every Reason Every Day



Cumulative Benchmark Assessments (CBAs)

Questions and Answers about CBAs
1.  What was wrong with Short Cycle Assessments (SCAs)?
Our short cycle assessments system has been a major factor in our success over the last several years, so HLS will continue using SCAs to understand what students know and can do. CBAs are short cycle assessments but there are fewer CBAs than there were SCAs. The adjustment was made to the schedule to reduce the number of cumulative tests throughout the year so we can focus more on the formative learning process throughout the year.
2. How is the CBA different from the old SCA?
Only one CBA is given each grading period. In previous years there were 7 cumulative tests throughout the year; now there are only 4. Four of the seven SCAs were at the end of each grading period with two of them counting as semester exams. The other SCAs were midterm exams. 
3. Are CBAs weighted more than the SCAs?
At the elementary and intermediate schools the SCAs counted significantly more than the CBAs do. At the middle school and high school the CBAs likely count less than the SCAs did but there may have been some teachers or departments that decided to count the SCAs far more than others. One of the reasons for the adjustment from our seven SCAs to four CBAs was to create a more understandable and consistent assessment process for students and parents. Overall, the CBAs count less than the SCAs counted.
 4. Why are CBAs longer?
State of Ohio assessment sessions range from 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. We want to do all we can to help students be familiar with what is expected of them on the state assessments and be sure that each student has the time needed to do well on our assessments. In particular students at each building can now be assured more time to explain their understanding through short answers and extended responses rather than be limited to multiple choice items. At the high school, semester exams have always been given during an exam schedule with extended periods of 1 hour 30 minutes.
5. What is covered on the CBA?
CBAs are cumulative, meaning that CBAs cover the teacher's instruction over material from the beginning of the school year through the test. However, most of the material on a particular CBA will pertain to recently taught skills and concepts, with a smaller number of items devoted to ensuring long term understanding of skills and concepts covered earlier in the school year. Teachers are encouraged to make sure that students are highly familiar with how the CBA is organized. While detailed review guides that promote short term learning are not advised, a summary of the skills and concepts that will be evaluated on the test can be provided to students and parents. Such a summary should be available also throughout each grading period so students and parents always know what the student's learning is building toward.
 6. Why is the CBA cumulative?
CBAs are cumulative so we can determine students' long term understanding of the content rather than their short term recall. Also, state and national assessments are cumulative. Making our CBAs cumulative is fair and reasonable for preparing our students for what is expected of them on state and national assessments. 
 7. Why doesn't homework count for more credit than a CBA or the old SCA?
Homework is important but often skews what we know about what students really know and can do. Homework allows students to practice what they have learned from their teachers and can get them ready for additional daily learning. During the formative learning process students should be given many opportunities to try and try again, without being discouraged by failure. Not everyone learns material overnight. Counting homework for a large portion of a grade can unfairly penalize students who need more time to learn and can provide a false sense of accomplishment for students who have not learned but receive credit for trying. Assessments and report cards must be accurate measurements of what students know and can do. The CBAs and students' benchmark progress accurately measure what students can do on their own in a controlled environment. [Click here for Benchmark Progress.]
 8. What does "Benchmark Progress" mean?
Benchmark Progress includes items that should be completed during class, with the exception of a major writing assessment in order to assess students' individual performance in a controlled environment. Items in this category include, but are not limited to:
  • Notebook Quizzes/Quizzes/Unit Tests (retakes included)
  • Writing prompts completed during class
  • One major writing assessment per grading period
  • Individual questioning that assesses students' individual understanding and analysis of labs or projects. (This includes individual lab reports completed by students during class.)
  • Oral Assessments (e.g. foreign language verbal assessments)  
 9. What does "Coursework" mean?
Coursework is considered to be anything students complete outside of the classroom or with a group. Students must not earn a grade for returning signed paperwork/syllabus or anything else that does not reflect students' understanding of the content. Items in this category include, but are not limited to:
  • Labs and Collaborative Lab Reports completed as a group or after school
  • Writing prompts or smaller papers written outside of the classroom (rewrites of smaller papers are included here)
  • Group projects (a vital component of formative learning)
  • Individual projects completed outside of the classroom
  • Class assignment graded for correctness, not effort
  • Homework graded for correctness, not effort
 10. Does Benchmark Progress include pencil and paper tests only?
No. Students can be assessed in many ways. 
 11. How did the adjustment to the assessment process come about?
To ensure that students are being prepared for the next lesson and next level, vertical alignment teams meet monthly with the Office of Teaching and Learning. At some content area vertical alignment team meetings, teachers wanted a more consistent and accurate way to assess students. They discussed a consistent exam schedule and exams that simulated what is expected of students on state and national assessments. Teachers from other vertical alignment teams were asked for their ideas about such a plan. [Vertical alignment teams are asked to share everything from the meetings with their building teams or departments.] The four building principals then discussed the proposed adjustments with the Office and Teaching and Learning and finalized the new CBA schedule. 
The CBA schedule and adjustments coincided with parent feedback about over-testing and a district aim that we place specific emphasis on the formative learning process.
12.  How do the CBAs affect athletes?
There are some benefits of the CBAs to student-athletes.
In the SCA process, the SCA could negatively impact each grading period if the student was not prepared to demonstrate learning at the 4.5 week point and at the conclusion of a grading period. Students who struggled on the 4.5 week SCA often fell behind and hurt their chances for catching up and doing better by the end of the grading period. The CBA allows for the continuation of the formative learning process throughout the grading period and gives students more time to learn material and develop skills. 
Another benefit is that SCAs, as summative assessments, were not supposed to allow for test retakes when students underperformed on the SCA, but midterm SCAs are now unit tests that are part of the formative learning process where test retakes are appropriate. With CBAs students have more opportunities to improve their grade during the grading period than when we were on the SCA schedule.
In a growing best practice among teachers at our high school, many courses allow for the summative assessment, in this case the CBA, to replace the grading period performance if the CBA grade is higher. This practice completely acknowledges that the formative learning that takes place during the grading period prepares students to perform on the summative assessment. CBAs are effective, cumulative assessments that allow us to understand what students ultimately learn and can do as a result of their teachers' instruction. 
Athletes, their parents, and counselors need to be aware that athletic eligibility is determined by the athlete passing classes that amount to five credit hours at the conclusion of the grading period during or immediately prior to the athlete's season. A CBA counts as part of the grading period grade for a course. Athletes must prepare for CBAs and accept learning performance as the priority before athletic participation. As with any student who needs to improve academic performance, athletes must take advantage of all opportunities to improve understanding during ADVISORY period, by seeking weekly or daily assistance after school from teachers, and by completing all assignments and advocating for their own learning. More complete details about athletic eligibility can be found on our district's athletic department website, school counselor pages, student handbooks, and from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
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